Last week I wrote about why I believe students should blog. This week I would like to share some tips on how to get students started with blogging. This is not something that you can just jump into. Students must first understand the concept of a blog and learn to be safe while blogging. We want this to be an amazing experience for our students…not one they wish they could forget!
Before you start blogging, have students research. A great place for them to start is this Common Craft Video. Let them create their own definition of what they feel a blog is. Give them a list of terms they need to define that are associated with a blog, such as post, draft, media, publish, comment, and reply.
Be prepared to show examples of different blog types and styles to your students. It is important that they understand that there are different blogging styles, but each of those styles should still fit under their definition of a blog. You are sharing your ideas or opinions on something and allowing others to respond to that opinion.
Cyber safety must also be covered with your students before you begin. While this is a very important topic to cover, I believe overall we do a poor job of teaching it. By using a blog setting you are putting to practice what they are learning. Providing a real world experience will help students better grasp what Cyber Safety is and why it is important.
I think it is important for you to establish a set of rules for your class concerning Cyber Safety. This would be a great discussion piece with your class. Give them a chance to establish their own rules, but make sure the following find their way into the list somehow:
- No personal information should ever be shared…last name, address, phone number, etc.
- Be careful when posting images. Don’t let the surroundings give away your location.
- Don’t share your online passwords with anyone.
- Never agree to meet someone face to face that you have only met online.
- Don’t believe everything you read. Anyone can post anything to the internet. Research and prove before you pass on.
- Do not respond to a comment or post that makes you feel uncomfortable. If someone is being mean or hurtful tell your teacher and/or parents right away.
Along with Cyber Safety, Cyber Bullying is a main concern. Dosomething.org has a good post to share with students Titled “11 Facts About Cyber Bullying”. It shares that 43% of kids have been bullied online, and 1 of 4 have had it happen more than once. You can read more of their facts yourself. In a nutshell, this is a serious problem. Our students need to be made aware of it and know that it is OK to ask for help if this happens. We also have to create a culture where other students report it even if it is not happening to them. It takes a team effort to stop a bully…online or otherwise.
Etiquette must be a focal point when blogging as well. Students need to understand that what they post online is there forever. They must treat their words as if they are speaking to the person they care about the most. Your words can be critical, but make sure they are constructive and critical of a situation or response, not of an individual. If replying to, or commenting on, a post, your feedback should be positive.
Students must also be critical of their own grammar. It should be finely written with complete sentences and no mistakes. Proofread your post multiple times before publishing or ask a friend to proofread for you.
Discuss with your students their need to “know their audience”. Who are they writing to/for? Is the crowd younger or older? How should you “speak” to them with your words so your point is understood and your readers can enjoy the experience.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew right away. You want it to be successful, so take it slow. I would start with a teacher created “post” just on paper or projecting on a screen. Give your students a chance to comment on that blog post/question. Make sure your post requires an answer that is more than yes or no. I have seen some great examples where the teacher writes on a big sheet of paper. The students can then “comment” using a sticky note. This will give them a chance to grasp the concept before starting on their own adventure.
A paper blog would be a great next step. Here are 2 templates for a paper blog, one Blog Template with an About the Author and Blog Template without. Each student can name their blog and create a post. When all students are finished, allow time for them to wander the room and comment on each other’s posts with sticky notes. The author can then reply to the comments. Once again, this gives them a feel of what is to come as well as an opportunity to work on their positive feedback.
Ready, Set, Go!
Once you have all of these steps complete you should be ready to start blogging online. In next week’s post I will share with you two blogging platforms that I feel work very well in a class setting and how you can best manage your blog with your students.