Clarifying your stance
Students aren't always sure what the issues are. So it's hard to enter into a discussion if you don't even know what people are talking about. To get them to start thinking about what might be important issues to them and to begin to clarify their views, I had them complete an issues survey.
1. A lot of the research and composition my students do in my classes is based on their own inquiry. For example in this case, once they were aware of some of the issues, I had them identify a few key questions that they were genuinely curious about. With these questions, I showed them how to set up an aggregator so that they could collect a steady stream of information about their inquiry topic.
2. The next step is to go to a site like KQED's "You Decide" website. Here's the assignment I give to them: "After exploring the issues you care most about, write a post on Youth Voices about what you've learned." Here's a sample written by one of my students.
3. Whenever possible I try to provide models of my own online writing for my students. Here's a post that shows the influence of my students work and classroom discussion on my own writing.