Connecting Students Through Blogging – 10 Tips

Welcome to the first blog post in a new series called Teaching in A Connected Classroom (cross-posted for Eduro Learning)

A great way to start connecting your students to each other and to others outside the classroom at the start of a new year is to begin blogging. Not only can blogging give students a voice, but it also has the potential to change the way they write.Blog Action Day 2010

Over the years I’ve discovered through my own trials and those of teachers I’ve been fortunate to work closely with, ten tips that may help get blogging starting in your classroom and keep it sustainable throughout the year. Most apply to individual blogs with your students and/or blogging together with students on a Class Blog.

#1  Decide on your why (the purpose)

It’s important to know why you want a class blog or why you want students to have their own blogs.  When we know the why (to anything), it’s so much easier to make decisions about what and what not to do, and it will be much easier to get students excited about blogging with the goal of sustainability.  Don’t move onto the how, until you know the why! (It comes in handy for #3)

#2  Pick your platform

This one might end up being entirely up to you or you may not have much of a choice.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work at schools that hosted WordPress on their own servers.  When I first started out with a class blog, however, I used EduBlogs (free version), and then WordPress (free version) when my students began blogging individually.  There are other alternatives out there such as Kidblog or Weebly which many teachers use with great success.

#3  Obtain permissions

In order to receive support from all stakeholders, you need to check in with those around you. Principals, Tech Coach/Co-ordinators, and of course your parents.  It’s important to be ready to explain what you are doing and why (refer #1).  I shared a blogging/podcasting contract with my parents and also held a parents meeting so that any questions/concerns could be asked and answered.  To date, I’ve not had any parents say No to their child blogging and I’m sure it’s because of #1, knowing the why and because of the transparency of what we were trying to achieve with blogging.

#4  Teach Quality Blogging

This will always be one of my many favourite sessions with student bloggers and they go hand-in-hand with our Digital Literacy Unit for the start of the year. Our Guiding Question:   What makes a quality post? springboards us into blogging and helps students think about the similarities and differences between blogging and writing. We revisit this topic many times during the year and aim to deepen the quality of blog posts through a “writing reflectively” lens.

#5  Discuss Citizenship

Before we even begin blogging, we look at and discuss safety online and citizenship – what does it mean to be responsible and appropriate? This is part of a bigger discussion that covers not only online behaviour but offline behaviour.  It just so happens that it’s not just those that are specific to blogging – and it’s like quality blogging & commenting – an all-the-time discussion.Blogging

#6  Teach commenting

Teaching your students to properly comment is just as important, if not more important as teaching your students about writing quality blog posts.  As Pernille Ripp, from Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension, mentions

In order for blogging to be effective, comments are needed, but if students don’t know how to properly comment they will lose out on part of the experience. We discuss how to thank people, how to answer their questions, and most importantly, how to ask questions back. This is all part of common conversational knowledge that all kids should be taught any way.

#7  Start small

Everybody starts somewhere right? Whether you start out with a class blog first, or dive head first into students having their own blog.  Be realistic about how much you want to be posting.  We always started with an introduction post of some sort like this one or this one (which was fun and really encouraged comments).  At first, we posted to our blogs once a week.  It was regular and it was consistent – both of these things are important when you’re building an audience. (See #8)

#8  Connect with others

There is no doubt that the global connections made with students from all over the world are what inspired and encouraged my students to keep blogging.  Reach out to a colleague at another school and ask if their students can read and comment on your blogs – maybe they are blogging too and you can help motivate them too! Have a go at QuadBlogging or use twitter to help you and your students connect to others.  Keep a flag counter in your sidebar to help keep visitors to your blog (and your students’ blogs) visible and motivating!

#9  Allow personalisation (making it their own)

All students love to explore their blogs, playing with themes, colour and font!  This makes for a really great lesson on Design when they teach each other how to do anything fancy and also let each other know when font or colour choices were poor. It’s a perfect opportunity for students to start thinking about creating their online identity too. (Don’t forget to teach your students about Creative Commons and giving attribution for images they use in their blog posts! – see #5)

#10  Give it time

Rome wasn’t built in a day – neither will your blog content or your blog audience!  It’s an on-going process that can at times seem more trouble than it’s worth, but at the same time be so beneficial for students – especially those students who’s voices can be hard to hear above others.  Stick with it, even when the going gets tough and time pressures seem overwhelming against you.  It’s worth the effort, honest!

Helpful resources

Already blogging with your students?  What tips and/or recommendations do you have?  Please share!

Creative Commons Images used with special permission
Image 1: Blogging
Image 2: Commenting

Welcome to Summer School Session 1

Welcome to Room 207 for Summer School Session 1

We’ll be using this blog to help us get to website links that we will be using and
to show and share our work during this first summer school session

Our weekly newsletter will be posted here so that we can save paper (and trees!)

I’m looking forward to getting to know you all over the next four weeks!

