Blogging into summer reading essays

We're just about a week into the new school year, and so far, things are going well.

My freshmen and seniors have been working on summer reading essays. I asked them to pick two characters from two books they read and have those characters meet and interact in the setting of one book. They needed to use dialogue, be descriptive, and keep it between 500 and 1000 words.

Most seem to have embraced the assignment. One of my seniors was working on an essay where James Bond meets Harry Potter. I can't wait to read it.

Students were asked to save their essays on my USB drives, which I am using to upload the essays to our class blogs. Students will then be able to read each others' work and post comments. Once the kids get the hang of reading and posting blog comments, I'm going to teach them how to create their own blogs. The idea here is that by the end of the year they'll have an electronic portfolio of writing in some of the major English genres (poetry, short story, personal narrative, analysis, compare & contrast, and research).

An added benefit of individual student blogs is they'll be in a much better position to revise, as they can take the feedback they get from comments and use them to make changes and improvements to their essays on the blog. For the past two years I've used class blogs that I control as the means for sharing student writing. These lacked a mechanism for revision, as students could not add or alter content.

Now, with individual pages, students should be able to experience the power that comes with publishing writing and the ownership of knowing they can alter and post content whenever they choose. Hopefully the blogs will spur students to write beyond the requirements for my class. If their usage of MySpace and Facebook are any indication, there's good reason to feel optimistic.

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