Yesterday, I introduced my English 9 students to blogging. Using their own vernacular, students will create a blog similar to a diary or journal written by one of the characters in Romeo and Juliet. I modeled the process for them, composing my own as Lady Capulet: www.ladycapulets.blogspot.com
None of the students had ever blogged before or understood why people blogged, so we began with that discussion. I gave them a little mini lesson on the history of blogging:
• 1994: college student Justin Hall creates first blog ever (Links.net); I remind my students that the young are always one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to innovations.
• 1999: Blogger rolls out the first popular, free blog-creation service, the one most of my students will be using even though I encourage them to try WordPress or Tumblr or anything else their hearts desire.
• 2002: Heather Armstrong is fired for discussing her job on her blog, Dooce. “Dooced” becomes a verb meaning “fired for blogging.” This is always a fun conversation. Quickly assuming the voyeuristic spirit sometimes latent in blog readers, the kids want to know what you’d have to say to get fired. This introduces the irony in blogging. It’s not exactly like writing a diary because presumably we wouldn’t want anyone to read our diaries, and we do generally want people to read our blogs. After all, it’s exciting to have an audience, to have people care about what we are thinking and expressing. It’s a form of democratic publishing that allows us to share our thoughts, even ones we would typically keep private. And for that reason, blogging requires self-control, maturity, and good judgment, something Heather Armstrong didn’t have ten years ago!
• 2004: Merriam-Webster declares “blog” the “Word of the Year.” You know you’ve hit the big time when you become a “word” in the dictionary!
• Today: Blogs are now ubiquitous. Celebrities blog, educators blog, poets blog, athletes blog, newspapers blog, kids blog. There are over 100 million blogs roaming around in cyber space, and over a million posts occur daily. So this little post will be one in a million!
I explain to my students that I created this assignment so that they can learn how to assume a character’s voice and also because I hope that they too will one day blog for pleasure. A few of them shrugged, wondering what they would ever want to blog about. I told them that they may not have the desire now, but blogging provides the outlet for future inspiration. I showed them my 20-year-old daughter’s blog: www.enterwithabandon.com If anyone had asked my daughter when she was my students’ age if she would ever create a blog, she would have laughed. A private, circumspect young woman, she’s always been very careful with her online identity. Yet, recently she took up blogging to express her passion for cooking. I wanted the students to take a look at her website because it reflects an authentic voice. After you read a few posts, you get a sense of who she is: witty, natural, affable. Yes, she takes after her father.
I was happy to discover that the students are excited about this assignment. They quickly turned me off and turned their computers on. In ten minutes, I walked around the room to discover a background template of an old Italian monastery with the title “Inside the Mind of Friar Lawrence” and an English garden of pink roses reflecting Juliet’s inner world titled “A Rose by Any Other Name.” The rest were busily engaged in creating their own separate stories. A good day in the classroom. Happy blogging!
Interested in the rubric for this assignment, just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.