Building an Audience with Weebly.com

There are many great online writing tools out there — we featured one just last week — but there are times when all we really need is a place to put work.  A display area.  A website.  A couple recent projects needed just that – a place where students could collect their work, summarize it, and put it on display.

A number of students recently completed assignments in their English classes where they were asked to read a text (some modern, some classic) in groups and then display their understandings online.

Independent reading groups from one class took time to analyze characters, summarize thematic elements, and reflect on their own impressions of modern books they were reading.  The class then built websites designed to pull all these independent works together, creating a cohesive introduction to the novels they read.  One example is below.

Students used a unique website creator to pull this off.  Weebly.com allows individuals to create websites easily through its unique drag-and-drop interface.  Adding content is as easy as selecting a “block” from the tool bar and dragging it into the website preview below.

In another class, students assigned classic texts from the Romantic period were asked to reinterpret their analytical work (which they had completed in typical research and essay forms) by creating up-to-date resources that highlighted the books they were studying.

These groups used some of the more advanced features of Weebly, embedding a blog, maps, video,and even a playlist of music they collected online.  Check out the websites for “Rebecca the Movie” (displayed below) and “META – Monsters Ethical Treatment Association” to see some creative, text-based interpretations of classic literature.

In addition to the content-specific focus of this project, teachers also incorporated elements of digital citizenship, requiring students to participate through first name only or pseudonyms (Mailcatch was used to set up group login accounts) and to use only specific sites that freely publish materials for re-use.  If you look closely, every picture featured on the site gives credit to the original creator and often a link to the website where the material was published.  For more information about responsible use, feel free to check out the information in the presentation below.

In terms of the projects’ effectiveness, teachers were happy with the results, and they also had a few recommendations.

“The kids really had to think about how to organize the information for easy access and they had to consider the audience as they were deciding what they needed to include. I’m REALLY impressed with the results!” wrote Katie Simonds, English teacher at West High.  Casey Holland, from the same department, commented, “I thought it was extremely user friendly once the kids got to work on their sites. It did help me reach the unit goals. One thing I would suggest is to have the students not worry about the pictures until they have the meat of the project done.”

Finally, Weebly isn’t just for student projects.  It might also serve your needs as a teacher! With Weebly you can include static pages, drop-down menus, a blog, and any number of types of multimedia.  And it’s free.   So, check it out.   If you’d like help, drop me a note.

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