Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blogging in the Middle

Surprisingly, most middle school students I've polled, know about blogs, but simply have never tried it. Blogging is a type of informational writing, it can be persuasive/argumentative and it can even be personal. Last year I tried blogging with my students for the first time, but I went the easy route- creating an informational blog page on a topic of interest. While I could have incorporated the technology aspect of creating a blog page, there were many roadblocks. First, Access to technology is not readily available to all students from home and time in school can be constrictive when trying to cover content. Second, my school does not allow my students to go to any ole' website to create a blog since almost all require email addresses and/or have advertising on those pages.  I did come across Kid Blog, which, like Edmodo, has a code for students to enter and no email is required. So, while I will probably try that this year, I still think this activity is well worth the effort for many reasons.

The first step was to have kids brainstorm about a hobby, topic they are invested in, etc. They had to choose something they know a lot about so they wouldn't just go to websites and copy and paste information. While they were aloud to do some research, (great way to incorporate CCS 7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.)  they had to provide a link to that information within their blog page and it had to be at a minimum since I wanted it to be their writing and not that of a website.

Next, Students had to write a rough draft of their blog page- I made it a minimum of three paragraphs. From there we investigated various blogs- what are the parts, how are they written? etc. Some good resources to check out include:
LiveBinder of Resources about Kid Bloggin   AND and Wikis and Blogs   Specifics for kids and blogging.

You might create questions that students can answer through a scavenger hunt using these sites.

Once we have viewed blogs online, learned about the parts and how the blog is written, we began to design our own blog page. I have used a template in the past, but the easiest way to go is have students go to Google and type in Blog Page Template under images. Students can model their template after a variety of images without making them all cookie-cutter. In the middle of their page, their three paragraph blog writing had to be the focus. They were required to have a header, a Blog name, at least one graphic, and a sidebar, with links to other sites about their topic. Below are just a few that students created!

Topics such as NFL, Austrian Shepherds, Soccer, Music and ADD, to name only a few, are what's on our middle school students' minds.

I showcase many of the student blogs on a bulletin board with the title : Blog About It! 

My Visual-Spatial and even Kinesthetic kids loved this activity since they were creating something by hand. Obviously my Verbal-Linguistic students loved sharing their fave topic in writing. And since students were able to choose their own topic, all were highly invested in this project.  The Informational CCS 2 was well covered during this mini-unit.
Extensions can include- Commenting appropriately-Grammar Girl Blog Comment Tips

Which leads to another aspect of a blog post- engaging your audience- Students were required to engage their audience at the end of the blog post so that students had an idea to grasp in order to respond. Once our blogs were finished, students received Post-it Notes and they were able to read the blog posts in a gallery walk, posting comments onto the blog with their Post-It. We discussed revision after this activity- what comments surprised you? Did you realize you left important information out? What would you add or change given the audience reaction/comments?  etc.

Blogging with students does not have to be uncontrollable- which is how many teachers see having 130 students blogging on a website. How do you keep up with all that? How do you grade it? You can visit my Technology Resource page which houses many links to blog/wiki rubrics and ideas:
My Site for Everything Blogs and Wikis

 Blogging on Paper is a first great step to introducing the mechanics of a blog and its contents and can be a great stepping stone to creating a blog online.