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Student Blogging Lesson Plans

Introduction - Importance of Teen Blogging

Rebecca Thiegs - Student Blogging

Below you'll find some of our free lesson plans about blogging containing quick ideas on how to use StageofLife.com to get your students writing outside of the classroom.  This concept of teen blogging didn't happen overnight.  Over the past 15 years in my teaching career, my high school Language Arts students have inspired me in so many ways.  We’ve talked about world issues, national issues, state issues, local issues and personal issues. 

Three years ago, I piloted a research project based on the use of blogging that went beyond talking about an issue and instead focused on creating change or inciting passion in others about an issue that each individual student felt was important. Although typical research projects strike fear into the hearts of students and teachers (some of my darkest moments as a human being were spent hunched over dry, voiceless research papers and grading for hours upon hours on end), my finding with this project (with the exception of a
few students who really wanted a traditional research project) was students felt passionate about a research project, and (get this) I actually enjoyed grading the final papers!

Teen Writing Prompts for Student Bloggers

I was inspired once again by the students I taught because of their creativity, their ideas about change and the world around them, and their collaboration through technology and the use of blogging as an extension to connect ideas, extend the writing for the research project outside of the classroom, and so much more.  I have released my "Be the Change" Blogging Research Project here on StageofLife.com, so you too can help your students amp up their writing and actually enjoy writing a research paper!

--Rebecca Thiegs
Co-Founder Stageoflife.com
Teen Blogging and Research Paper Innovation
“Changing the World, One Story at a Time”

Student Blogging Presentation

This is a Prezi presentation that Rebecca and StageofLife.com co-Founder husband, Eric, gave at an educational conference about teen blogging and Stage of Life's "Be The Change" Research Project.  Rebecca would be happy to share more details or walk through this presentation as to verbally fill in the background of this teen blogging presentation...

Blogging Lesson Plans

Blogging Lesson #1: The Basics

What Are the Basics of Blogging on Stage of Life?

At the heart of our site is writing, storytelling, sharing personal essays, blogging, submitting essay contests, posing questions, and receiving feedback (and hopefully some answers) to some of our most important life questions.

Let's take a look at each of these individual writing opportunities:

1) Our Monthly Student Writing Contests:

Student Writing Contest for high school and college studentsLooking for a good opportunity to get your high school and college students thinking about important / intelligent questions and practice essay writing and posting essays in a national online forum?  Each month Stage of Life features a new essay contest.  Essay topics, rules, and directions are posted on our site. 

Winners of the essay contests are often times asked to become
"Featured Bloggers" for the site.


2) Blogging:

High school bloggersEvery student can utilize Stage of Life to post personal essays and stories about their life.  Each month we will have writing suggestions (just check the home page). Students can post their own personal essays about the monthly topics suggested or they can post about other important topics in their lives.  If a student is particularlly talented or passionate about blogging for the site, they may be invited to become a “featured blogger.”

But let's ask an important question first...

Why should students blog? 

Read this article by Ali Hale about reasons to blog.

Students often times feel less intimidated by blogging than they do “journal assignments”.  If you have access to computers, students can actually do their journaling in blogging format.  The great thing about Stage of Life is their blogging can be as formal or informal as you want it to be.  Every post/essay submitted to this site will be archived in the student's profile, thus becoming an online journal of sorts, BUT in this journal, they will be posting in a real national forum where they can receive feedback about their work.

PROFILE EXAMPLE

This link above is Rebecca's profile.  Scroll down to view her archived essays/blogs/posts.  Stage of Life will become an online storage space for your student's writing...getting their voice out of the classroom.


3) Posting questions:

Asking Questions on Stage of LifeStudents can utilize Stage of Life to ask questions about any stage of life.  If a high school student has a question about searching for the perfect college, he / she can post that in the college stage and get a response from a college student’s perspective. 

This feature can become an online discussion web for your class.

 


4) Responding to other posts:

High School CommentsEach of the 10 stages of life have "Featured Bloggers" who post anywhere from once every few months to several times a month. Students can read posts in any stage of life and write responses to these posts.  These responses can be quick-writes or fully developed personal essays.

The goal is to get them reading and responding to writing.  This also creates discussion webs and allows the student to see what other people are writing about in “the real world” and to respond directly to the writers.

