Life with a 3.5 year old, an almost one-year-old, and 120 sixteen-year-olds is a busy experience! A New Years Resolution is to try to blog weekly in 2018, so here’s a first post for the new year.
Today we had our first snow day/E-Learning day for the new semester – day 4, if I were counting. I managed to get both kids in their rooms at the same time – Little Miss is napping, and Spartacus is singing “Deep and Wide” as loud as he can while whipping his stuffed shark “Bruce” around his head by the tail. Either way, we’ll call this afternoon quiet time.
My AP students’ E-Learning activity is to finish the launch of a project I’ve been brainstorming almost since I began teaching: student-led blogging. Last summer I wrote a post detailing my research on how other teachers did blogging, and this post is devoted to how I introduced it to my students.
|I created a class blog to offer them instruction as well as feature their posts|
Second semester in AP is devoted to building on the argument and rhetorical analysis skills from first semester, while adding in more targeted synthesis and research skills to their toolbox.
Their first day back last Wednesday, I passed out this post from the blog The Minimalists. It explains “What is Minimalism?” and I chose it because I knew it was a topic with which they were unfamiliar. They analyzed it for author purpose and tone, and noted the informal first and second person that made it different from most of their own academic writing.We talked about the way the authors responded to unspoken criticism of their topic to show there was a conversation about minimalism already in progress; these weren’t the first two people to ever consider minimalism or write about it ever.
We pulled up The Minimalists blog on the projector and explored the hyperlinks in the post – first to other posts on their websites, and then links to other minimalist bloggers. They noticed how the blog format themselves were minimalist – black and white, including photos. We discussed how website format can help author purpose in ways the students’ MLA-formatted 12-point Times New Roman school essays cannot. One teacher I read who uses classroom blogging noted that if students can figure out how to link to the ideas of others, they can better grasp the concept of in-text citations in academic writing.
On Friday, I gave them a giant list of blogs from all over the internet; I had solicited Facebook friends and strangers for their favorites, so topics ranged from natural childbirth and bee keeping to Texas beauty blogs and Peace Corps travelogs. They searched the web for inspiration and ideas. Then I sent them over to Weebly or WordPress and off they went carving out their own spaces of the world wide web.
We’ve discussed what and how they share, because I have no control over these sites. This was entirely on purpose – how can I teach authentic writing if I control it? They have to think about what they are putting out there, and they have to consider a potential audience who isn’t just their English teacher.
While they won’t be going viral or hitting the Google top 10 search results anytime soon with their free Weebly sites, they are creating something that looks professional, represents them and their passions, and requires their time and effort. I can already tell which students will run with this project and continue it past the class requirements.
Since blogging is inherently communal, they must read and comment on each others’ blogs. They are learning 21st-century tech skills, such as embedding hyperlinks, basic web design, and for the intrepid few, embedding HTML code and analytics. They also are made aware that their blogs might be shared more widely, so they should be aware of that possibility when they write.
Only a few have published their websites and submitted their URLs to me so far, but they are FANTASTIC. Even their titles are awesome: Elegance in Ugly, an art blog…Sappy Sarah, a mental health blog. There’s a movie review blog, a cooking blog, a potential travel blog, a psychology blog, a devotional blog, and one I’m really excited about, a brave young man who is taking on a satire blog. His first post was a Modest Proposal (a Jonathan Swift text we read this past fall) about our school’s new lunch program this year.
When the bell rang to end class on Friday, I heard an audible grown because they were so engrossed in their project. I heard from other students and teachers they were working on their blogs in other classes. I teach English. That phenomenon ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS.
So anyway, I’ll keep you posted on my students’ blogging adventures, but I think this might be the best project I’ve ever undertaken – and it actually, like some of the best lessons, has nearly no interference from the teacher.