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Lesson Plan

Weekly Writer’s Blogs: Building a Reflective Community of Support

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Weekly Writer’s Blogs: Building a Reflective Community of Support

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions and 15-20 minutes weekly
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Weekly Ongoing Sessions

Additional Reflective Minilessons

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • think critically about their writing.

  • communicate clearly about their writing.

  • review blog writing conventions.

  • read and respond to blog entries of other writers.

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Session One

  1. Explain the Writer's Blog Assignment to the class:

    At least once a week, you'll post a blog entry that reflects on the writing that you have done during the week. This entry is your weekly opportunity to step back, think, and write about how your writing is progressing and what you are learning. Your entry is not a place to summarize what you have done. It is a place for you to think about what you have done.
  2. Display or pass out the Reflection Questions for Weekly Writer's Blogs, and go over the kinds of things that students can talk about in their blog entries.

  3. Brainstorm additional questions, and record students' responses on the board, chart paper, or an overhead transparency. Save the questions for students to use in later sessions.

  4. Explain the role of audience and purpose in this activity: students are writing blog entries to other students in the class and to the teacher in order to share details about the ways that they write. The goal is to find out more about themselves as writers by identifying what works best for them. Students' writing should be informative and reflective.

  5. Arrange students in small groups, and pass out copies of Example Writer's Blog Entries.

  6. In their groups, ask students to read the four examples and evaluate the effectiveness of the entries.

  7. As you circulate among groups, encourage them to identify reasons that entries are successful (or not). Ask them to find specific details that support their observations.

  8. Once students have had a chance to work through the blog entries, gather the class together, and ask them to share their observations. As they identify techniques of good writer's blog entries, record the ideas on the board, chart paper, or an overhead transparency.

  9. Once students have exhausted their observations, review the list, making any additions or corrections.

  10. Together, shape the list into an informal checklist for well-written draft blog entries.

  11. For a homework assignment, if desired, ask students to brainstorm some ideas for their first writer's blog entry, which they will write during the next session.

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Session Two

  1. Explain that this session will be a minilesson on blogging. Review pertinent information from your district's acceptable use policy to set some basic ground rules for the activity.

  2. Review the Common Blog Features with students, and answer any questions. Discuss which features are available in the blogging site that you have chosen for the class. If students are familiar with blogging, you can invite class members to share what they know about the different features.

  3. Share online help and any available cheat sheets on the specific blogging site that you have chosen for the project. If you are using Blogger, pass out the Getting Started with Blogger, and Blogger Entries and Comments sheets. Otherwise share the details for the blogging site that you have chosen. Help for typical sites is listed below:

  4. Demonstrate the blog hosting site that you have chosen for the class, and share details on HTML markup using The Bare Bones Guide to HTML. Students should know how to accomplish basic tasks such as making text bold and italics and adding a hyperlink.

  5. Remind students to preview their text before posting their entries.

  6. Review the Blog Entry Checklist to ensure that students understand the basic requirements for their entries. Discuss the level of formality you expect in entries at this point.

  7. Create an example blog entry to demonstrate the entire process for the class, and compare the entry to the Blog Entry Checklist and the informal checklist that students created for the entry content during the previous session.

  8. Answer any questions that students have about the blog host or their projects.

  9. Allow the rest of the session for students to write and post their first writer's blog entry, using the notes that they took for homework. Ask students to compare their work to the two checklists before posting.

  10. Circulate among groups, answering questions and providing feedback and support as students work.

  11. In remaining time, students can read one another's entries.

  12. Ask students to submit the name and URL for their blogs before class ends. Prior to the next session, check the entries to ensure all students were able to set up a blog and post an entry. Make arrangements to help any students who need assistance.

  13. Ideally, create a class Web page or printed handout before the next session that lists the titles and URLs for the class's blogs.

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Session Three

  1. Explain that this session will be a minilesson on providing feedback and support for one another.

  2. Review the blog comments information on the Writer's Blog Assignment:
    In addition to writing your entries, each week you should read and respond to at least four blog entries posted by someone else in class. You'll read a blog entry and talk about the strategies that the blogger has described. Help the blogger analyze and think about the writing strategies described in the entry. You can work as a cheerleader and a problem-solver. Ask questions. Make suggestions. Share related stories about your own writing. Be friendly and supportive.

    After you post comments on classmates' blogs, your next job is to go back and read the comments people posted on YOUR blog. The best comments can lead to a dialogue. Reply to any questions that you are asked, and respond to the ideas that others have shared.
  3. Answer any immediate questions that students have about commenting on one another's blogs.

  4. Pass out (or share an overhead transparency) of the Online Commenting Guidelines and discuss the general rules. Add details on your district's acceptable use policy as appropriate.