Blogging Lesson #2: Values & Beliefs

Share a story about your values & beliefs

Ask your students these questions (in this order) and take one or two class volunteers to share as you walk through the series:

  1. "What do you value the most in your life and why?"
  2. "In terms of hours spent in a day, what do you spend the most time doing?"
  3. "Now think about these two question together...does 'what you value most' in your life match with what 'you're spending the most time on?'  Why or Why Not?"
  4. "Finally, thinking about the value of time and the value of your beliefs, what do you think needs to change in order to prioritize your values so you can be a success in life?  How will you do this?"

Lesson Plan Writing AssignmentWriting Assignment/Homework:  As the instructor, post this question (or your own version of it) to Stage of Life (as one post) and give it your own unique headline.  Ask your class to find your Question (which will really be a series of questions) and to then comment to your post with their responses. 

You'll instantly start a discussion web for your entire class under your original post.  You'll be able to see each person's individual response.  Encourage your students to comment on each other's posts as well.  The entire web dialogue will be contained in one string.

Blogging Lesson #3: Reflection and Wisdom

No one ever told me...

Students are reflective by nature...when they have time to be.  But thanks to busy schedules and late nights doing homework, most may not realize that they have important advice inside their heads that they don't know even exists.  For instance, ask your students to think about the answer to the following question:

"If there was one thing about high school (or college) that I wish somebody would have told me, it was that__________________."

Based on the age/grade of the students, modify this question to suite your class.  Ex) If you are working with a 9th grade class, you could alter the question to reflect back on middle school or junior high. 

Take a few volunteers from class to share their stories.  Ask them for the reasons, experiences or background that inspired the advice/answer to the question.

Lesson Plan Writing AssignmentWriting Assignment/Homework:  As the instructor, either...

1)  Post this question on Stage of Life and ask your students to "comment" on it so their responses are contained within one dialogue string under your original post.  In this manner, you'll see all of individual pieces of advice from your class under you original post.

OR...

2)  Make this a larger story opportunity and ask your students to create their own story post on Stage of Life about the advice they would give to answer this question. 

Remember to ask your students to...

  • a) Be specific and give concrete details,
  • b) Come up with a creative headline to summarize the story/advice when they create their own story posting on the site, and
  • c) Most importnatly, keep in mind that the purpose of this exercise is that another student reading their post could personally benefit from the wisdom or experience that they share.  The possiblity of sharing the advice in a national venue like Stage of Life will certainly help another student at some future date.

As a wrap-up over the next day, perform an in-class discussion about some of the various posts/advice.

Blogging Lesson #4: Life Stage Interview

I want answers to...

As a spring board from the previous lesson, students are not only reflective and good at giving advice, but they are also extremely curious. 

FACT:  During Stage of Life's start-up phase, the website saw thousands of student visitors spend an equal amount of time in their "home stage," e.g. high school, as they did in future life stages.  It was an interesting trend.  For instance, nearly every high school student peeks ahead into the College, On My Own, and/or Having a Baby stages simply because those are life milestones on the radar. 

With this curiosity in mind (and the ability to use Stage of Life as a crystal ball into the future), ask your class to...

Write down two questions about life after high school (or college) that they really want the answers to.  You may want to write the ten stages of life on the board to help spur their thinking process about the future (look at our menu running across the top of the website to help with the stage of life milestones) .

Lesson Plan Writing AssignmentWriting Assignment/Homework: 

1)  Ask your students to write down the names of two or more people that they know from their circle of friends, family, church or community who might be able to answer their two questions AND are in a DIFFERENT STAGE OF LIFE from the student, e.g. an older sister, a grandparent, etc.

2)  Students must then conduct personal interviews with the "experts" they've identified either in-person, by phone, email or Stage of Life*.  Again, these interview candidates must be in a different stage of life from your students.

3)  Your students then write up two separate summaries of the two interviews.  These summaries should include key thoughts as to what they learned through the process of each interview (making sure to include their questions and their interviewee's responses). 

4)  As a final step, the students should then post the summary on Stage of Life.  The catch to this last part is that they should post their interview story in the stage of life that pertained to their question and the interviewee.  For instance, if the student interviewed an older sister who is about to get married, the post should be posted in the "Wedding" stage.  Encourage your students to craft a unique headline that summarizes the advice given to them for each story.

