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Blogging with Students

Subject: English Language Arts, Writing, Journalism, Social Studies

Grade Level: 9-12

Materials: One computer with Internet access per student

About: High school students produce a class blog after researching a major news story, in this case, the nationwide immigration protests and high school student walkouts that occurred in March 2006. Students produce various kinds of writing in this unit: free writing, note-taking, telling a first-person narrative, creating a public document, and the retelling of events through a visual medium. Students write to the blog, giving peer feedback, and learn the revision process. Students also learn online research skills, through both guided links and their own “open” research on the Internet. Lastly, students also learn about working with digital images using a free program called Bubblr, which allows users to create digital comic strips.

Students complete a class blog in reaction to the immigration demonstrations and student walkouts. First, they free write about their feelings towards the issue, then conduct research and read differing viewpoints, and then complete their own piece of writing, which gets posted to the blog. Lastly, students create a digital comic strip about the immigration protests.

Blogging in the classroom allows students to learn how to express their opinions while keeping their audience in mind. Through making their writing public, students receive feedback and have an authentic audience, promoting revision and correctness. Students are exposed to several genres of writing—free write, personal reflection, narrative, opinion, and journalism.

Creating a class blog is easy, free, and requires very few technical skills. Explore some of the different blogging platforms (blogger.com, wordpress.com, livejournal.com, for example) and decide what will work best for your own classroom. The notion of creating something public is greatly motivating to students, and makes them want to write, and write as correctly and accurately as possible. Online research is conducted as a means to an end, helping them learn more to write more authoritatively. Receiving authentic feedback, instead of a paper marked up with red pen, teaches students a powerful lesson about the importance of revision and clarity.


Paul Allison


East Side Community High Schol
420 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10009

Paul Allison has been been teaching ever since he graduated from Hunter College, CUNY in 1983. After a few years in the desert (Utah), and a couple of years at the High School of Art and Design, NYC, he had a wonderful dozen years at University Heights Secondary School, Bronx, NY, where h e learned that doing school better didn't have to be the same-old, with more effort. After that, Paul worked with English Language Learners at the International High School in Queens for three years. After 9/11, there was a lot of talk about doing meaningful work. At the same time, Paul was finding himself being seduced by new forms of literacy on the Internet. An opportunity to become a "studio teacher" of technology at East Side Community High School, NYC presented itself in the Summer of 2002, and Paul has been at ESCHS ever since. Another community that Paul is a part of is the New York City Writing Project. He was a participant in the NYCWP's Summer Invitational in 1985, and he has worked for the NYCWP in various ways ever since. Currently, with Felicia George, Paul is the NYC Technology Liaison for the National Writing Project.

Students will complete a free write assignment.
Students will respond in writing to a current event.
Students will complete online research using both guided links and their own searching skills.
Students will read varying viewpoints on a major social issue.
Students will respond in writing to varying viewpoints on a major social issue.
Students will retell a current event through a visual medium using digital images.
Students will make a digital comic strip to create a narrative.
Students will compose and post a blog entry.
Students will respond to classmates’ writing and provide guided, constructive feedback.
Students will revise their writing based on teacher and peer feedback.

This is the main web site used for this unit, containing all links and assignments. This is a wiki page, and students may also contribute to it.
Students use Writely (now bought and rebranded by Google) to compose all writing, from free writes to more formal, public blog entries. It's a great, free word processor that allows two or more people to collaborate on the same document.
Bubblr is a free program that allows users to create their own digital cartoon, using public images found on the web site Flickr (www.flickr.com).

