If you’re looking to take your students’ work to the next level, creating a class blog is a great way to motivate students to produce their best work — precisely because with a class blog, your students, who are usually limited to an audience of peers, parents and teachers, are now exposed (and strategically marketed) to an entire world of potential viewers!
However, a blog is not merely a collection of written articles. Any assignment or project that can be digitized, filmed or photographed is perfect for an exciting, interactive educational experience that honors the input of every student and utilizes the skills taught in all content areas.
I recently took KQED Teach’s free online course Developing a Blog. It offers invaluable advice and practice sessions to begin your own class blog. Through seven self-paced lessons, teachers identify their students’ potential audience and explore other successful class blogs to gain inspiration for content and structure. I also recommend the class blog suggestions and examples of Maria Garcia Serrato, Alice Chen and Laura Bradley.
After reflecting upon what has made my own professional blog a success, I have compiled 10 tenets that extend the lessons learned in the KQED course and can be readily applied to any blog to expand its audience and reach. Share these strategies with your students for a class blog that actually gets read and gains a following.
Polished, practical articles and informative, artistic multimedia presentations garner views and shares. Therefore, a thorough editing process that includes peer and teacher feedback is crucial. Team with English and media teachers to make this an interdisciplinary project. Word and content limits are also a great way to encourage students to focus and refine their ideas.
There are many free blog sites to choose from, and most provide analytics to visitors and views — broken down by what countries your audience is coming from, how they found you, which posts they viewed and what links they clicked on. Students will marvel at hits from diverse locales. Team with social studies and math teachers to plot the blog’s reach on a world map and to graph its weekly results.
In every post, embed internal links that take the viewer to related posts within your blog site. Work toward getting multiple views per visit to your blog.
Also, embed external links to reputable related posts and websites. According to Search Engine Journal, “There is a positive correlation between a page’s outgoing links and its search rankings … Google determines a website’s authority based on what other sources it links to.” Searching for appropriate external links is a great way for the entire class to engage in quality research on the net.
Be sure all links open in a new window, rather than causing the viewer completely leave your blog site.
Titles and Listicles
Titles should hook your reader by being dramatic, interesting, mysterious, challenging or clever. Alliteration is another way to craft a catchy title. Enlist the whole class to suggest and vote on titles for upcoming published student posts.
A listicle is a compelling way to title and format a post (“The Top Ten…” “Six Ways to…”). Use listicles as a way to brainstorm new topics, as well as to force students to synthesize their most salient points. Also be sure that titles contain relevant keywords so the article appears in related web searches.
Images and Headings
Include an appropriate featured image with each post. Along with the title, this image will draw readers in. Also, use lots of headers and short paragraphs to break up large chunks of text. Add images above each header to make posts more visual. Get all students involved in finding or designing the most effective images. Team with an art or photography teacher if possible. Royalty-free images are also readily available on the web.
Include social media share buttons with every post so visitors can easily pass it on to their followers (who hopefully, in turn, will share your article with their followers as well!). Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr and LinkedIn are some of the most popular share buttons.
Submit the best student posts to guest blog on other sites, especially on other school’s blogs. This could be the catalyst for continued collaboration between schools from all over the world.
Invite Guest Bloggers
Ask others to guest blog on your site. Your class can act as an editorial team as they review submissions. Actively promote these guest posts on social media as you would your own. Collaboration exponentially increases both bloggers’ potential audiences and is a great way to find dependable supporters.
Share, Recommend and Comment
Have students share and sincerely respond to other bloggers’ posts they admire in order to establish mutual goodwill. Once they begin blogging, students will fully appreciate comments on their posts and be more willing than ever to take the time to write a few lines about posts they respect.
Model the Blogging Process for Students
Most teachers have a class website, but an increasing number of educators are eager to share their experiences, insights, advice and lessons with their colleagues around the globe through blogging. While the teacher will act as executive editor of their class blog, there are several benefits of a teacher creating a personal professional blog.
It is important for teachers of every subject to walk their talk in terms of modeling lifelong learning, exemplifying global citizenship and being creators who share their work and opinions with others. Whether you begin your own blog to gain practice before starting a class blog to feature student work or you want to become an edu-influencer in your own right, blogging is a satisfying way to tell your teaching story.