A Lesson on Writing Blog Posts and the Benefits of BloggingBlogging is a very different format than traditional essay writing. In fact, it provides some unique opportunities as outlined in this article “Blogs Versus Term Papers” in The New York Times. The article states,
“Professor Lunsford (from Stanford) has collected 16,000 writing samples from 189 Stanford students from 2001 to 2007, and is studying how their writing abilities and passions evolved as blogs and other multimedia tools crept into their lives and classrooms. She’s also solicited student feedback about their experiences. Her conclusion is that students feel much more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for an audience, engaging with it. They feel as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade.”
In Lunsford’s class at Stanford students do write a term paper at the beginning of the quarter, but then they transform the information into into a Power Point, website, blog etc. throughout the rest of the class.
Because of the capabilities implicit in blogging, Sarah Harris wanted to work together on a lesson where students would explore the differences between blogging and writing an essay and then take advantage of the unique capabilities of blogging through writing and publishing their own post.
The learning targets for the lesson were as follows:
- I understand how writing for a blog is different from writing an essay.
- I can plan writing, research, and multimedia elements to use in a blog post that meets my own intended purposes as a writer.
The lesson began with a quick write where students answered the following questions:
- What is a “blog”? Describe what writing or reading you have done using the blog format.
- How is traditional “blogging” different from writing as essay? What can a blog do that an essay cannot?
Students had a somewhat limited experience with blogging, but we facilitated the conversation to highlight the following comparisons:
- Research: Writing an essay may include text evidence from one or multiple sources, but research is implicit in the blogging process as well. It is standard practice to link to articles and content relating to one’s topic that might be of interest. In addition, it is assumed that any research or content that inspired the post will be linked to authors and sources and cited appropriately.
- Audience: The audience for a blog might be a teacher or fellow students, but it can also include those interested in one’s topic more generally. Also, the audience is much larger and more continuous with blog posts versus essays because content is on the internet, available to everyone, and can be viewed at any point after it is written.
- Continuous Conversation: While a student’s experience with the content in an essay ends when the paper is turned in, when a blog post is published, it may be only the beginning. Through comments and a dialogue with others about the topic, the learning of the student may continue online. This provides the opportunity for academic and personal dialogue and additional writing.
- Use of Multimedia: When writing for a paper, there is little to no opportunity for use of multimedia to enrich content. This is a area of exploration for students when blogging because the medium allows for use of personal photos, Power Point slides, Word documents, videos, and other images.
As part of the dialogue, we encouraged students to consider their blog post as a “point in the larger conversation” about their topic. The process begins with research on what others have to say, followed by the student establishing his or her own point of view in the conversation, and continuing with a dialogue with peers online related to their topic.
After the discussion, I introduced elements of a blog that can be analyzed (see below). (This list is also on the Power Point provided at the bottom of the post.)
- Topic– one word summary
- Angle– author’s position (opinion) on the topic
- Audience– group for whom the text is intended
- Purpose– reason the author wrote the post
- Tone– attitude of the author as portrayed in the writing style
- Hook– means of grabbing the reader’s attention
Students were then given one of my own blog posts to analyze using these elements as presented in a graphic organizer. I encouraged them to look at it online if possible so that they could explore the links and videos. Afterward, we discussed what they found.
Due to time, we did not introduce the blog post brainstorming sheet or the rubric for their own post; however, these resources will be used as students prepare to write their own blog post for their senior project website.
We ended the lesson by reviewing a blogging process that students can use as a model. I talked about my own post (about vulnerability) as an example.
- Begins with research- determine what other people have to say about a topic
- Determine your position in the conversation
- Collect needed resources
- Begin writing
- Set post aside (save as a draft)
- Come back, revise, post
- Engage in a continued conversation about the topic (comments, posting on other blogs etc.)
Students will continue this process throughout the year. They will create a blog post for the four parts of their senior project (research, service, product and presentation component).
Here are some resources that can be used for the lesson and for general planning for students to write effectively for blogs:
- Writing for Blogs Power Point: Includes learning targets, quick write prompt and introduction to the differences between blogging and writing
- Analysis of a Blog Post Graphic Organizer: This organizer can be used to analyze any blog post focusing on key elements such as purpose, audience, research etc.
- Blog Planning Sheet for Student Posts: This resource aligns with the blog post analysis and can be used by students before they begin writing a post for their blogs
- Blog Rubric: This is specific to Sarah’s intentions for her students and is broken into the components of writing, research and multimedia usage. It could easily be modified for other classes