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You Have 1 Second to Hook a Potential Reader

If you are blogging with your students, you have been exposed to them. You have been exposed to hundreds of unimaginative, cloned, generic and uninspiring BLOG TITLES.

When opening your RSS reader that contains the latest blog posts of your students,  you are confronted with a list, similar to the one below.

blogging-titles

How do we help students write better blog post titles?

1. Make them AWARE of the importance of a title

We live in a hyperlinked world. No matter if you are trying to drive traffic to your blog via email and include a link, an RSS feed, where you compete with hundreds of other subscriptions or entice someone to follow your link on Twitter. You have 1 second or less to hook potential readers and make them want to click on your title to read your content.

Although the content of your blog is the most important component of your blog, if the title isn’t up to par, you will not get the audience the content deserves.

It is the title’s job to make a potential reader a reader.

title-content

2. Take a look at a variety of good and bad.   

After making students aware of their unimaginative blog titles, titles seemed to improve for our sixth graders below.

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The Hub Spot Blog Topic Generator, might come in handy to discuss with your students the algorithm behind the generator and what are  considered common features of a “good topic/title”.

blog-title-generator

Notice the features that are included in the following titles, after I entered: global, experiences, poetry into the generator:

  • questions
  • appealing to reader’s curiosity
  • numbers
  • lists
  • vocabulary such as “ultimate”, “everyone”, “should be”
  • attention grabbing
  • controversial ( cheat sheet)

blog-title-generator2

3. Practice, model,  practice, model, practice writing good titles

Visible Thinking Routines

One of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero is actually called Headlines. Embed this VTR into your daily routine with students to model and to practice  “summarizing and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc.”

Twitter

Writing tweets (in analog form, classroom Twitter account or individual student accounts for older students) are a wonderful example of headlines (they have to stand on their own and can entice the reader to click on a link or react to a statement to join a conversation) and help practice “summarizing and capturing the essence” of  learning moments as you are connecting to an authentic audience.

Visual Titles

A great exercise for your students, could be to make their title visual. Have your students go through the exercise of creating a visual title by using Quozio  or Haiku Deck for example. Students enter their title and then they can customize the title (background, font, etc.)  to be downloaded as an image. Why not present students’ images to the class and put them up for a vote among them “Which one would you click on?”

Quozio

You-have-1-Second-to

Created with Quozio

blog-title-hook

created with Haiku Deck

Tips & Advice:

Pamela Vaughan suggests in 6 Characteristics of Exceptional Blog Titles

  • Actionable
  • Brief
  • Keyword-Conscious
  • Clear
  • Definitive
  • Intriguing

On the SkyWord Blog,  6 Best Practices for How to Get that Click are suggested:

  1. Teasers
  2. Instructions
  3. “Threats”
  4. Lists
  5. Engagement
  6. Secrets

While students might not have a choice always of what they are writing about (ex. if the assignment can be written as a list) , these recommendations could be tweaked.

Kevan Lee, author of the blog Buffer suggested some headline tips (supported by data from  seven key commonalities)

  1. Make the most of current events: Tie your headline to news and newsmakers
  2. Break some “rules” of headline writing, like length
  3. Seek to pique the reader’s curiosity
  4. Never underestimate the emotional factor of a headline
  5. Call the reader to action with direct action words
  6. Make bold claims
  7. Sound like a human, not a robot

How are you helping students write better blog post titles? How do you incorporate the idea of connecting and “hooking” an authentic audiences? Please share your experiences and resources with us.

Poetry, Performance & Taylor Mali and Beyond…

Graded, the American School of São Paulo, was fortunate to have Taylor Mali, a performance poet and teacher, come all the way to Brazil to engage and get our students and teachers excited about poetry and performing the spoken word.

Below is a Storify of his visit via Twitter. 

I am wondering how our school can not let the enthusiasm and engagement of Mali’s visit die down, but use it as a springboard to add another layer of writing and presentation skills for an audience.  Along came a tweet linking to poetry examples created by Haiku Deck.
I have always been a fan of Haiku Deck as a tool to embed more visual teaching and learning into the classroom. Haiku Deck has added in recent months the ability to use their presentation/slides/ design tool on a web based platform in addition to the iPad app. The easy step by step flow of creating visually appealing and text-light slides that  search Creative Commons images on Flickr (what an amazing concept :) to then AUTOMATICALLY cite  the images appropriately and include the citation on the created slides make the tool my number one choice.
During Taylor Mali’s workshop with students, I jotted down bits of writing, according to the exercise he was working through with us. Although I am a writer who enjoys the written word (I can get goosebumps when I read or write a good sentence :), adding visuals added another layer of intensity to my writing process. The writing “felt deeper” and more thoughts and connections went into my writing after using visuals as part of my process.
Slide1
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Together with our Library Coordinator, Meryl Zeidenberg, we kept brainstorming how to amplify the Taylor Mali experience even further.

