University of Wisconsin–Madison

Strategies for developing low-stakes writing activities:
Student and Class Blogs

Blogs are an incredibly versatile platform, combining text with visual functions and hierarchies and allowing your students to experiment and customize features. They can also span from informal journaling to final projects. Finally, blogs allow students to develop skills related to writing for the public. For these reasons, blogs are widely used, can fit in almost any classroom, and can develop community between you and students in an online setting. Below, we’ll focus on using blogs as a low-stakes writing activity.

For instructions on setting up a WordPress blog, check out this resource from UW’s Software Training for Students. 

TYPES OF WRITING STUDENTS CAN DO ON BLOGS

Student blogs (or a class blog) can be a valuable space to ask students to post reading responses to course content. Because of the personalized space of the blog, students may write in a more personal and less “academic” tone. This allows them to experiment with and develop their writing voice without being overly concerned with its impact on their grade.

One concern that you will want to address early on is the issue of privacy. Though you can set certain security features on blogs, they still exist in the public domain of the internet. Establish protocols and guidelines for your students’ engagement on blogs.

Blogs offer an informal medium in which students can open up about their lives. Especially in a moment with such uncertainty, low-stakes blog-writing can be a place for students to share their concerns and anxieties about the class or about their lives in general. You may consider asking students to reflect on what they want to get out of the course at the beginning of the semester, and have them re-visit and respond to/revise this post at different points throughout the semester. Using blogs in this way would allow you to connect with students and lean into the informality of the medium.

In a writing-heavy course, having your students keep a writer’s (b)log can be a simple way to identify how they are growing as writers throughout the semester. With a writer’s (b)log, students can keep track of and provide justification for the changes they make over time and across multiple drafts of an assignment, which allows you to emphasize that writing is a process. Students are rarely asked to reflect on how their ideas change from one draft of an assignment to the next, and asking students to regularly update a writer’s (b)log will force them to engage with and think about writing in a new way.

If your class involves other types of online writing like website design, using blogs as an “online writing sandbox” can allow your students to experiment with the different affordances of online writing—crafting titles, aligning pictures with text, adding hyperlinks, writing captions. Again, because of the informality of the platform, blogs can offer a blank canvas for students to practice writing to an online audience and formatting language and visuals to online readers.

How you can assign blogs for low-stakes writing

  1. Class Blog
    Some instructors choose to have a full-class blog where students contribute at different points in the semester. This offers students the opportunity to showcase their writing/work on a shared communal platform. Like Blackboard, a class blog can centralize announcements, assignments and exercises in one space, while also giving students a workspace to contribute ideas and drafts.
  2. Class Blog with attached individual blogs
    Some instructors choose to have a central class blog, but then require students to create their own individual blogs that are linked to in the class blog. This allows for the centralization of class resources while also giving students ownership over an entire blog all their own. This affords students the opportunity to customize their space and grants them a singular space to trace their thinking over time and across blog posts. 
    You might consider grouping your students into pods, where they are responsible for periodically checking in on their podmates’ blogs and offering comments, critiques, and praise. This will create smaller communities within your class community.

For further resources, check out the Writing Center’s resource on Writing an Effective Blog Post.