English Language Arts is a double class period. Generally, we will spend one period working on reading skills and one class period on writing skills. During longer projects, there may be an exception to this, but our daily routine will be spending one period on each topic. Blogging will be our weekly writing practice. For more information about why we choose blogging read this post. In addition to 4-5 extended essays, blogging will be a major part of each student’s grade.
Every Tuesday and Thursday we have a Chromebook cart signed out for our classroom. On Tuesdays, the expectation will be research and planning. We use Google Classroom to post each week’s prompt for the blog post. When students are first learning how to blog the prompts will be very important. The prompts are also a way to write about what we are currently reading. This makes reading assignments vital!
There are usually 3-4 different prompts to choose from, along with some questions to consider when writing. For example:
Write a letter/email to a character in your novel and explain to them why you agree or disagree with a decision they made in the story. Tell them how you might have done things differently and why. Explain to them why you feel this was a good or bad decision.
Students will choose a prompt that they have ideas about and begin gathering information. They will take their ideas and information and write them into a blog post planning sheet. This will evolve into a Google Doc shared with each student once we have the hang of planning. The expectation is that students can plan their writing and image ideas in a single, 48 minute class period.
Then on Thursday, students will take the plan and turn it into sentences and paragraphs. They will type directly into WordPress, our blogging platform, and before pressing the publish button they will spend time proofreading. There are digital tools we will teach them to use for help in this area and they will have opportunities to help each other.
Once the post has been published any extra time will be spent creating images to add to the content of their post. How to make images and the copyright rules about this process will all be taught in class. Any parents with a graphic design or marketing background would be welcome guests!
Be on the lookout each Thursday for a Remind text to visit the class blog for updates.
Writing is a skill with many levels. At the middle school, there are five major categories that the standards expect students to know how to do well. These categories include purpose, focus, organization, evidence, and elaboration. Of course, spelling and grammatical errors should also not be in excess. As students gain knowledge about each of these categories their blogging grade will reflect their understanding of writing with these in mind. One of the great advantages of blogging is that there is always room to go back and make changes. If a professional blogger learns new information and recognizes that they didn’t include enough evidence based on the comments from the post, they can go back and make the writing stronger. The only exception to going back will be quarter deadlines. Once a quarter has passed there will be no more opportunities to change the grade given for a weekly post. The post can be rewritten or reworked as a new post in a new quarter, but the grade for the original will not be changed.
Aside from the content and writing skills being demonstrated, there is a word count expectation. Students needing modifications will be communicated with their personal expectation. Generally, all blog posts should contain multiple paragraphs of 500-1000 words. This expectation aligns with the base for standardized assessments. It’s important that every student learn to write in multiple paragraphs. Making it to the word count will help to increase their skills in providing evidence and elaboration.
The final expectation to note is that only published posts will receive a grade. So if there is a missing on Progressbook for a weekly blog post that may mean a student simply needs to finish then publish. However, it could also mean there isn’t anything written. As long as students have access to the internet and a device they have access to their blogs. If they need to stay after school for these 24 hours notice is required to be certain a teacher is able to stay.
Writing for the teacher is not the best motivator. Writing for a worldwide audience is a motivator. In a separate post, I will provide detailed directions and a video about how family and friends can read and comment on the student blogs. We also collaborate with other middle school classrooms who blog from around the world that will stop by and read our blogs. We will return the favor and leave comments on their posts as well.
One of the first lessons in image creation will be creating a blog business card. Students will each receive 10 cards to hand out to family and friends in order to receive comments on their posts throughout the school year. **Update: we did not receive the grant funding for this opportunity, so this is postponed until funding for printing services can be secured. For now students are asking for emails and sending monthly emails to those who want a reminder to read their posts.**
Another opportunity for students to have a large audience will be through our “Virtual Volunteers” program. We will be asking for family and friends who are willing to read blog posts weekly and leave engaging comments for the students. If this is something you or someone you know would like to be involved with please fill out this Google Form and read details on the program in this post.
This is going to be a great year of blogging! We are so excited to watch the students grow in their writing skills and be able to share this with the world!