Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mentor Text and Blogging

If you walked into my classroom today, you would have seen students grouped around iPads, discussing their blog designs, creating mathematical graphs, conducting surveys, and collaborating on texts.  Although to an outsider it might have seemed a little noisy, the students were all focused on the creation of their multinational blogs.  There was no need to manage behavior because the students were fully engaged in creating authentic text for a real audience.
We spent the beginning of this week looking at mentor text of blogs.  I knew that many students would not know what a blog was.  And if they were familiar with blogs, they would need to become familiar with the craft of writing a blog.
First, we looked at student award-winning blogs at  The students not only read the blogs, but they were invited to notice the writing craft within the blog. I asked the students to look at the topics.  What kinds of topics were selected?
After analyzing topics, we looked at the format of a blog.  What kinds of graphics and text did the authors use?  The  students noticed that most of the blogs used video and pictures. We also looked at the links.  Why would someone choose to link something to a blogs?
After our exploration of student blogs, we analyzed a different kind of text at  I asked the students to think about the purpose of the blog.  They could recognize that while some blogs were written to inform or entertain, others were written to persuade. We agreed that this blog was definitely meant to both inform and entertain.
They began to see that not only would the writers of the blogs need to engage the reader through interesting facts, but that they had to link to the interests of their audience.
We looked at the language within the blogs as well. For example, we noticed that the authors of the blog directly addressed the readers with questions. Since we had analyzed mentor text throughout the year, we already had a term for this type of writer's craft: direct address.  We began to see that the craft of writing crossed over to the genre of blogs.
Next, the students paired up and discussed the focus of their blogs.  They discussed their audience and its needs.  What would interest an Australian sixth-grader? (See previous blogs.)  How could they best describe the American culture, particularly the culture of Southern California?  
Through group discussions and teacher conferencing, the students began to develop the focus of their blogs.  For example, although several groups wanted to write about American food, they all took different tactics.  While some students decided to challenge the notion of American eating habits and describe the smorgasbord of choices that are seen on American tables, others wanted to write about just the American desserts.  
The students also began to develop ways to illustrate their beliefs. On their own, using statistics from the Internet, they began to create representational graphs.  They developed surveys and began to include their peers' responses in their writing.  They made authentic connections to mathematical reasoning.
At the end of the week, our first obstacle became apparent when the students wanted to embed their videos.  Some of the students had created video using iMovie.  Because they are not the administrators of the blog, how will they include media?  I have decided to go to the experts for answers.
To see our results, go to


  1. Sounds like a great activity and experience all around. I'm interested in the visual representation of the information -- as I am trying to work that into my classroom,too.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Kevin Hodgson
    Western Mass WP

  2. Thanks, Kevin. I promise I'll work on adding visuals and blog about it next week.

  3. Wendy, I didn't know you had a blog, a new person to follow YAY! I am so interested in how iPads work in a classroom. I have the iPods, more limiting in certain ways. We have a teacher with a class set of iPads on campus and I see her work as well. Looking forward to seeing what your kids do. Love the idea of blogs as mentor text. We are creating blog pages at Writing for Change this summer, so I will use that same site. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks, Janet. I'm trying to chronicle my year. What is your blog URL? I love the iPads, and I'm learning what they can and can't do.

  5. wendy, we all know that people remember stories. the iPad is a perfect vehicle to bring more story and less 'data' into education. bravo.


Bosworth Traveler

Bosworth Traveler
The Taj Mahal