I use writingprompts.tumblr.com and photoprompts.tumblr.com t to find interesting topics. Occasionally, I relate it to holidays or topics in other classes. Right before winter break, the students wrote about this topic. Last week, as a prelude to Valentine's Day, they wrote about this topic. I use Google Slides to post the topic at the beginning of the week, and I explain and answer any clarifying questions before they begin writing.
2. Explain Expectations
Students need to know what you expect out of their blog posts, and they should be reminded of it often. I remind them daily of the main things I will be looking for in a complete blog post--at least 8-10 sentences, good grammar and spelling, interesting to read, introduction, conclusion. These reminders reinforce my expectations over and over, so that students know exactly what I want their blog posts to look like. I also remind them that they need to be logged in as soon as the bell rings and writing until our 10 minutes is up. I make sure this happens by walking around the room and checking in with them while they work. I try to verbally recognize kids who start writing quickly.
3. Tiered Editing
I'm not an English teacher and never have been, so editing was a new process for me. I knew that I wanted to be purposeful about how they were grouped. After the first round of grading their blogs, I created tier editing groups of students who were near each other in skill level. The students with the lowest scores worked one on one with me. On the first day, I was nervous that students would be off task or not productive. I was so wrong! The students were very focused, and the editing that they accomplished was very productive. Some students swapped iPads and edited each other's work silently, while other students preferred to work together and edit one blog at a time. I created a checklist that they go over together, which you can see below.
4. Discuss Appropriate Commenting
I work with my students on how to comment and interact online appropriately to help prevent another generation of YouTube comment trolls! We discussed the guidelines below, and I modeled appropriate and inappropriate comments for them.
We use the state writing assessment rubric to grade their work. It's a very intensive rubric. At the beginning of the year, we went through all the categories and explained what each category meant. The editing checklist they use is correlated to the same categories as the rubric.