Taking Ownership: Students Take on Social Networking

Sara E. Gonzales
Cypress Lakes High School
Katy, Texas

Overview and Rationale:

In this lesson plan/ unit, students will learn how to apply previously taught topics like writing styles, layout and design, and photography to name a few on social networking sites like Blogger, Edmodo, and Twitter and use it as a learning tool in each individual journalism course. Ultimately, students will be in charge of creating and maintaining a forum for their freedom of expression and allow them to comment on topics presented by the teacher and other students.

Goals for Understanding:

Students will be able to apply basic concepts that have been previously taught and apply them to creating an individualized Blog for each journalism course. Students will be able to upload and comment on topics suggested by the teacher and their peers, which will help with classroom discussions throughout the week on concepts like current events, subjects taught in class, and course review. Students will have to create as an on-going second semester project, an online newspaper and help contribute to the school newspaper via articles they do in addition to regular classroom assignments.

·         Write proper editorials, features, or news stories regarding topics discussed in class.

·         Students will be able to incorporate multimedia projects, including video and photography into their Blogs.

·         Students will learn how to write comments on other student’s posts with backing up their opinions.

·         It will allow students to become more engaged into the classroom community and allow them to have more of an understanding on what is going on in their local area, nation, and world.

Essential Questions

How will students apply social networking sites like Blogger into the classroom?

AnswerMany of the items discussed on a daily basis will be posted onto Blogger to help reinforce the learning.

How will the site be maintained?

AnswerSince everything will be uploaded onto Blogger or another social networking site, there is very little on the end of the adviser to do. However, it does need to be a secure site that only the students in that course can join to avoid anyone posting that should not be.

How often will students be required to post onto Blogger?

AnswerStudents will be required to post onto Blogger once a week.

How often will students be required to post comments onto others Blogs?

AnswerStudents will be required to post comments twice a week onto others Blogs.

Critical Engagement Questions

What type of subjects will be posted onto Blogger?

AnswerCurrent Events,  Education, Politics, Health Care, World News, Local Events, Sports, Controversial Topics, Supreme Court Cases to name a few.

Who will post subjects for students to comment on?

AnswerInitially subjects will be posted by the teacher, however, the goal is to have students start to research topics and start posting information on their own. Hopefully, the teacher will be able to give students jobs and roles throughout the six weeks or year to help maintain a steady flow of information onto the Blogger.

How will this correlate to what we’re required to teach by the state?

AnswerEasily. Since technology is such a large part of our courses, I think it’s very important to allow students the time in class to hone in on their abilities on InDesign and Photoshop, but also allowing them the opportunity to become convergent journalists. Students will not only be working on the writing aspect of journalism, but also on photography, multimedia and editing.


Activity I: Walking through Blogger (First Six Weeks)

Students will have access to individual computers and will walk through Blogger with their teacher on how to set up through their individualized Blogger for their class period.

The class will decide the name of their Blog the day before the first activity. It will be activated by the teacher.

By the end of the class period, all students will be required to do a basic post to see that they have the basic understanding of how to post.

Students will also be given a how-to document on how to log-in to their blogger. For additional ideas, students are encouraged to go to


Activity II: Norms of Blogger (First Six Weeks)

Students will create a list of norms of what their expectations are of their Blogger site.

Students will come up with a list of topics that they would like to see discussed on the Blogger site.

To do this, students will each be given 5 Post-it notes. Students can write their ideas on the Post-it’s and then will be required to post their ideas in a number of categories that will be sectioned off on the white board (See attached “White Board Layout and Design)”. Topics are as follows but are subject to change throughout the year due to breaking news:

Current Events



Health Care

World News

Local Events


Supreme Court Cases

The list of topics can be changed to coincide with student interest. However, each of these topics listed above will be covered in the course. The ultimate purpose is for students to be able to freely discuss these items that aren’t normally covered in other courses.

Once students have come up with their list of topics, the teacher will help facilitate posing questions for the students on these topics. Ultimately, the hope is that students will start researching these topics and start posting information regarding the various topics allowing for more information to be disseminated among the students.

This activity is meant to help students have more of an ownership ability to have a voice and ability start to have a stance on topics. Far too often, students come into a journalism course repeating opinions of others and not finding a voice for themselves, this will allow them the opportunity to form educated decisions.


Activity III: First Blogger Assignment (First Six Weeks)

Students will go through the basics of Blogger during the first week and a half of school starting to allow this to be a class project that will be on-going for the entire school year.

Students will be required to post with a photo one time each week, and comment twice on other students posts. This will be for a daily grade.

The first blog of the yearbook will regard Labor Day. I want to ask students what Labor Day means to them – this will be a basic editorial/column assignment. However, students will be required to back up their comments with facts. Students will be given a basic list of what is required in an editorial. (Print out Ten Key Steps for Improving Editorial Content through UIL Texas by Bobby Hawthorne and ILPC.)


