Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Blogging into summer reading essays

We're just about a week into the new school year, and so far, things are going well.

My freshmen and seniors have been working on summer reading essays. I asked them to pick two characters from two books they read and have those characters meet and interact in the setting of one book. They needed to use dialogue, be descriptive, and keep it between 500 and 1000 words.

Most seem to have embraced the assignment. One of my seniors was working on an essay where James Bond meets Harry Potter. I can't wait to read it.

Students were asked to save their essays on my USB drives, which I am using to upload the essays to our class blogs. Students will then be able to read each others' work and post comments. Once the kids get the hang of reading and posting blog comments, I'm going to teach them how to create their own blogs. The idea here is that by the end of the year they'll have an electronic portfolio of writing in some of the major English genres (poetry, short story, personal narrative, analysis, compare & contrast, and research).

An added benefit of individual student blogs is they'll be in a much better position to revise, as they can take the feedback they get from comments and use them to make changes and improvements to their essays on the blog. For the past two years I've used class blogs that I control as the means for sharing student writing. These lacked a mechanism for revision, as students could not add or alter content.

Now, with individual pages, students should be able to experience the power that comes with publishing writing and the ownership of knowing they can alter and post content whenever they choose. Hopefully the blogs will spur students to write beyond the requirements for my class. If their usage of MySpace and Facebook are any indication, there's good reason to feel optimistic.


T-Dawg said...

Hey Peter, I'd be interested in hearing more about the student blogs you're setting up. Are you using edublogs? I'd like to do this as well, but I need help.
~ T-Dawg

Mr. B-G said...

Howdy Tina,

I'm going to use blogger, largely because it's what I know. I think either platform can work though.

What I'm going to do in the coming weeks is set up a model page to serve as an exemplar for students to follow.

I'm going to book a computer lab with a projector and take students through the steps of setting up a blog.

I'm also going to create some document for their parents that explains what we're doing and the precautions I'm taking to protect students' identities (no last names, for example).

It's going to be an experiment. But I know I'm ready to go to the next step, as students really need to have their own blogs, as opposed to me having all the control with my "class blogs."

As students work on writing assignments, they'll post their writing to their blogs, students will comment, then they'll revise, then finally I will read and assess their work.

I'll be blogging about our progress, so you can read what we're doing. If you ever want more info, or to talk about it, fire me an e-mail and we can do that.

Eventually it would be cool, I think, if we could maybe observe each other's classes, or set up something where I could come in, check out your class and a couple other English teachers' classes, then you could come to SHHS and do the same.

I'm always curious about what other teachers are doing, and I find it beneficial to learn about new practices that help me reflect and improve on my own.

Are you thinking of going to the NEATE convention at the end of October? I've gone the past five years, and always come away with something I can use in my classroom.

Happy Saturday!


Tammy Gillmore said...

We, too, are using Blogger, creating their digital fingerprints, as I call it.

Peer Lisa Huff has a parent letter that I am modifying to use within my classroom. I'm sure she would be glad to share this to give you a starting point.

Another form she created (that I, of course, borrowed!) is one on which they place their login/passwords. They will be required to give us a copy...saves having to recreate as the less techie ones loose/forget their information.

You can access that at

I like your comment about the students' use of Facebook and MySpace being an indicator of their use of a blog...good point!

T-Dawg said...

Hey mr. b-g! Thanks for your response. I'm keeping on eye on your exemplar page to watch your progress with this blogging experiment. I agree -- it would be cool to observe each other's classes some day...
I don't think I'll be going to NEATE convention. I'm the golf coach and that's always right at the end of the season. (BTW -- we beat your team last week!)
Cheers, T-Dawg

Anonymous said...

I find your plan of intergrading students gradually into the blog world interesting. I think that your method will be very effective. The students will love blogging and it has so many positive effects! I like the idea of having their own blog pages where they can go back and revise their work! It is good to get students thinking about taking authorship of their work and a blog is an effective way to do that!