For in-class follow-up, ask the students to present or share in small groups their stage of life interview experiences, responses, lessons learned, etc.

*A variation of this lesson would be to ask your students to post the question on Stage of Life in the stage of life to which it applies and then email the link to their interview contact asking them to comment on their question to answer it.  The student and the interviewee can then exchange responses through the post and comment process.

Blogging Lesson Plan #5: Food and Health

Our relationship with food...

Young people are frustrated by the obesity program in America.  To start a dialogue on this topic, Stage of Life asked this question during its July 2010 writing contest...

“Do we have an obligation to take better care of ourselves by making changes in the way we eat and/or buy and consume food?"

Students from all 50 states visited the contest page and scores of teens submitted their essays.  You can visit the writing contest page to read the essays from winner and finalists, but what we realized is that this conversation shouldn't end with the writing contest. 

When popular TV shows like NBC's Biggest Loser pull in millions of viewers, books like Michael Pollan's Food Rules fly off the shelves, and independent film documentaries like Food, Inc. and Super Size Me push the conversation of America's unhealthy relationship with food into the mainstream consciousness, we know we have an obligation to continue the conversation through our blogging lesson plan initiative.

Start a discussion with your class centered around this question...

Food and the traditions around food play an incredibly important role in our lives.  Read almost any play, short story or novel and there will be key sections that deal with food.  Oliver Twist's famous line, "Please, sir, may I have some more?" is a perfect example.  Keeping this literary point of view in mind, consider the following lesson to get your students writing and thinking about their relationship to food.

Lesson Plan Writing Assignment - FoodWriting Assignment/Homework: 

1)  Ask your students to chronicle what they eat for each meal for a week.  While doing this, ask them to write down observations about how their family interacts with food too.  For instance, does Dad skip breakfast before work?  Are siblings eating the same meal for dinner or is "everyone on their own?"  Once the weekly menu has been recorded, ask your students to self-evaluate and circle or highlight the meals they consider "unhealthy." 

2)  Throughout the week, as they are recording their specific, daily meals and snacks, ask your students to start a blog thread on Stage of Life that addresses their specific family traditions centered around food.  For instance, they could write a story about food the family eats during particular holidays, going into detail by describing the process of how their mother, grandmother, father, or other family member prepares the meal.  Or they could submit an essay about the meal they pick each year for their birthday, why they pick it, who makes it and how it makes them feel.  Or maybe there's a regional dish one of their parents prepares during a particular time of year...for instance our curriculum consultant, Rebecca, grew up eating blue crabs from Baltimore steamed by her father and seasoned with Old Bay every summer.  Or ask them to write an essay that desribes the perfect family meal.  Where would it be?  What would they eat?  What would the conversation at the table be about?

This purpose of this section of the homework assignment is to get students thinking about family traditions and times when food plays an integral and central role...versus the daily, on-the-go, fast-food-me-now meals that many teens consume as they juggle school work, jobs, and extracurricular activities. 

As a supplemental part of the essays being written over the week, ask students to comment on their classmates' Stage of Life food blogs.  Students will find both commonalities and exciting differences among friends in the class as discussions about food traditions are exchanged via the blog threads.

3)  With the blogs and essays written and the weekly menu completed, set aside time to watch either Super Size Me or Food, Inc. in class (you may substitute other films that center around food based on how you customize this lesson).

4)  As the last assignment, have the students write a reaction paper (in-class or additional homework) that incorporates all of the pieces of this lesson...

  • Their weekly meal log
  • The family food traditions blogs and essays
  • Comments from classmates during discussions or from the blog threads
  • Film insights from Super Size Me or Food, Inc.

The reaction paper should address larger, thematic questions from the lesson, i.e. what was the big, take-away "ah-ha" moment from this experience?  What did you learn about yourself and the way you live or would like to live?  What changes will you make in how you interact with food?  And getting back to our original question...

“Do we have an obligation to take better care of ourselves by making changes in the way we eat and/or buy and consume food?"

Blogging Lesson #6: Heroes

What is a Hero?  Who is Your Hero?

Discussions about "heroes" are constant themes across history and literature texts.  Within every novel, memoir or history lesson, heroes emerge to perform great deeds or challenge our view of the world. 

