Since you are sitting there reading this WordPress blog, I am going to assume you are at least partially familiar with WordPress as a site and blogging in general. For English teachers, having a class blog is a good way to give your students some extra writing practice in a low-stakes environment. If your students have iPads, there are a few apps that can make blogging really easy and even exciting for students.
Here is how I set up and utilize a class blog with my fifth grade students. Obviously this can work for any higher grade levels, as well:
- Every morning, I have the students respond to a writing prompt. They write these by hand in a specific notebook.
- Every few weeks, I collect their writing prompt notebooks for a grade. They need to avoid missing too many prompts and they need to write lengthy responses.
- Every other Friday, I have them pull out their iPads, open the WordPress app (free), and have them post an extended version of whichever writing prompt they want from the last 2 weeks.
- As they are posting their blog entries, I have the WordPress app pulled up and projected for the class to see. When they finish, I pull up their post, read through it, and tell them which grammar and spelling errors to fix. They can then immediately edit and republish their posts, which teaches them about drafting and proofreading. I don't catch everything or make a big deal out of every error, as the goal of this is just to get them writing and excited about writing. It is a low-stakes grade.
- Their classmates can read their posts and leave comments (that I moderate and approve), and I even emailed the blog to their parents so they can see what their kids are writing.
There are a lot of benefits to doing this activity in class:
- Students get practice brainstorming and writing about different topics.
- They learn to go back and fix mistakes.
- Students are excited to write stuff their classmates can read. Competitive students will try to write longer posts than their friends.
- Their parents can see their work.
- They get practice writing! The best way to improve your writing is to practice, practice, practice.
Okay, so what steps do you go through to set this up? It is actually a bit of a hassle, but if you can stick with it then it is worth it. First, a warning: WordPress might get angry if you to have 20 kids join your blog or sign in at once. Therefore, it is best to do this process with 5 or so kids at a time to avoid getting locked out of your blog account for 15 minutes.
- Create a WordPress account and create a blog.
- Set up the blog template and privacy settings (preferably only visible to people you invite, and make sure comment moderation is on).
- Make sure all your students have their own email accounts.
- Have the students go to the WordPress homepage and sign up for an account.
- On the sign up page, make sure they click “signup for just a user name” on the right (they don't all need individual blogs to contribute to a class blog):
6. Also, make sure they don't put their last names in their username. Once they've signed up, make sure they check their email to confirm their account. Write those passwords down somewhere!
7. Now, go to your blog's Dashboard, go down to Users, and click “Invite New”. Type in the kids' email addresses (5 or 10 at a time, remember) and be sure to invite them as Authors (not Followers):
8. The kids should check their email and accept the invitations.
9. Next, have the kids download the WordPress app, click “Add a WordPress Blog”, and sign in using the account they just created. (Remember: 5 or 10 kids at a time).
10. They can now start creating posts or editing old posts. You, the teacher, can log into the app and view all posts like the screenshots above. Students can view their classmates' posts by clicking “View Site” on the left.
Let me know if you need any help and I'll be happy to elaborate on this process.