Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Blogging = Power


Kidblog.org has to be one of the best opportunities for elementary students. The makers of this product have given the teacher so much control, and have adapted the environment to meet the needs of a classroom extremely well. 

For the last few weeks I've had the opportunity to work with the fourth graders at Rome City Elementary. (However, it has been a little broken up due to all the snow we've had.) To get these classes going, I used three different sequential lessons to help launch a successful experience with blogging. Blogging does take some work, so setting high expectations from the start always pays off. If the expectations are not set, the teacher will more than likely become frustrated and give up. (This is speaking from experience from about five years ago.) 

With all this in mind, Mrs. Rogers and Mrs. McKibben wanted to have a blog so that they would have a great place to dialogue about reading. The focus will first be on a whole class text and then eventually branch off into the students' choice readings. 

The lessons I use go in this order:
  1. General orientation of the blogging website, purpose of a blog (teacher expectations for it), and how to write a proper post. I hit hard that the purpose of a blog is a place to have a voice and share information quickly. Students are very fascinated by the fact that as soon as they publish it goes to the entire class. This requires a discussion about trustworthiness and also leads into the last part of the lesson: how to write a proper post. Just like with any writing assignment, the teacher must model, model, model.
  2. On the second meeting, we start talking about commenting and the purpose of commenting. (I usually warn the teacher beforehand that students tend to love the novelty of making a comment and will sometimes not meet the expectation.) Again, I model proper commenting. I discuss what we want to see and what we do not want to see. To prove this point, I usually have a student come to the front of the class and tell me about something they like. I just respond with words like: cool, neat, and awesome. We as a class discuss how difficult that conversation is. Because it makes for a difficult conversation in person, it will make for a difficult conversation online. So the rules for commenting are as follows: 
    • Read the author's post first.
    • Only comment if you can say it nicely.
    • Only comment it it pertains to the post.
    • Comment in complete sentences.
    • When you comment, try to think of how it will create more conversation. If it will not, please don't do it.  (Here I often talk about wasted comments being like litter on the ground. It annoys everyone.)
  3. Reviewing the need for quality is necessary. It helps to set the bar high. In this lesson, I take some screen shots of blog posts, and use a nifty app called Skitch to blur out personally identifiable information. Here we look at examples of posts and comments. (I even post them on as a blogpost so the entire class can view it on their own device.) We discuss what is good. We discuss what is bad. We discuss if it follows the rules for posting and commenting. We also discuss how we can improve what is already there. After giving them some time to create a new post and comment, the work typically improves. I then ask the teacher (sometimes even the students) to identify some great examples of posts and comments, and we all visit and discuss those posts. 
Mrs. Rogers' class did a fantastic job of improving their posting and commenting skills. I'm confident that they will continue to improve. It was also interesting because before I even started my final lesson, Mrs. Rogers mentioned how difficult it had been for the students to get back into the routine of having a full day of school due to how much snow we've had lately here in Indiana. If you look at the pictures that are posted, every student is engaged. (Edgaged if it were my classroom.) Every student was intently writing. Every student intently read blogposts. Every student responded to someone else's thoughts about the question Mrs. Rogers posed to the class. 

I'll finish this post with a sample from Mrs. Rogers' blog. All things considered with the weather and disjointed lessons that took place, I was very pleased with the thought process these students had while posting. Blogging = power. 


In Sign of the Beaver, who is the better friend? Matt or Attean?