But wait...have you ever stopped to wonder, "What is a hero?"  What characteristics define a hero?  Is there a universal definition or are heroes defined by the situation or context that made them a hero? 

This lesson plan is designed to integrate into a variety of History or English units as teachers pose a surprisingly complex question in the simpliest of terms, "What is a Hero?"

Objective:  Students will be able to define "hero" and examine heroes in their own lives. 

Materials: 

Anticipatory Set:  Answer these questions and perform the following pre-discussion activities:

  1. Independent:  Ask each student independently define the word "hero" on a note card.  Leave this question as open ended as possible.  As a part of this, ask them to write down the specific characteristics of a hero.
  2. Partner Share:  Pair students up to share with a partner for 2-3 minutes.

Activities:  With the anticipatory set complete, engage the class in the following "Hero Walk" activity:

  1. Hero Walk Group Activity:  Have the entire class stand up and separate into two groups with each group standing across from each other on opposite sides of the room (you'll need to clear desks for this activity).  Using the Stage of Life Hero List, select various groups, individuals, or relationships from the list and read them to the class.  If your students feel that the name you read is a "hero," they should cross the room to the other side.  This activity gets students to physically commit to applying their hero definition to the names read from the Hero List (which was complied from over 200 hero essays during Stage of Life's Hero Writing Contest in September 2010). 
    1. Tip:  You can be generic in your selection of certain heroes from the list, e.g. ask, "Is your boyfriend or girlfriend a hero?"  or "Is a US Marine a hero?" in addition to asking the specific, "Is Lady Gaga a hero?"
    2. NOTE:  The Hero Walk can also be done by asking your students to simply stand or sit at their desks during the reading of the list.  For those that feel a person named is a hero, they should stand.

Learning Checks:  After the Hero Walk activity, class discussion begins:

  1. Class Discussion:  After students have taken their seats, lead your class in a discussion asking questions such as...
    1. Based on this activity, would you change your definition of hero from your note card?
    2. If so, what would you change?
    3. Which heroes from the list were the most controversial?
    4. However, which names of heroes did we have the most in common?  For instance, nearly the entire class walked across the room when I read the name ________ and _________.  Why?
  2. Class Definition:  Next, write the word "hero" on the board.  With the last question from the class discussion still fresh, now ask the class to list characteristics of a hero upon which everyone seems to agree and begin writing that characteristic/trait list on the board.
    1. To Do:  Pass around a second note card to your students and ask them to copy the class-generated list of "hero characteristics" from the board.
    2. Tip: Reference names from the Hero List that the entire class seemed to agree on as a hero and ask for specific traits,  characteristics, or deeds which make that person from the list a hero.

Closure:  Moving away from class discussion and back to lecture mode...

  1. Reflection:  With both the individually generated definition and now the class-generated hero characteristic definition, ask your students to do the following:
    1. Read both note cards silently to themselves.
    2. Arrive at who, specifically, they would name as a "Hero" based on the two definitions.
    3. Have the students write the names of those two heroes at the top of the specific note cards, i.e. based on the individual definition created at the beginning of the lesson, who fits that specific definition?  Likewise, who fits the agreed-upon class definition?  Are the same person?

Hero Lesson PlansHomework: 

  1. Blogging Homework:  Ask your students to share a story or compose a hero essay about one or both of their specific heroes named on their note cards using the "Share a Story" link on StageofLife.com.  This homework assignment may be tailored by the instructor with options including ideas like...
    1. Compare and Contrast:  Write an essay comparing and contrasting the two heroes that came out of the activity.  Example:  Real Life versus Celebrity Heroes 
    2. Transformation:  Write an essay discussing how your views on "what is a hero" may or may not have changed based on the group activity and discussion.

Follow-Up:

  1. Quaker Shares:  After the homework assisgnment is complete, bring the class together later in the week to read aloud select essays.
  2. Other options:  Peer editing sessions can be used before posting essays to Stage of Life;
  3. Resources:  Visit MyHero.com for additional resources on Heros.
  4. Contextual Tie-In:  The above lesson can be incorporated as an activity into virtually every novel or history lesson, esp. if there is a strong "hero" theme in the unit text (or anti-hero theme).  While this lesson can be very engaging and fun as a stand-alone activity, using it as a bridge to discuss a larger text and themes will be quite rewarding.

