Week 1: A Blogger’s First Steps

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Hello, and welcome to our first class session! Today, we will get your blog up and running, and we should have some time left to play around with themes.

Editing Tip: Sentence Fragments

Every week in class, we will spend a little time with our textbook, DownWRITE Funny by Randy Larson. This week, we’re talking about one of the two most common student errors: Sentence Fragments.

Orally in Class: pages 8-9.

On Your Own: Do as much of pages 8-11 as you want. If you come up with some good sentences, use them to write a funny blog post. 🙂

Extra Tip: In most of your writing, you want to avoid sentence fragments because they frustrate your reader. But in writing dialog, fragments often sound more natural than complete sentences do. Trust your instincts!

Exploring Your Blog

If you would like a checklist to guide you through this lesson, print out the Week 1 Handout.

Now let’s move to the computers. Do you remember your Username and Password? Warning: When you’re on a computer that other people use, be sure to UNCLICK the Remember Me box before you log in!

Here are a few things to notice:

The Gray Admin Bar at the top is always visible when you are logged in. This gives you an easy way to get back to your Dashboard (your main control panel) from anywhere on WordPress.com. Just hover your mouse over My Blog and then click Dashboard from the drop-down menu. Go to your blog’s Dashboard and look around.

When you’re on the Dashboard, you can click your blog’s name to go to your blog. Do that, and then see if you can find all the basic parts of a blog:

  • Header = where your blog name is shown.
  • Sidebar = links and information to help your readers.
  • Hello world post = your homework.
  • About page = more homework.

Go back to your Dashboard and take a look around. Can you find all the following?

  • Sidebar Menu = all sorts of different places to find information about your blog.
  • Right Now = a quick glance at what’s on your blog.
  • QuickPress = an easy way to enter a short blog post and either Save Draft (if you plan to work on it more later) or Publish it right away.
  • Recent Comments = a quick way to moderate or remove comments. A big part of the fun of blogging is interacting with your readers through comments, so DON’T delete people’s comments unless they are mean or are spam. (But you will delete the sample comment as part of your homework.)
  • Recent Drafts = the posts you have started but have not yet published.
  • Stats = information about how many people have visited your blog recently. It does not count your own visits (if you are logged in).

In Class: Tweak Your Settings

Now let’s get to work. Look in your sidebar for these options. If you don’t see sub-menus, then click the drop-down arrow next to the main menu category.

  • Appearance > Extras > UNCLICK the box for Enable mShots site previews on this blog so the pop-up windows won’t annoy your readers. Then CLICK the box for Hide related links on this blog. Links are important, but never trust someone else (or a computer program) to make that sort of decision for you!
  • Appearance > Extras > Optional: I have unclicked Show a like button on my blogs, but other people like the like button. You may want to leave it clicked for now, so you can see how it looks and whether your readers use it. [Wordpress.com has moved this. We’ll talk about it later…]
  • Remember to click Update Extras!
  • Users > My Profile > Type your internet alias into the Display name publicly as box. The rest of the page can be left blank, for privacy.
  • Users > My Profile > When you get on your computer at home, if you have an avatar or photo that you like (perhaps one that you use on a social networking site), you can click Add photo through Gravatar and follow the directions.
  • Remember to click Update Profile!
  • Settings > General > Set your Site Title to whatever you want to appear on your blog.
  • Settings > General > Remove the default Tagline, and leave it blank OR enter a short phrase that describes your blog.
  • Settings > General > Set your Timezone to match Chicago.
  • Remember to click  Save Changes!

More Tweaks: How to Encourage Comments

  • Settings > Discussion > All three of the Default article settings boxes should be checked.
  • Settings > Discussion > Under Other comment settings, I only require the name and email (the top box).
  • Settings > Discussion > For Email me whenever, check both boxes. If you DO want to moderate comments, then you will also check “An administrator must always approve the comment.”
  • Settings > Discussion > Yes, there’s still more! In the Comment Moderation section, there is a big box. Type into it every nasty, hateful four-letter word you can think of (or have your parents do this), one word per line. Any comment that has any of these words will automatically be held for moderation, no matter what your other settings are.
  • Settings > Discussion > Be careful: do NOT enter any words in the Comment Blacklist box!
  • Settings > Discussion > Almost done! Check the Subscribe To Comments and Subscribe To Blog boxes, because those options are very helpful to your readers.
  • Settings > Discussion > Pick the type of Default Avatar you want to use (for commenters who don’t have their own pictures).
  • Remember to click Save Changes!

Now for Some Fun

  • Appearance > Themes > Finally, time to play! WordPress.com offers more than 90 blog themes to choose from, so you should be able to find at least one that matches your personality. Click Preview to see what the theme looks like. Click Activate if you want to keep it.


1. Edit the Hello world post to tell about yourself. Remember to follow Internet safety! No full names or other personal details, but share with us a little about your hobbies, favorite books to read, favorite subjects in school, pets, or other interesting things. Be sure to click Update to save your changes!

2. Delete the sample comment.

3. Edit the About page to tell about you. Feel free to copy part of what you wrote in your Hello world post. Remember to click Update.

If you aren’t sure about how to work with WordPress.com, here are a couple of videos:


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