Friday, April 1, 2016

3 ways to motivate students to blog

I am passionate about giving students the opportunity to blog. I feel that blogging is one activity that can improve student writing, motivate and engage students, and give them a voice they normally don't have in school. To me, student blogging is freedom from the drudge of the forced writing we often foist on students.

But sometimes motivating students to blog can be just as difficult as any other writing assignment. Here are 3 ways teachers can motivate their students to blog.


Teachers tend to be control freaks. We want to tell the students what to write, how many sentences or paragraphs it needs to be, and what format the final draft should be. Students have no ownership of the writing because everything is dictated to them.

Instead, we need to let students take ownership of their writing and create a blog designed around their interests and passions. With most blogging platforms such as Blogger, Edublogs, and Kidblog, students can create their own space by picking a theme, changing the color scheme, fonts, graphics, and even the widgets along the side. It's a place they can own and take pride in.

At one point a few years ago I helped a teacher do something with technology in her classroom. Thinking I had done something miraculous, she referred to me as Superman. My branding was born! I took that and ran with it, designing everything around that theme. My business cards follow Superman's color scheme, my Twitter handle (@supertektalk) incorporates the "super" theme, as well as the name and design of this blog.

Katherine Hale recently wrote about this in a blog post Branding Student Writing. She referred to this concept as branding and had some really good things to say about it.
But how often are we using blogs in schools for the purpose of branding? It is hard as teachers to not assign writing challenges or writing topics to our students but if we were to let that go and just coach our students into creating a brand for themselves as writers, what would happen? Would they hate it or would they do what the grown-up bloggers do and fall in love with writing?

It is definitely different than what we have been taught to do as writing teachers. We are taught to inspire students to write by giving them lots of writing themes or ideas. Unfortunately, no matter how brilliant our writing topics are, our topics are ours, not theirs. We must teach students how to find their own writing topics by sifting through their own life and their own stories. It’s scary at first especially if you’re like me and have secret control-freak tendencies. But, having seen the outcome, becoming a topic-inspirer rather than a topic-producer makes teaching writing a magical process.

Student Voice

This one pretty much goes hand in hand with blog ownership. If we let students create a theme for their blog and design it the way the want, then it follows that they should be able to blog about interests them - what they are passionate about. They can focus their blog space on topics that they want to write about.

For example, I am passionate about integrating technology into education. Hence, this blog is themed around that. The topics I write about have to do with apps, websites, and other technology topics that I think will benefit teachers. As I'm working with teachers, reading through articles and other blogs, or surfing the web, I'll come across ideas that I think are exciting and want to share with other teachers. I'm motivated to write and share on my blog.

Colby Sharp is a 3rd grade teachers that allows his students to blog about their passions. Take a few minutes and check out his students' blogs at If you click on a student's name or avatar on the right you'll be taken to their blog and can easily find their theme. Notice how each of their posts are based on that theme.

In his post My Student Bloggers (Writers Are On Fire, Colby shares the steps he goes through to help his students pick a topic for their blog.
Day 1: I gave students some time to explore some branded blogs, and I showed them the video below.
Day 2: We brainstormed ideas for what our blog’s brand could be.
Day 3: Students chose their brand, and created a list of possible blog post topics.
Day 4: Students wrote a post introducing their blog to the world...
He starts out with these steps and continues with helping students design certain kinds of blog, such as an interview or lists.


Sometimes you just have to give students a topic to help them get started. Pernille Ripp, 7th grade teacher, has used blogging challenges in the past to motivate her students. She outlines these challenges in her post Student Blogging Challenges - A List of Ideas. You can also see her student blogs at

While Pernille's challenges are with a specific topic, Edublogs has created a list of 50 Ideas for Student Blogging and Writing Online that suggests more general ideas. For example, they start out with a group of ideas based on blog post types such as a reflection, review, or how to type post. This is an excellent, comprehensive list of ideas that teachers can share with students. Teachers can also take a few minutes to show students examples of blogs that use these formats and let them practice on a post of their own.

Implementing these ideas will help your students become motivated to write more. It may not happen for the first few posts, but keep at it and see what happens with your students. If you've tried any of these strategies, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

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