Blogs in Plain English by Lee LeFever

Questions to answer are:
What are the goals of a teacher?
What factors go into accomplishing those goals?
How do these web 2.0 tools help achieve those goals?


Blogs are web logs or journals. They are set up for an individual to post journal entries as often as possible. The person's friends can read their journal entries and respond by leaving comments, or writing a response on their own blog and linking to the first one creating a trackback. Because of this, blogs became a tool for developing online communities. This makes a blog a powerful tool for teachers.

The ability for students to leave comments can make a blog a great structure for discussions like literature circles or revising and evaluating writing.
A blog can also be used for students to detail their progress through a project or experiment.

A common use of a blog is a Literature Circle. Although the individual teacher can vary the structure of the blog’s design (Discussion Forum or Author Involvement), the concept remains the same: students are actively interacting with others to widen their knowledge base on a particular literary work. Here are some examples of how a Literature Circle could function:

1. Discussion Forum
The MISD 4th Grade ELA curriculum, first 9 weeks, deals with many novels, including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. The concepts of its writing workshop cover “analyzing patterns in what you read” and “comparing organization of different texts.” As the teacher, you could set up your MISD blog as a major pipeline through which your students could respond to statements/questions regarding patterns and organization as they apply to this story. Students could either reply to your statements/questions OR they could respond to another student’s comment. It would be wise to set up the expectations ahead of time and make sure that students understood the requirements. Asking them to respond to each of your posts at least once (or another student’s comment to one of your posts) would be parallel to having students write in journal. It would also allow them to see what other students think about the topic, often those students who would not normally speak in class. This forum could then act as a centralized discussion area for important concepts, all of which are directed and controlled by you.

An example of a book discussion at Magnolia ISD is our Technology book study on The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. A class at MHS was studying the book also and the teacher had her students participate in the blog book study on my blog

2. Author Involvement
Since Judy Blume has a blog of her own ( ), it is not inconceivable that she would welcome an opportunity to interact with your students. Again, it would be wise to set up the expectations ahead of time and make sure that students understood the requirements. Think of the impact it could have on your students to ask questions regarding patterns and organization to the author of the book. Students could submit their questions to you for review, and then either you or the students could send these to her through her blog. I would probably consider consolidating questions so that Judy isn’t hit with 22 questions a week from your students. To avoid conflicts with choosing a suitable question, you could have them submit the questions to you and then have the class evaluate the questions (names withheld) and choose a “winner.”

Either of these examples has added benefits: writing improvement and ownership. If I was a fourth grade student writing to a global audience rather than just my teacher, I would tend to be more attentive to my grammar and writing style. For a student to take ownership of his/her learning, there has to be value in it. Becoming part of the global community through the guise of a blog and/or interacting with the author of a book he/she is reading are powerful draws to encouraging ownership.

Where in ...

A blog like the project below can be used with a geography unit.
Here the students are posting requests for information. They are able to read each other's questions and the answers that they received to solve the mystery. They aren't working with a specific group on a specific project, but they were all sharing information with a larger group that shared a common goal.

They needed to frame their own questions according to the information that they needed. They get a lot of experience sorting through clues that they are provided for them to solve puzzles, but they need to get practice generating questions to get a specific piece of information.

The teacher is able to edit each question before it shows up on the web page so that the question and answer are both part of the same comment. You can also hold back on approving some answers so that others can have more time to solve the mystery.

Natural Resources

This blog can be used for this activity from the 3rd grade Social Studies curriculum guide.

Suggested Activity: In pairs students review a several pictures from magazines depicting different environments. Students describe the environment in one column and list possible modification in another column.

Place a picture of an environment as part of the post explaining that you want students to leave a comment describing the environment


Another example is this effort from DP109.
This class used the blog to pose questions to two businessmen in different parts of the world. They were examining globalization and how it affects the workplace. Students posted their ideas of what questions should be asked. The teacher put them together and came up with a list of questions they would ask in a Skype interview with the businessmen. The teacher then asked the students to formulate a thesis statement for their paper on globalization and post it.

The questions could have been submitted and answered though the blog. It isn't the same as the discussion was, but a few more people might have been able to participate. The students could have asked more questions to clarify, and if the businessmen had a blog, they could have received notification about any new questions. The dialog might have been able to continue throughout the project, and the businessmen could have tracked the project as it progressed. The students could have discussed their conclusions and even shared their paper where the businessmen could access it.
A blog is a very easy way to place information on the Internet. The interface, called a wysiwyg looks like a word processor and saves directly to the web page. The information is also organized in an easy to read structure.
A post is an easy way to store links for Internet research, scavenger hunts or even webquests.
The ability for students to leave comments can make a blog a great structure for discussions like literature circles, revising or evaluating writing.
A blog can also be used for students to detail their progress through a project or experiment.

Math blogs
Math notations
Relearning math
Thinking about permutations

Tech class

Embedding Video

Using blogs to extend your classroom To add a video from You Tube into a post:1. Go to (students CANNOT access You Tube from their Novell logins)
2. Find the video you want to use
3. On the right hand side of the page, look for the embed code. In You Tube, it will be directly to the right of the video clip.
In Teacher Tube, it will be called "Embeddable" and should be highlighted in yellow on the right hand side of the page.
4. Click the link to the right of the embed code that says Customize.
5. In the customize section click the option that says do not show related videos.
6. Click the Customize link again to save the setting and close the customize section.
7. Copy that line of code (highlight, then click Edit, then Copy)
8. Login to your Communities page.
9. Click on your Name in the upper right corner of the screen
10. Click the Site Options tab
11. On the Content Editor (4th one down), change Enhanced to Plain Text.
12. Click Save Changes
13. Under "My Communities" on the right, click the name of your Community
14. Start a new post
15. Give it a title and assign it a category, if applicable.
16. Right click inside the large body window and choose "Paste."
17. Click Submit
18. Your video is now online!
Go to your blog and play the video all the way through to make sure that the related videos do not show up.
Remember - go back to Steps 7 & 8 and change Plain Text back to Enhanced so that you will have to toolbar for future posts.

RSS Readers**

RSS in Plain English by Lee and Sachi Lefever