Summer Reading
Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

Farewell and Safe Travels

It has been an absolute pleasure to have spent the last year with these crazy, funny, great 3rd Graders!

If you haven’t seen them already, please ask your child at some stage for their flashdrive.
(it’s in their headphones bag)
On the flashdrive is “Oh, How You’ve Grown” and “A Year in Reverse” –  it’s always such fun looking back over the year in photos!

Our poetry cafe videos will be up on our YouTube Channel by tomorrow.
(See the link on the right hand side under Our Learning Links).

This blog will probably be deleted at the end of JULY – so if you want to copy anything or bookmark any links please do so by then.

Our YouTube channel link and our Class Photos on Flickr links will STILL exist – so don’t forget to bookmark those (it’s only this blog that will disappear – not the content).

Have a safe, relaxing summer break and all the best for the future!

Our Poem Anthology

Today we all created a Google Presentation as a Poem Anthology.

The Poem Anthology Presentations are due on Thursday morning, 6 June, 2013.

Your Poem Anthology must contain your OWN original poetry
and must include one (1) example of each of the following:

A poem that shows how you ……

  • looked at an everyday object with a poet’s eye
  • used simile(s)
  • used metaphor(s)
  • wrote a poem using strong feelings
  • wrote a poem that paints a picture with words
  • used repetition
  • used alliteration
  • used onomatopoeia
  • used personification

IMPORTANT

You can not use a poem more than once!
(so you can’t use the same poem to show repetition and simile)

Your Poem Anthology will contain nine (9) original poems.

You may use creative commons images to illustrate your poetry.
(remember to give credit because you will publish your presentation on your blog).

Don’t forget to submit your Poetry Cafe Presentation sheet
with a copy of the two poems you will be performing by the end
of Wednesday please.

Social Studies Unit Wrap Up

Dear Parents

Our last Social Studies unit for the year, MarketPlace – Is it Fair, has been a huge success.  The class economy was a hit and now it is time to wrap it all up.

To end this unit, we will be having a giant auction on Wednesday, June 5th during our Social Studies learning time. Your child has been asked to make sure they have your permission before they bring any items for the giant auction.

If you would like to donate “in good condition” toys, games and/or books for our Auction, that would be most appreciated.  Students will also have the opportunity to donate their “MarketPlace stock leftovers” to the auction as well as the classroom teacher providing a few “mystery” envelopes for auction as well.

3D Judges Gavel
Photo Credit: StockMonkeys.com via Compfight cc

Roll of the Dice Collaborative Poem

Everyone contributes one line to the class poem

A roll of the die determines what has to be included in everyone’s line

Here’s what we rolled ….. each line for the poem must include …..

  • a superhero
  • must start with “I wish …. “
  • a colour
  • name of a city or country

The lines are handed in anonymously, “shuffled” and hey presto – a poem is made!

I Wish – by Room 207 

I wish Superman flew to India and bought a purple dog
I wish Ironman in a blue suit would glue me to a plane in Timbuktu
I wish that Spiderman would rescue me with a blue clear web and zip me off to Los Angeles
I wish I was Spiderwoman, instead of throwing webs, I could change grey concrete cities like Manila into green jungles of bushes and trees

I wish that Superman would come to my house with a green cape and fly my family and I to San Deigo
I wish Batman would save me from Catwoman, the Purple Cat, and drive me in the batcar to France
I wish that my batman costume was yellow and from the UK
I wish Wonderwoman would save me in a violet van and take me to Russia

I wish Superman drove me to New Delhi in a red Ferrari
I wish Superman would take me in an orange helicopter to America
I wish Superman saved me in a red car in Japan
I wish Spiderman would help me in a blue car in Korea

I wish Batman went to Japan with me in a black car
I wish Superman would lend me three pink dresses from France
I wish a superhero that has brown skin saved me in Bangkok
I wish Spiderman could give me his red costume in Shanghai

I wish I had Hulk as my big, strong, green bodyguard while I was in Kansas City
I wish I was a superhero wearing blue and red costumes lurking around New York

Laying On My "S"
Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc

Words Are Your Paint

It’s time ……. It’s begun ………  Ms H’s favourite writing unit!!

P O E T R Y

Today Ms H handed everyone their very own Journal – with handmade covers!
These Journals will be our Poetry Journals for this unit and then we are free to keep them and take them home as our very own Writing Journals forever – Ms H hopes that we will be reminded of her whenever we write in these journals (over the summer & beyond) – that’s why she made them for us!

During the poetry unit, Ms H will be making little things for us to put in our Journals!

An idea from one of Ms H’s favourite mentors, Georgia Heard!

Did you know that poetry hides EVERYWHERE?
And it comes from our hearts!
Poets write best about things they know about so we’ve been making
“What’s in Our Hearts, Hearts”

(Everyone needs to finish their hearts for homework tonight so that Ms H
can laminate them to have on our desks for inspiration!)

Parents: you can find out more about this unit and ways to help at home by going to our Writing Unit Overviews page.