  • What if we were to contact other school’s and classes who participated in workshops facilitated by Taylor Mali?
  • What if we collaborated  with them in creating a poetry book, visually enriched with photographs or students’ own illustrations?
  • What if we tweaked Taylor’s exercise adding a component to include the geographic location, cultural characteristics or traditions?

Flipped Writing Videos- Production Techniques

Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Shannon Doyne define the flipped classroom in a post titled 5 Ways to Flip Your Classroom  :

It’s an “inverted” teaching structure in which instructional content is delivered outside class, and engagement with the content – skill development and practice, projects and the like – is done in class, under teacher guidance and in collaboration with peers.

The flipped classroom has become quite a buzz word in the last few years.

  • There are many teachers who swear by it, there are just as many teachers who don’t see the value in the classroom.
  • There are many teachers who believe the flipped classroom has transformed their teaching and their students’ learning, while other teachers believe the flipped classroom is a waste of time
  • There are many teachers who believe the flipped classroom is nothing more than creating a bunch of videos (or tapping into already created videos by others) and assigning to watch them to their students at home. No additional value to learning for their students.

Needless to point out, many educators are torn when it comes to the flipped classroom trend. One survey results reveals though that flipped learning is on the rise.

Emily Vallillo, sixth grade Humanities teacher at Graded, The American School of São Paulo is exploring what a flipped classroom might mean for her and her ten/eleven year old writing students.

Leaving the debate of “best thing ever” ored “it just gives students more work to do at home” aside, I want to look at the production technique of her videos as well as the advantages of using these videos as one more teaching structure or strategy to support student learning.

I was impressed with Emily’s creative approach of creating the video (reminded me of the “In plain English” series by Common Craft). She used for the first time the Explain Everything app on the iPad and was able to use quite a few techniques to make the video appealing for sixth graders (and others)  to watch.

  • She wrapped the mini lessons in a little story of “Carol” who received a writing assignment and was having trouble knowing where to go from there.
  • The story structure (or sequence) is represented visually by image objects that are zoomed in and placed at the center or minimized and placed on a timeline at the top of the screen. When reviewing or repeating an element, it is visually pulled up again.
  • These image objects were created with paper strips, sticky notes, pens and markers, digitized by taking an image on the iPad and then imported into the app (or directly taken from within the app)
  • The clever use of additional videos clips within the main video. These video clips are modeling explanations, orally annotating, making them visible for viewers.  Again, the app allows to record the videos within the app or import them from the photo gallery.

What are some other production techniques that you have seen and/or used that have been successful in the flipped writing class? Please share a link, so we can all be inspired and learn from each other to improve production techniques.

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Production table for the video lesson

Emily also used EdPuzzle , a platform that allows teachers to create a class,  invite their students, add chosen videos to an assignment, embed additional audio comments as well as quizzes to check for comprehension.

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Students are able to work at their own pace. They are able to “rewind” and review . They can start writing their paper and go back to explanations and modeling whenever needed (It is not that easy to “rewind”your teacher, especially when 20+ students are all are trying). 

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Watch more videos from Emily’s Writer’s Corner

 

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story

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selfies

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Blogging With your Classroom

You Have 1 Second to Hook a Potential Reader

hook

If you are blogging with your students, you have been exposed to them. You have been exposed to hundreds of unimaginative, cloned, generic and uninspiring BLOG TITLES. When opening your RSS reader that contains the latest blog posts of your students,  you are confronted with a list, similar to the …

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SLC

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Visible Thinking in Math- Part 1

fail

The conversation about visible thinking in Math started with one of our teachers at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, Adam Hancock, wanting to know how he could incorporate having students’ use their blogfolios in Math class. It seemed natural to have students write for Humanities (Language Arts and …

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ipad-components-content

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Visible Thinking in Math- Part 1

fail

The conversation about visible thinking in Math started with one of our teachers at Graded, The American School of São Paulo, Adam Hancock, wanting to know how he could incorporate having students’ use their blogfolios in Math class. It seemed natural to have students write for Humanities (Language Arts and …

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image2-lens-of-pedagogy

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Slide1

Inspired by Poetry, Performance & Taylor Mali and Beyond…, 8th grade Humanities teacher Shannon Hancock coached her students to create their own original “Mali Poem”and record a visual and vocal performance. I joined the class to give a brief overview of presentation design. I used selected slides from my slidedeck below to …

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pedro

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