I've been thrown into the fire that is high school English (primarily composition) for the upcoming school year. I am transitioning from 7th grade Language Arts to high school, yikes! Now, numerous veteran teachers I've spoken to claim I will never want to go back to the middle school monster; but that is quite hard to believe at this point.

To get to the meat of my post, I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to integrate student blogs as a part of ONE of the new curric's I need to learn. I am the only one in my department to tie in blogs...and frankly, that's one reason I want to do it!

I have had a classroom blog where I make posts and students respond freely, some for assignments and others for pleasure. http://veglahn.edublogs.org

I'd appreaciate some advice on student blogs for high schoolers. I have all basic sections (noncollegebound kiddos) and freshmen composition in addition. Tell me your HS experiences. Which level works best creating, managing and pumping out valuable student blogs.

I know the content area of English leaves the door wide open for me, but I don't want that same door to hit me on the way out as I venture into HS.

Feel free to share. I'll soak it up!

oh, and this is a first-time post, so be gentle :)

Tags: blogs, english, high, school

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Check out mine, please, for ideas: scholarlynx.blogspot.com (college bound) and applynx.blogspot.com (noncollege bound); our mascot is the lynx, you see. We generate a lot of thinking there, then write formal compositions with all the stimuli that has taken place.
Matt
Thanks for your thoughts. I've taken some time on your class blog; partic. the applynx one.
It is a great example of a blog employed/utilized within the confines of a classroom. Its great to see writing activities that do not require too much time; rather they serve as great pre-writing activities.
Couple specific questions:
In regards to the conversations on your blog, how do the students seem to respond when you reply to thier posts? Would you say it is helpful in generating responses?
Have you considered having students as guest authors for posts at all? It's a concept I'm toying with as an alternative to having students create their own academic blog (which would turn out to be a mountain of work for me moderating posts and comments alike).

While I have you here, can I ask for some successful texts you've shared with your applied english sections? When I say texts, I mean everything from film to fiction to non-fiction and art.

As I mentioned, I'm leaving middle level and moving to high school. Certainly looking forward to the ability level change; however, I want to be cautious. I feel like I need to meet my students before I even select a novel to have as part of the curric.

Thanks for your ideas, again. I look forward to your responses.

LV
Great point, Laura: having students create their own blogs would make a lot of work for you. I'm still going to try making them start their own blogs for big, long senior projects I'm going to implement. For example, one of my upcoming noncollege bound seniors is an expert stock car racer in the area. I'm going to require that he make a blog selling/discussing/advertising his racing. He'll take us into the parking lot and demonstrate/speak about his car; handout, powerpoint, journal, visual aide, and so on. Huge project all geared toward his interests. My world meets his world. I'm sure it will work, based on little experiments I tried this past year.

Texts that've worked with seniors who have struggled in the past: The Giver by Lois Lowry; 3:10 to Yuma movie with Russell Crowe; Unforgiven movie with Clint Eastwood; American History X with Edward Norton (some nasty scenes--be sure to have parent permission slips and administrator approval; my students said they'd defend me to the death if any issues arose); I'm going to try Touching Spirit Bear, a novel I've heard is perfect for this clientele base; their own choice of nonfiction always works; The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros works with two-thirds of them while the others hate it passionately; advertising analysis units work; debates work. It's so hard with these students, because they have very little support system influence anywhere else.

When I blog with them, they sometimes match the level of thinking I'm seeking. However, sometimes I get too far out of their relevance framework, which is all they'll care about. And actually, many of my post ideas have come from them, so they're authoring our/the blog (not "my" blog) as you suggested.

What texts have worked for you with noncollege bound seniors?
I haven't had the chance to work with high school kids yet. I am entering my first year in HS after four in middle. As a result, I am spending my summer searching for the perfect fit (I teach all non-college bound).
I have been "gifted" a myraid of Real-world Writing & Real-World Reading materials that I can only predict with be condescending and hardly challenging for high schoolers. Now, I cannot attest to that, but I am only a decade removed from high school myself and remember what it was like as I was appreciating being treated like an adult by teachers.
I covered a few texts so far this summer with mature content, but readability levels that may be beyond basic-12 english students.
John Green's Looking for Alaska (male protag) and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (female protag) I thought two novels would give choice and meet the interest of both male and female readers.
Lastly, as Im writing this, I can't help but wonder why I want so badly to focus on a novel with my seniors. I just feel everyone should have that novel that they read in an English class that they can look back and say, "I read that!" (aside from meeting state standards and district curric. designated).

I am also looking at using selections from Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser (sp). It's a text that can spark not only discussion, but critical analysis of the real world that some of my students are headed for career-wise.

On a side note, I simply adore your use of westerns. I wrote my senior capstone in college on Owen Wister's The Virginian and coupled it with High Noon. Dork, I know. Since then, I've been looking for a way to "get back in the saddle."
Was thinking Shane might be a good title to share with seniors.
What do you think?