Activity IV: Twitter Leads (Second Six Weeks)

Up until this point, students have used Blogger as a continued learning source in class. Now, students will take what they have learned about social media and start to create leads using 140 characters or less like you have to do when posting on Twitter.

The teacher will log onto Twitter and read students various tweets by news sites like CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc. to give students an idea of getting information across in a limited amount of space.

Leads will need to be posted onto Blogger, due to the school regulations against Twitter during the academic day. To assist students, current news stories will be read to students to help them create a lead. They will be given the 5 W’s and H, which will also be posted onto the Blogger site to assist students. However, the 5 W’s and H will not be decided by the teacher, but by the students as to what they see as the most important information.

The purpose of this activity is to see if students can get the most important information into a lead in an effective manner to convey information to their reader.


Activity V: Leads based off of Headlines (Second Six Weeks)

Students will be given various headlines and subheads from articles from USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Houston Chronicle, and the Austin-American Statesman.

From these headlines and subheads, students will need to decipher what the writer was trying to convey. Students will continue to try to use the Twitter lead format and post all leads onto Blogger.

The purpose of this activity is to see if students are able to make the connection between what you think the writer is trying to convey and what the purpose of the story really is. It also signifies the importance of coming up with creative leads to capture your readers attention.

All leads will be posted on Blogger and other students will be able to give feedback as to what they believe the story is about.

Students will then read their lead and the teacher will give them a photocopy of the actual story so they can see what the story was about and if the writers headline helped convey the message of the story.

All headlines/subheads will be given to students in Zip-Loc bags so they are able to keep their information during the assignment. Each student will be given a different headline/subhead; no two will be the same. This will ensure that all information and ideas are individualized.


Activity VI: Pictures are Stories too (Second Six Weeks)

The teacher will post a photo onto Blogger and students are to come up with a headline/subhead and lead about the photo. All student work will be posted onto Blogger under the photo as a comment.

Ideally, photographs are from events related to the school that students should have a general knowledge about (i.e. sporting events, formals, standardized testing).

There will be two photos posted and students will have one week to turn in the assignment per photo.


Activity VII:Complete Stories with Photos (Third Six Weeks)

For the entire semester, students have taken gradual steps in becoming well versed in Blogger and in creating their own voice in the variety of journalism writing styles. For their last activity of the first semester, they are to go through the writing process and come up with story and attach a photo with a caption.

Students will come up with a list of possible topics like we would normally do for the actual newspaper. It is a round-table discussion where students are to come up with a list of 10 possible story ideas. The most important thing to strive for is that not all stories will be editorials.

After the students help discuss what their story ideas are, there will be a selection process where the students come up with story ideas that they are more compelled to write. Students will start to work on their stories – they will be allowed four weeks to work on their stories before final publication to avoid it also interfering with daily class work.

In the four weeks, students will go through the entire editing process, including peer edits and editing with the adviser.

To complete the assignment, students will need to post their story on Blogger with a photo that they have taken with a caption. In addition, they will need to comment on five of the other student’s stories.


Activity VIII: Photo Story (Fourth Six Weeks)

At the end of the previous semester, students posted onto Blogger by writing a story of their choice and posted it onto Blogger with a photo. For this assignment, they are to write a story about what they have learned so far in journalism, how they have enjoyed the course, and why they would recommend the course to other students. They can make it an editorial, feature, or news story.

However, with their story they have to do a photo story with a voice over using Adobe Premiere Pro.

The primary goal of this is to use their photo story as a marketing tool to recruit other students to join the course before students create their schedules for the following year.


Activity IX: Multimedia to a New Level (Fifth Six Weeks)

To continue the use of Blogger in the classroom, students are to attend one school event (i.e. sporting, tutorial, after-school extra-curricular activity, etc.) and write a story about this event.

In addition to their story, students will create a 30-45 second video on the event to coincide with their story. Clips are to be short and should also include interviews.

Students will have the five weeks to borrow equipment from the adviser to complete the project.

All video clips will be made in Adobe Premiere Pro, not Windows Movie Maker.

All stories and video content should be uploaded to Blogger before the last week of the six weeks.


Activity X: Bringing it all home (Sixth Six Weeks)

For the last project of the school year, students will take everything that they have done thus far in Blogger and make it into one final project. The goal is that their final project can be uploaded onto the school newspaper’s on-line site.

Students will be required to do a 1-minute video that coincides with a story. Clips are to be short and include a number of interviews.

Students will also need to post a picture with their story. This project will encompass everything that they have done in Blogger as one package.

Students will need to present their project to the entire class as an end-of-the-year project.



Students will receive daily grades for their weekly posts and comments on others Blogs. This will be something that will be maintained throughout the school year. The goal is to pull Current Events quizzes and information from tests off of this site.

For the larger projects starting the third six weeks to the remainder of the academic school year, these will be for major grades. In my course, daily grades are worth 40% of their overall grade, and 60% is major grades – including tests, projects, and standardized testing.