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February 8, 2012 Persuasive Writing 21st Century Style, Part 1 — Blogging By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Persuasive writing, a standard unit in our curriculum, is now receiving even more emphasis at my school as we work on realigning our units of study to meet the Common Core Standards. While teaching my students to write opinion pieces with supporting details, I wanted to do something different: standard essay writing felt too dry and inauthentic to be the meat of our unit. I decided on two tech-based writing projects — persuasive blogging and animated digital “debates.” Both of these projects allowed my students to work on their persuasive writing skills while also using technology to interact and collaborate with others. This week I’ll write about our persuasive class blog, and next week I’ll describe our digital animated movie project.

     

    Persuasive Blogging

    After learning to write persuasive essays, my students were eager to share their opinions with the wider world — so I turned to the World Wide Web. I decided that a blog would be the perfect soapbox for my students, since a blog would let them share their points of view and allow them to open up the discussion to others. I wanted my students to realize that they wouldn’t necessarily have the last word when sharing their opinions.

     

    Building the Blog

    I already have a class Web site that I built with Weebly, so I was able to easily add a blog page to my site. If you don’t already have a class Web site or blog, it only takes a few minutes to create a free student blog using Edublogs, Weebly, or a similar Web site. (If you have used a blog with your class, let us know which hosting service you use in the comments section below.) I decided to put all of my students’ persuasive blog posts on a single blog, rather than creating a blog for each student.

    After my students typed up their persuasive essays, I showed them how to log in to Weebly and copy their writing into the blog template. Then my students searched for images to use with their writing. Our classroom was buzzing with excitement as the first students clicked “publish” and our Perfectly Persuasive Blog went live.

    For examples of their persuasive blog writing, read my student Catherine’s blog post about the value of reading fiction or Jake’s blog post about whether LEGOs should only be for boys.

     

    The Conversation Continues With Comments

    After several students published their posts, I explained how blog comments work. We looked at several blogs online (including Classroom Solutions!) and discussed what made some comments better than others. I shared a few examples of inappropriate comments, and then we created a chart with student-generated guidelines for commenting on blog posts.

    I set aside some time in class for students to read each other’s blog posts and to comment, and then I encouraged the students to continue commenting at home. I emailed all of my students’ families inviting them to comment on the blog as well, and we soon had several heated comment threads.

    My students were incredibly excited to check their blog posts each day to read the comments, and several of them would race to the computer as soon as they had unpacked to monitor the blog. And I was equally excited to watch my students’ persuasive debates leave the classroom and take on a new life on the Internet.

     

    My Next Steps

    Now that my students have had a taste of blogging, they are eager to write blog posts on other topics. Eventually, I’d like to set up blogs for each of my students to let them freely write about what they read, to share their ideas about what they are learning in class, and more. That still feels a long way off to me, but I am really glad that I jumped in and tried blogging with my students, even in this limited way.

     

    Please take a look at the second persuasive writing project my students did using another educational technology in Persuasive Writing 21st Century Style, Part 2 -- Xtranormal Moviemaking! And also, please use the comments section below to bring this blog to life! Have you used blogging with your students? How did you manage the blog, and what did your students write about?

    Persuasive writing, a standard unit in our curriculum, is now receiving even more emphasis at my school as we work on realigning our units of study to meet the Common Core Standards. While teaching my students to write opinion pieces with supporting details, I wanted to do something different: standard essay writing felt too dry and inauthentic to be the meat of our unit. I decided on two tech-based writing projects — persuasive blogging and animated digital “debates.” Both of these projects allowed my students to work on their persuasive writing skills while also using technology to interact and collaborate with others. This week I’ll write about our persuasive class blog, and next week I’ll describe our digital animated movie project.

     

    Persuasive Blogging

    After learning to write persuasive essays, my students were eager to share their opinions with the wider world — so I turned to the World Wide Web. I decided that a blog would be the perfect soapbox for my students, since a blog would let them share their points of view and allow them to open up the discussion to others. I wanted my students to realize that they wouldn’t necessarily have the last word when sharing their opinions.

     

    Building the Blog

    I already have a class Web site that I built with Weebly, so I was able to easily add a blog page to my site. If you don’t already have a class Web site or blog, it only takes a few minutes to create a free student blog using Edublogs, Weebly, or a similar Web site. (If you have used a blog with your class, let us know which hosting service you use in the comments section below.) I decided to put all of my students’ persuasive blog posts on a single blog, rather than creating a blog for each student.

    After my students typed up their persuasive essays, I showed them how to log in to Weebly and copy their writing into the blog template. Then my students searched for images to use with their writing. Our classroom was buzzing with excitement as the first students clicked “publish” and our Perfectly Persuasive Blog went live.

    For examples of their persuasive blog writing, read my student Catherine’s blog post about the value of reading fiction or Jake’s blog post about whether LEGOs should only be for boys.

     

    The Conversation Continues With Comments

    After several students published their posts, I explained how blog comments work. We looked at several blogs online (including Classroom Solutions!) and discussed what made some comments better than others. I shared a few examples of inappropriate comments, and then we created a chart with student-generated guidelines for commenting on blog posts.

    I set aside some time in class for students to read each other’s blog posts and to comment, and then I encouraged the students to continue commenting at home. I emailed all of my students’ families inviting them to comment on the blog as well, and we soon had several heated comment threads.

    My students were incredibly excited to check their blog posts each day to read the comments, and several of them would race to the computer as soon as they had unpacked to monitor the blog. And I was equally excited to watch my students’ persuasive debates leave the classroom and take on a new life on the Internet.

     

    My Next Steps

    Now that my students have had a taste of blogging, they are eager to write blog posts on other topics. Eventually, I’d like to set up blogs for each of my students to let them freely write about what they read, to share their ideas about what they are learning in class, and more. That still feels a long way off to me, but I am really glad that I jumped in and tried blogging with my students, even in this limited way.

     

    Please take a look at the second persuasive writing project my students did using another educational technology in Persuasive Writing 21st Century Style, Part 2 -- Xtranormal Moviemaking! And also, please use the comments section below to bring this blog to life! Have you used blogging with your students? How did you manage the blog, and what did your students write about?

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