This year, I made a change that I thought I wouldn’t make: I chose to use a different blogging platform and blog as part of the New HWDSB Commons. For the past couple of years, all of my Grade 1 and 2 students have had individual blogs, and then in addition to this, we contributed to a group blog through @mrjarbenne‘s Litcircuits. I liked having both, but at the same time, my students found it hard to decide when to use one blogging platform and when to use the other one. Some preferred one versus the other one, but then I was constantly checking two blogs to find posts and parents never really knew where posts were going to be either.
I needed to stop and think. I needed to remember that one of my purposes for blogging was to develop a portfolio of my students’ work. With multiple platforms, this really wasn’t happening. When @mrjarbenne told me about the Commons this summer, I knew it was the way to go. Not only would all work be contained on one blog, but this e-portfolio could extend beyond their year in my classroom. As other teachers start to use this site, the same students that I have this year could be using this platform throughout their schooling, and then we have some incredible formative assessment, where we really do see growth over time. Amazing! Consider the possibilities.
Is this an easy platform for students to use? Well, it’s a WordPress/BuddyPress one, and that can make navigating the Dashboard difficult, but it’s not impossible. My Grade 1 and 2 students have published 110 posts in just over a week, and this is them blogging both at school and at home. They want to blog! They quickly learned how to work the menus and the Dashboard because they wanted to blog. They felt more grown up using a grown up platform, and they know that my professional blog is hosted by the Commons too, so the fact that they could use the same platform that I do, had value.
If you’re using this type of platform with young students, you need to take the time to model what to do. Figure out the easiest way for them to start a new post, and slowly take them through the steps. Let the students help you. If you have access to a SMART Board, get the students to come up to the SMART Board and slowly talk the rest of the class through the steps. Make sure that everyone sees what they have to do. Use screenshots or a screencast to help those students that need more than the lesson provides. Have students possibly work in partners for their first post. Many of my students worked with another child to create their avatar and write their first post. They had some support, and this made them more confident and less frustrated when they had difficulties.
The first posts were short. Many of the students forgot to check for capitals and punctuation. Very few students remembered to include a question to help spark discussion, and some posts even required an Editor’s Note, so that others knew what they were trying to say. A couple of weeks ago, we made Success Criteria For A Good Sentence, and even though students know this criteria and were working with a partner to help them out, many still made errors. I guess that I could have given up, but I didn’t, and the students didn’t either. The next day, we looked at what students wrote. Students were picking up the mistakes in their posts and in the posts that others made. They knew what they needed to do differently now.
This second time, I gave students a topic to write about. The class helped me write a post. This helped. Overall, students wrote more, and many more edited their work before posting. Then I started to have students write on Science topics that they are studying in class. They used classroom resources to help them with spelling. They discussed questions to ask in partners and in small groups. And all of a sudden, the posts were longer than a sentence and included more details.
I also started to write the students back. I asked them questions to gain more information and to get the students thinking. I showed the students how to reply to comments. Then I saw that students were reading what others had written back. They were thinking of good responses, and they were taking their time replying to comments. A Grade 2 student even realized that if he asks a question, he might extend the discussion too. Wow!
If my students have done all of this in a week, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings! Thank you @mrjarbenne for creating a platform where teachers, students, and parents can really see growth over time! Students are learning the power of writing in all subject areas, and they’re learning to embrace the social aspect of Social Media in a responsible way too. Students are getting excited about writing, and they’re see their own improvements in writing too.
If the Commons wasn’t available for blogging, I would have chosen another platform to use, but I’m glad that I chose the Commons. In addition to the writing component itself, my students have also learned the importance of persevering, trying new things, and being willing to make mistakes. Until this year, I didn’t realize that blogging could be such a character education lesson too.
What platform do you use for student blogging? Why do you have your students blog? What improvements have you seen in your students since they started blogging? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thursday night I took part in a dinner series on Engaging the Digital Learner in my school district. Chris Kennedy spoke about what is happening in his district and I was super impressed by the network they have set up. It allows everyone to have their own page/blog etc yet they are linked to one another. Your district seems to have something similar. My school district isn’t quite there yet particularly at the early primary level. Changes are coming in the future though so I’m excited to know I (and my students) will have access to a cross district blogging platform that they can use throughout their years in our school. In the meantime I rely on third party blogging sites (blogger and kidblog) for our class and individual blogs. My class blog can be found at http://www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.com . This is new for me this year but so far we have been having a lot of fun with it. Karen
Can you edit my their for a there? I DO know the difference!!
All done! 🙂 It took me a minute to find the typo, but it’s all fixed now. Thanks!
Thanks for your comment! It sounds like your District is going in the same direction that @mrjarbenne has helped take our Board. I think that this Board blogging site provides a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m excited to see what happens this year. I’ve used Kidblog in the past, and I still use Blogger for a class blog too. Thanks for sharing your link to your class blog as well. It’s great to hear about what others are doing too!
You asked about student blogging. We have a two cross-class blogs at my school. One is for the grade 3-4s and one is for the grade 5-6s. Most recently, the grade 5-6 blog has turned into campaign central, as candidates post some personal plugs for the upcoming student council elections. The neat thing is that this was totally their idea. They are still a bit “untidy” when it comes to editing their work for publication but they are avid commenters.
Thanks for sharing, Diana! I think it’s awesome how the students have taken this blog and made it their own. Maybe the editing piece will come over time. It’s great that they’re so eager to write!
A great post about your experiences. I think the key is modeling. Kids need to be shown how and as you stated some need more help than others. The process of modeling makes you a part of the learning and lets kids know that they can count on you if they get into trouble.
You accomplished a lot in a week, but that was due to thinking about the problem and finding a viable solution. That’s what I have always enjoyed about your blog. You let us know the whole story.
Enjoy your week!
Thanks JoAnn! I really appreciate that. Things don’t always work perfectly the first time, but it’s nice when we can come up with a solution that works. In this case, modelling more definitely was that solution.
Thank you for your continued support! Have a great week too!