All too often teachers struggle to find just the right hook to unlock the mystery of writing for their students. With just the right motivating topic (I.e. a topic that peaks their interests and not the teacher's), students will amaze their teachers on their ability to articulate their opinions on paper though in first draft quality.
So how does a teacher begin the process? One approach that has worked for me is to first remove writer's block. Though most of us have experienced this, we have also learned through the years how to overcome it. Students, especially ELLs, have not. To remove the block, I distribute simple composition books at the start of the year. I pass out 5 writing prompts at the start of the week. Students must address each one by the end of the week in any order the wish. I then set my timer for 10 minutes. Since I have ELLs, I will ask if they have any questions on the topic (vocabulary). Once each one is clear on the task, I give them only 10 minutes to write. Once the timer goes off, students close their books and volunteers collect them. I give points based on how much of the page they have filled up (see ESUHSD prompts). I never address spelling or grammar though I do pull out common errors to use in addressing editing issues.
Without exception, students at this point know that they can write so they are ready to blog! As with any assignment on the Internet, teachers need parental permission slips. On those slips, rules and consequences for breaking those must be clearly laid out. If you have multiple language groups in your class, find adult translators so that every parent is aware of your expectations. Now, you are ready to make the bridge from journal writing to Internet blogging. Since many students are new to typing, they will need time to build up speed and accuracy (insert free typing programs). What I have done is schedule 15-18 minutes for blogging and 5 for typing practice. The remaining time is on completing Internet activities for their textbook.
Initially, I will start off with a group blog. As with any blog, there is a password and user ID. This information is made available to parents so that they can follow their son/daughter's progress. I would strongly recommend that teachers keep a master list with this information on it because there is always that one student who never seems to remember either. Here I model the process. The final product is class entry with contributions from everyone. Here again students earn class participation points as opposed to grades-less intimidating. Then, for the more nervous, I allow students to work with a partner.
Now, what do they blog about? I try to create topics that relate to what we are studying. Other times, I leave the choice up to them. I monitor their progress throughout the period. I also have them print out their blog entries once every three or four weeks for me to review. I do this to show them how they are progressing in writing. Regular writing practice makes essay writing much easier because the writer's block is not much of an impediment. Here is the blog site: EDUBLOGS
I hope these sites work for you.