  5. Arrange the class in four groups, and pass out copies of the Example Blog Comments.

  6. Ask groups to imagine that they are in the situation of Jeff, the blogger on the Example Blog Comments. Ask group members to read the comments and gather notes on how the example comments provide Jeff help or support.

  7. Remind students to return to the Writer's Blog Assignment for a description of what the comments should accomplish.

  8. If desired, students can also use the questions on the Does Your Comment Pass the Test? site to evaluate the comments included on the example sheet.

  9. Once students have gathered their ideas, gather the class and ask students to comment on the usefulness of the comments to Jeff, the blogger on the Example Blog Comments sheet. Note their comments on the board or on white paper.

  10. Shape students' comments into an informal class checklist for writer's blog comments. Save the list for students to refer to during future class sessions.

  11. Shift from the example comments to students' own assignment to comment on one another's blogs.

  12. Review the information on the Blog Entry Checklist to ensure that students understand the requirement. Emphasize that students can comment on more than four blogs, but should make sure that their comments all offer the blogger useful feedback and support.

  13. Post the URL to the class Web page (or pass out copies of the printed handout) that lists the titles and URLs for the class's blogs.

  14. To ensure that every student receives four blog comments, ask students to find their names on the class list and then comment on at least the next four blogs listed below their own.

  15. Remind students to review the informal commenting checklist that the class created earlier in this session as they respond.

  16. Allow the rest of the session for student commenting and discussion.

  17. Encourage students to engage one another through the comments. Bloggers can reply to commenters, commenters can interact with one another, and so forth.

  18. Provide support and feedback while students work. If students are working well independently, take time to read and comment on students' entries yourself during the session.

  19. At the end of the session, remind students that this will be an ongoing activity. Each week students will post writer's blog entries and comment on at least four entries by others in the class.

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Weekly Ongoing Sessions

During future sessions, remind students to post their entries and comments according to the class schedule. Allow class time for the work as possible. As students gain experience, less class time will be required. With practice, students should be able to post their blog entries in 10-15 minutes.

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Additional Reflective Minilessons

  • Focus on a Weekly Process: Ask students to map out a process that they follow more than once during a week, placing writing activities for each day on the Circle Plot Diagram. Brainstorm some examples, such as the Process for Taking Notes on a resource for a research project or the process of getting writing reader response journal entries each day. If resources allow, students can save their printouts at PDFs and then link the PDF to their blogs. Ask students to write a blog entry that reflects on their processes and why they follow them.

  • Weekly Highs and Lows: Have students use the Graphic Map to highlight the highs and lows in their writing process during the week. After examining their writing activities for the chart, ask students to reflect on what they saw as they examined their work. Encourage students to identify strategies that they want to try again (as well as those they want to avoid in the future). Use the Timeline Tool to simply map out events during a week without the high/low rankings.

  • Comparing Techniques: Use the Comparison and Contrast Guide to introduce the aspects of comparison and contrast to students. Ask students to choose two ways of doing a similar or related technique (for instance, two different kinds of prewriting or revising and editing). Have students use the Compare & Contrast Map or the Compare and Contrast Chart Graphic Organizer to gather ideas about the two strategies. Using the details from their comparison, students can write blog entries that explain which strategy works best for them.

  • Picture This: Invite students to snap pictures of their drafts, workspace, or other writing-related areas or items and upload the image to their blog. Ask students to write a blog entry that explains what the image tells someone about themselves as writers.

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EXTENSIONS

  • Extend students' reflection on their writing with the ReadWriteThink lesson Draft Letters: Improving Student Writing through Critical Thinking, which asks students to think critically about their writing on a specific assignment before submitting their work to a reader.

  • Make connections to minilessons that you have completed to inspire students' blog entries. Consider the following connections:

    • If you have recently completed a minilesson on using examples to develop ideas, remind students how the technique can be used on writer's blog entries. Ask students to use examples from the piece of writing they are discussing to develop the points they are making in their reflections.

    • If you have recently learned how to use quotation marks and quotations, encourage students to use quotations from the drafts and other writing that they are reflecting on.

    • After a minilesson on comparison and contrast, suggest students use the technique to compare the piece of writing they are reflecting on to something else that they have written.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Consider writer’s blogs as your weekly insight into how students feel about their writing and the strategies you can help them build on. Read blog entries each week, adding your own comments alongside others in the class. Focus on informal, supportive feedback and asking questions that lead students to think critically about their writing.

  • In addition to supporting bloggers, pay attention to commenters too. Reinforce blog comments that make important points or draw out commenters who need to provide stronger responses.

  • As students become more experienced with their writer’s blogs and comments, you can place more of the responsibility for providing feedback on students themselves. Continue to monitor students’ entries, but only comment as needed.

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