I knew I wanted to try student blogs with my juniors after our Gatsby Facebook project was such a success, and now that I feel more confident with managing and explaining digital projects with my students. I also knew I was committed to digging deep into my Shakespeare Set Free book (which is absolutely invaluable) and building my unit from the lessons there, one of which is a log the students keep throughout their reading of the play. I’ve been doing a lot with response logs and reading journals this year, so this seemed like the perfect fit for adapting digitally.
I worked with our tech coordinator to set up blogs for each student that would be hosted on my faculty website and password-protected. Then I gave my students the following instructions, adapted from the Set Free assignment:
As we read Hamlet, you will make an entry in your log, paying attention to different aspects of the play each time. There are six options to guide your responses:
1. Comment on the significance of the scene. What would the play be like without it? What does it add, and how?
2. Ask questions about the scene: has anything caused you confusion? Ask the characters in the scene some question.
3. Quote lines from the scene that you enjoyed and comment on them.
4. Describe your reactions to a character, action or idea you confronted in the scene—be specific.
5. Talk about the relationships characters have to one another, quoting specific words or phrases to give evidence for your opinion.
6. Imagine yourself as an actor playing one of the characters in the scene. Get inside that character’s mind. Tell how the character feels about herself or himself, about other characters, about the situation of the scene.
I’ve also had them use their blogs to record their reactions to different filmed versions of particular scenes, and to make predictions about the next act or scene. Once when I was absent, I assigned them writing work and they posted it on their blogs, a paragraph addressing one of the soliloquys to be graded for 20 pts. I try to comment regularly on their entries, and I’ve given class time to have them read each other’s blogs and comment as well. Finally, I will give them a grade at the end of our unit as a major 100-pt assessment.
This blog has supplanted the dreaded reading quiz for me, and feels like such a more authentic way of really discovering whether or not they are engaging with the text. I learn so much more about each of my students from these blogs than I would from a quiz– I see their senses of humor, their preferences, their opinions and reactions, and what they truly find most important, revealing or interesting about a text. In my comments, I can offer encouragement, give gentle nudges if a student has wandered off-track, agree or disagree with one of their conclusions, or trade favorite lines, as I did tonight. I have really loved getting a peek into their minds, and it has really enriched my teaching of the play.
I’m still working on the rubric, but I envision it as a mix of this one, this one, and this one, with some tailoring. Since my Gatsby Facebook entry is consistently one of my most visited, I am trying to do more entries like this one that really talk about a specific project or lesson. I’d love to hear what you think!