Students will listen, speak, read and write for information and understanding.
High School/Commencement
English Language Arts
Students will read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts; relate texts to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts represent.
High School/Commencement
English Language Arts
Students will listen, speak, read and write for critical analysis and evaluation.
High School/Commencement
English Language Arts
Students will listen, speak, read and write for social interaction.
High School/Commencement
English Language Arts
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history, and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.
High School/Commencement
Social Studies

Day 1: Free Writing with Writely
Students will complete a free writing assignment.
Students will respond in writing to a current event in society.
Writely, a free, collaborative, online word processor recently purchased by Google: http://docs.google.com
Computers with Internet access
Give students the following writing prompt: "Would you ever join a demonstration or a walkout for immigration?"
Tell students that they will free write on this question. Make sure that students all understand the term "free write." If possible, ask a student to explain the term to the class.
Allow students to write for about 10-15 minutes. Students will use the online word processor, Writely, to compose their thoughts: http://docs.google.com.
When students have completed free writing, open a discussion about the topic. My class was comprised of many recent immigrants and first-generation American citizens, so this was a highly relevant and meaningful subject for them. Allow for some time to freely, but respectfully, discuss the issue, hearing from students with differing viewpoints.
Direct students to the wiki page (or web page) created expressly for this unit: http://schools.wikia.com/wiki/Student_Walkouts_2006, and explain the activities for the next class session. During the next class, students will compile online research on the immigration issues currently facing the United States.

Day 2: Read, Research, and Write
Students will complete online research, using both guided links provided by the teacher and their own Internet search skills.
Students will read varying viewpoints on a major social issue.
Students will respond to multiple perspectives in writing.
Wiki class link: http://schools.wikia.com/wiki/Student_Walkouts_2006
computers with Internet access
Students will log on to the Internet and go to the class wiki page (http://schools.wikia.com/wiki/Student_Walkouts_2006).
On the wiki page, students will read the linked articles and media. A variety of perspectives is represented--independent media, conservative-slanted talk radio, and liberal-slanted talk radio, opinion pieces, wikipedia articles, digital images, magazine articles, and video.
Students must take notes on their research using Writely (http://docs.google.com), and may also venture out on the web to conduct additional research. Students may add to the wiki page, and post links they find which are relevant and important to the immigration issue.
Students must read as many different media as possible, and write responses to at least three of them. Students will write their responses using Writely.
Once their research is complete, students reconsider their earlier thoughts. Ask them to free write again, providing the following writing prompt: "After conducting this research, how to you feel about immigration issues? Would you ever join a demonstration or walkout?"
Students write their free write responses in Writely.
If time permits, ask students to compare their first free write response with this current free writing assignment. How, if at all, has their opinion shifted, and why?

Day 3: Going Public: Creating a Blog Entry
Students will respond in writing to varying viewpoints on a major social issue.
Students will write and post a blog entry.
Students will respond to classmates' writing and provide guided, constructive feedback.
computers with Internet access
class blog site of your choosing
Based on their research notes and both free write responses, students will compose a blog entry about their reaction to current immigration issues.
Students must cite at least three media sources in their blogs. Review with students how to cite sources. A great resource is the Citation Machine (http://citationmachine.net), which demonstrates proper MLA citation style.
Once students have completed their blog entries, they read the entries of as many classmates as possible.
Students respond to each other with specific feedback. We have modeled appropriate responses through sentence starters. Students provide warm and cool feedback, cites lines from each others' writing, and say what they particularly liked, and what they feel could be improved.

Day 4: Every Picture Tells a Story
Students will retell a current event through digital images.
Students will create a digital comic strip to create a narrative.
Students will revise their writing based on teacher and peer feedback.
Bubblr web site: http://pimpampum.net/bubblr
computers with Internet access
Class wiki page: http://schools.wikia.com/wiki/Student_Walkouts_2006
Students will create their own digital cartoons, retelling the main events of the immigration demonstrations.
Students again visit the class wiki page, and scroll to the heading, "Retell this story."
The teacher can create a Bubblr cartoon for students to revise, or students can create their own cartoon from scratch. Students should visit Bubblr: http://pimpampum.net/bubblr.
In this case, they will "recycle" a comic strip already created by the teacher. they will add quotes to the cartoon, based on the research and interviews they conducted during Day Two.
Once students have completed their comic strip, they publish their strip to Bubblr.
Students copy the link to their Bubblr strip and either post it to their blog, or put a link to their own versions on the class wiki page.
Once the cartoons have been posted, students will read their peer feedback on their blogs.
The teacher should circulate around the room, helping students make decisions on revising their blog, recognizing mistakes, and deciding what feedback to accept and what to ignore.
Students will revise their blog, editing and posting back to the blog site.


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