For Comments or Questions about this lesson, please:  Contact Us

As always, please don't forget to tell your students about our monthly writing contest for high school students and college students:

 Enter Student Writing Contest

Blogging Lesson #7: Teen Stress

Writing about Teen Stress

Stress...the bane of both teacher and student.  Teens and their instructors witness examples of classroom stress and negative coping mechanisms almost everyday.  From heads down on desks to absenteeism, the effects of stress manifests itself for all to see, causing disruptions for both students and teachers. 

Even in the stories we read in the classroom, we can find examples of teen stress and examine its negative impact on the characters.  Look at Holden Caulfield or Hamlet.  Both of these literary characters deal with stress in very destructive manners.  Holden emotionally and physically breaks down by the end of the novel and Hamlet...well...need we say more.


This blogging lesson plan is designed to give students a positive outlet to release some of their stress through the process of writing and blogging.  Teachers may also take this lesson a step further by asking the students to compare the stresses they face on a day-to-day basis with those of the characters they are reading about in class.  Are they similar?  What's different?  What coping mechanisms are used by both the real teen and the literary one?


We hope you enjoy this free teen stress lesson plan...

Objective:  Students will be able to name a stress in their life, define it, examine it and process it through writing.

Materials: 

  • StageofLife.com's Teen Stress List
  • LearntobeHealthy.org's "Face the Music" eLearning Mental Health Activity Kit for Teens (for reference and additional ideas/resources)
  • Note Cards/Paper

Anticipatory Set:  Answer these questions and perform the following pre-discussion activities:

  1. Independent:  Two parts for this first section:
    1. Ask each student to write down a stress in their lives.  Big or small.  Let the students know that you will not be collecting this particular paper or note card and that they can be as honest or as open as they wish.  Student do not need to write more than one sentence for this part.  They should simply name their stress. 
    2. After everyone has written down their particular stress, ask the students to then write down the effects this stress is causing in their lives.  They have one or multiple effects to write down based on the stress they are experiencing.  Remind the students that stress manifests itself physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.
  2. Yes/No Poll - Raising Hands:  At this time, at the teacher's discretion, ask the students yes/no questions to get them thinking about how the act of writing is effecting their current stress level.  Did it feel good to name their stress?  For how many of them is this the first time they are really taking time to think about this stress?  How many of them think that their stress is completely unique and no one else in the room or school is dealing with it?  How many know their stress is common but it's still effecting them?  Etc.

Activities:  With the anticipatory set complete, engage the class in the following activity using StageofLife.com's Teen Stress List.

  1. Teen Stress Group Activity:  Using the Teen Stress List, go through each teen stress and ask your students to stand up if they personally feel stressed by that same list item.  Ask them to sit down between stress listings.  The questions would sound something like this:
  • Are you stressed about school?  [then get more specific per the list]
  • Are you stressed about grades?
  • Are you stressed about homework? 
  • Are you stressed about English class? [wait for laugh - see who stands up]
  • Are you stressed about college? [then get more specific per the list]
  • Are you stressed about relationships?
  • Are you stressed about family?
  • Are you stressed about friends?
  • Are you stressed about parents?
  • Are you stressed about drama?
  • Etc.

Learning Checks:  After the Teen Stress List activity, class discussion begins:

  1. Class Discussion:  After students have all sat back down, lead your class in a discussion asking questions such as...
    1. Based on this activity, do you feel less alone in the stress you wrote on your card?
    2. Which stresses seemed the most common?
    3. Which stresses caused the most reaction from the class after I read it?  Why?
    4. Etc.

  2. Class Definition:  Next, write the word "stress" on the board.  With the questions from the class discussion still fresh, but without asking the students to specifically name their personal stress, ask them to instead share with the class some of the effects of stress that they wrote down on their paper/notecard (the second part of the anticipatory set).
    1. To Do:  Pass around a second note card or piece of paper to your students and ask them to copy the class-generated list of stress effects from the board.
  3. Contextual Tie-In - Discussion:  At this point, write the name of a character from the novel, story, or poem, the students are studying in class.  Lead the class in a Q&A discussion about this character, asking the students to both name stresses that the character faces and the effects of the stress on the character.  What does he/she do under stress?  How does stress effect his/her behavior and relationships within the story?  Were the outcomes positive or negative?  (There is such a thing as good stress.) Encourage your students to take notes during this discussion.

