Blogging is a two-way street
What should I write about? It’s a perennial question that all ELT bloggers grapple with. It especially affects new bloggers who might prematurely abandon blogs begun with a lot of enthusiasm for a perceived lack of ideas. I have a simple solution - read more blogs.
In my experience, reading a variety of blogs regularly can in fact help you generate creative and original content for your own blog. This might seem counter-intuitive but I think blogging is a two-way street, and reading and writing go hand in hand. Here are some of the ways in which reading blog posts can help you write your own.
Participating in blog challenges
TeachThought came up with 30-day blogging challenge for teachers a few years ago. Unsurprisingly, I found out about it from a blogger who had taken up the challenge. While I didn’t follow through on writing 30 blog posts, there was lots of food for thought in their reflective prompts and it's definitely worth mining for blogging ideas. #8weeksofsummer is another interesting blogging challenge that encourages educators to blog about eight different themes over the summer break. To see how this challenge works, head over to Theodora Papapanagiotou’s blog. Theodora completed the challenge earlier this year with a series of brief reflective posts.
If you’re taking your very first steps in the blogsphere, it might be a good idea to explore Edublogs’ blogging series for teachers. Edubogs is a free blogging platform designed for educators, and bloggers who successfully complete their ten step process will have an education-related blog up and running, and be recognized for their effort with a certificate and a badge.
You can also sign up to become a TeachingEnglish blogger and write on a range of topics that are announced in the Magazine section on a bimonthly basis.
Experimenting with blog post formats
Exploring different blog post formats and not just topics could also inspire you to blog. In 2015, Anna Loseva, an English teacher in Japan, came up with a concept called paragraph blogging. As the name suggests, it involves writing blog posts that are just a paragraph long to address our tendency to procrastinate over longer posts which when published may never get read because of their length. Paragraph blogging is still going strong and it’s a format that I find rewarding but not necessarily easy; it’s often more difficult to convey your ideas with fewer words!
An ELT blogger who is not afraid to try out different blog post formats is Matthew Noble. On his blog, Muddles to Maxims, Matthew has photos of beautiful, handwritten reflections from his diary. He’s lately been trying his hand at reflective vlogs or video blogs – something that I hope to have the pluck to do soon.
Responding to other bloggers
Some bloggers include an explicit call to action in their posts. They might ask readers to share their own experiences or try out an idea or respond to a reflective prompt. While some may respond by leaving a comment, others choose to write blog posts – a process that can generate an evolving conversation across multiple blogs and social media. Here are some blogs that have prompted me to reflect or write posts.
- Zhenya Polosatova’s Wednesday Seminars: This is a treasure trove of prompts for reflective teaching and professional development.
- Hana Ticha’s How I see it now: While Hana doesn’t explicitly include blog writing prompts, her incisive and unique perspectives compel readers to respond with a blog post.
- Katherine’s Martinkevich’s blog: Concise posts that often end with a reflective question as in this thoughtful post where she asks her readers whether teachers are like cats or pirates. Interestingly, Katherine’s posts are frequently written in response to other blogs.
If you're not quite ready to engage in blogging conversations yet, take a look at James Taylor's excellent blog where he has a useful list of 150 ELT blog post ideas for when you’ve hit writers block.
Building a Personal Blogging Network (PBN)
We’ve all heard of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) but I am going to argue that sustaining a blog requires a Personal Blogging Network (PBN). Without engagement in the form of comments, shares, reposts, replies and likes, blogging can feel quite lonely. The key to building a PBN is reading and engaging with other people’s blogs because you’ll quickly find bloggers reciprocating. The challenge is keeping up with the torrent of information and ideas generated across hundreds of posts each week.
595 … That’s how many blogs I follow according to my WordPress Reader. The WordPress Reader is a handy aggregator that gives me updates whenever any of the bloggers I follow post new content. Using an aggregator such as Feedly or WordPress’s inbuilt Reader can make reading blogs more manageable and enjoyable, which might ultimately help you write your own blog posts.
So the next time you find yourself scratching your head about what to write on your blog ... stop scratching and start reading!