Over the past decade of teaching, I've recognized that the best work my students create happens when there is an "authentic audience" to showcase what they've learned: Speech contests. PenPal exchanges. Staged performances. Guest judges.
And thanks to the internet, we can now add: Online Publishing.
Last week, the students in my 9th grade class culminated our month-long poetry unit by creating blogs -- wholly written, designed, and revised by each one of them.
I used to use glogster webpages, but they became slightly clunky, and, dare I say, a little corny. I figured that 21st century literacy ABSOLUTELY has a place in this generation's English classroom, so we used the blogger platform.
As is often the case when students get to tackle something that feels "real" to them, where they have autonomy in the design choices and get to "scale up" according to their own skills and aspirations, they rise to the challenge with excitement.
One girl, who has been slumping along this year, exclaimed, "This is the best project we've done all year!" Another, whose first language is not English and has been having a challenging time in my class, ran up to me, smiling, saying, "I didn't realize I loved writing poetry!"
For a week, students were buzzing with activity - helping each other revise their words, design their layouts, and help each other widen their social networks to get more pageviews.
I, too, had fun this past week, helping facilitate their work, focus, and growth.
And I urge any teachers out there to use blogger (or another blogging host) to ramp up your projects.
Getting students to push their work onto the world stage definitely ups the stakes and calls for a heightened level of attention, care and pride.
Here are a few examples:
The Genuine Synopsis of Life
Writing in Imagination
Love, War, and Poetry
Poems by Some Guy
A Deeper Ground
Poetry by Hoai
The Love of the Poet