Closure:  Moving away from class discussion and back to lecture mode...

  1. Reflection:  Ask your students to review their note card with the individually named stress and its personal effects.  Then ask them to review the list of stress effects generated by the class that they wrote down on the second note card.  Finally, ask them to reflect upon the discussion in which they related the list of stress effects that they experience in their lives to that of the character in the book they're currently studying. This reflection will play a part in their their homework...

Teen Stress Lesson Plan HomeworkHomework: 

  1. Blogging / Writing Homework:  With the class activities top of mind, ask your students to go home and write about their stress (or an alternative from the Teen Stress List) in a more narrative or personal essay format. 
  • They essay's construct and format is up to the individual teacher, but the students should incorporate elements from the class discussion and personal reflection into the piece, i.e. they should clearly name the stress, reference the effects of this stress, how they are coping with it, how it's effecting relationships around them, if they are alone in feeling this stress (or not), etc.  They should be creative and use authentic voice for their essays.
  • Encourage your students to be as specific as possible, and for those teens that want to explore the blogging/memoir format, students may share their story/essay using the green "Share a Story" link on StageofLife.com. 
  • Their essay may help another teen going through the same thing that happens to read their essay on StageofLife.com and/or they may find posts popping up on their story from readers who want to respond to their stress essay. 
  • This is the essence of the blogging format...the opportunity to help and/or inspire others through your words and interactive feedback from readers.

Follow-Up:

  1. Quaker Shares:  After the homework assignment is complete, bring the class together later in the week to read aloud select essays (for those students that are comfortable).
  2. Resources:  If the classroom has web access and a projector (or ask students to explore it at home), consider playing the free MyStress Activity (Activity 4) from LearntobeHealthy.org's Face the Music eLearning Kit©.
  3. Full Closure:  After the essays have been turned in, added to StageofLife.com, discussed, shared and otherwise fully reviewed, ask the class to share the journey they took during this lesson plan.  Did it help?  Do they feel less stressed after writing and sharing?  If yes, how so?

For Comments or Questions about this lesson, please:  Contact Us

As always, please don't forget to tell your students about our monthly teen writing contest for high school students and college students:

 Enter Student Writing Contest

Power of Collaboration

StageofLife.com CEO, Eric Thiegs, was the featured presenter at a two-hour teen workshop called, "The Power of Collaboration."  It was an interactive, hands-on session for teen writers and artists to discuss how two creative groups (writers and artists) can work together.  Thiegs used his experience (as a writer) in working with an artist and web designer to develop the branding, look-and-feel, and functionality of the education-based teen blogging website, StageofLife.com.  The workshop was sponsored by the Lancaster Museum of Art and Lancaster Public Library - both Scholastic Art & Writing Awards affiliates.  Stage of Life was a 2012 regional sponsor for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

This is the Prezi presentation for Mr. Thiegs session:



Education and Writing Consultant

Contact Rebecca - Stage of Life blogging consultantThe above teen blogging and writing prompt ideas were developed by Rebecca Thiegs, M.Ed. 

She is the resident, educational consultant for Stage of Life and welcomes feedback on this Language Arts blogging curriculum; in particular, which parts worked best for you.

Becky Thiegs, M.Ed

Rebecca earned her Masters of English Education from the University of Minnesota and has spent the last 15 years teaching high school English, Language Arts, Creative Writing and Public Speaking in a wide range of schools from an urban setting in Minneapolis to an affluent suburb of Philadelphia to a rural, small town in York County, PA.  In addition to her high school teaching career, Rebecca was a senior curriculum consultant for McDaniel College as part of their Summer Enrichment Program through a partnership with the DC Success Foundation, an initiative supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She sits on the board of her local library, is a certified Writing Fellow from the National Writing Project, serves as the guest book blogger for her local newspaper, lived in London England, and is the passionate mother of two. 

Rebecca is available to speak or consult on Language Arts educational trends and in particular, teen blogging and getting writing out of the classroom.

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