Lastly, I don't know if you ever would feel the need for collaboration on projects, but I'd be willing to start something. There are great online word-processors/document sharing applications like Adobe's Buzzword or Google Documents that could allow for collaboration on a whole new level for high school students. It sounds like there are many similarities your student population might have with our district here in Sparta, WI. Let me know what you think. Again, all if you have time; it sounds like your fall will be quite busy with the senior project you've described.

many thousand thanks

Laura
Yes. Let's work together. I'm in Brandon, SD, a cozy suburb (98% white, upper-middle class, white collar people mostly, who drive to Sioux Falls to work each day) just east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota's only "city" (150,000 people). Everything's pretty "set" for my college-bound group, but I keep tweaking Applied English 12 to meet needs and inspire the hard-to-inspire.

Fast Food Nation is a great idea. I will incorporate it or something like it. Have you heard of/read David K. Shipler's The Working Poor? Would really get thinking, but might offend many of them.

They should have at least one novel read their senior year. I think we're obligated to help them try and to succeed as best they can before their adulthood, which might be novel-less. 75% of the students I get in Applied English 12 are young men. Still need to enthuse the young women.

I've been condescending to these seniors in the past with a myriad of resources like you describe. That is one of our most dangerous pitfalls. If they feel stupid and insignificant, they will become just those two things on purpose.

You are not a dork. I studied The Virginian and Shane in a master's course at USD (U of South Dakota in Vermillion). Just loved studying the West, the frontier, masculinity, etc. I'm nearly done with my degree now.

Thank you,

MC
Dont know how this works, but I'd rather communicate via my school email if you'd like to collaborate. please contact me lveglahn@spartan.org

Ill fill you in on our community, student population, and what little I know about SD & Lake Vermillion fishing then.

initial thoughts:

compare/contrast analysis (buddying up) communities/post-hs priorities
*could be a collaborative writing piece could be done with Buzzword or Google Docs. (no email needed)

Fast Food Nation...could have great connections to Super Size Me, film
also, there is a student version of FFN, Chew On This (different format and better connections to younger pop.)

anything Western

thanks for the inspiration today, I feel I have a bit more direction than I did on June 5 when I started to plan for the fall.


LV
V for Vendetta presents a lot of thinking opportunities, too. While my collegebound students read and analyze Orwell's 1984, these noncollege bound students think similarly while caring more thanks to cinema.

You could be firm with your frontloading prior to having them create their own blogs. Have them sign a contract saying they will fail if anything lewd winds up on their academic blogs. Have the principal sign, too. Have the parent sign, too. You might be able to put the fires out before they start (just prevent them--a better way to say it). The more choice they have, the better, as long as what they're doing is decent.
One more question about your blog:

I have selected to use student initials for a few reasons.
1. the concept of blogging at school is quite new for both parents and students in our district
2. initials are a way to mask student identity...if somone searches for Jane Doe, her name would not be visible, just JD.
3. Middle school students are more likely to care about what others wrote (this is a tactic to fend off bulliyng on a few levels)

How do you handle student names? Is it even an issue for you? I noticed you have some kiddos who responded with screen name and others with first/last name.

Share, if you can.

tx again,

LV
I was more strict at scholarlynx.blogspot.com. They had to do the following: class period, last name, first initial, then anything personal/funny they felt like. An example: 5hansone rockchalkjayhawk (E. Hanson loves the Kansas Jayhawks and was one of my best students in fifth period). I will tighten up at applynx next year. It is an issue. One kid kept trying to get away with changing his name to something clever/appropriate to the topics each week. Smart, but too sneaky. I made him quit. He complied, thankfully, but I can see where problems could arise. I have a feature that lets me delete comments or first filter comments, though I've had no real issues (yet).
Your blog looks terrific, by the way! I particularly like the stories with adjectives section. Clever and cool.
Last year I began delving into the use of blogging with my High School students. I teach juniors at a high poverty low SES school environment. I struggled with making sure students had access to the computers to complete their responses; however, with the help of our library, I was able to make one week time-frames for responses which allowed enough time for students to respond. However, I noticed that normal homework was rarely being completed by my students but the online assignments the majority of them quickly finished.

This summer I began searching for solutions for the homework issue and ways to increase online usage. I read Jim Burke's "daily assignment" posted on his class site (http://www.englishcompanion.com/room82/) and Bob Barsanti's "Challenge Point" assignment (http://www.barrsenglishclass.com/). After emails to both, my version of Challenge Points have emerged to replace the majority of the homework assignments.

I began using this assignment this year, and the response it HUGE. Students love the assignment and the flexibility. Check out my site and explore the class period sites (http://good.edublogs.org) . My Accelerated English classes will be branching out to create their own blog pages this year, but we have not begun this process as of yet.

Hope this helps.

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