Monday, February 14, 2011

Getting Started with Kid Blogging

I chose to use Kidblog, a highly recommended site for elementary students.  It was quick (and easy) to set up and I used our school password system as their entry point.  You can create simple passwords for your students if there isn't something already in place. Once you’re in, the dashboard makes keeping track of who and what simple!
To link blogging to Reading Responses already being created by my students, I asked them (in a blog post naturally!) to blog about the books they were reading in our Independent Reading Program.   This then became a self-paced activity, although I asked everyone to post within the first week.  Students may compose and save their posts as drafts first if they choose; allowing them the opportunity to re-read and revise their work before setting it as ‘pending (my) review’.
One of the discussions we had about writing a blog was about its form.  The Book Responses I set as their first blog/task can be written in different styles –journal, informational reports, letters, lists, and poems - structures they had been introduced to and were comfortable with.  That made it a less daunting activity (though I don’t think children find much of anything related to technology daunting!)

 These blogs rule. It rules beacuse I can post and share my opinion about my books.
 As we moved into self-generated pieces “Hot Topics”, we discussed the tone- almost conversational -that would be more appropriate.

Bike helmets should be mandatory because if you didn't have a helmet on you could fall off and hurt yourself by cracking you skull and doing more damage.  But with a helmet on it could SAVE your life!!!  I had an accident one time I was flying jumps on paddle bike with no helmet and badly hurt myself:(

Understanding that the dialogue / comments they make on each other’s posts would also be made public generated a discussion about respect –on and offline.  We have worked throughout the first half of the year on the practice of “constructive criticism” but the students had to be made even more aware of their ‘cyber-manners’.  We talked about sharing our thoughts, ideas and opinions in a considerate way while being true to our purpose.

Great Post Emily!!
I was wondering if you would recommend this book for me. I saw you reading it so I didn’t want to distract you.I was also wondering what genre it is.
Keep Reading (:

 As we move into blogs about our classroom activities, the notion of sharing events that are positive and respectful of all members of our classroom community will be revisited.
Kidblog allows you (the teacher) to view and edit all postings before they are ‘published’.  I asked my students what they thought of this feature.  They recognized and endorsed my role as ‘chief editor’ being important here, as their work would be shared with a much wider audience and it should look “polished”.  One of the things I like about using this platform is the easy access I have to pieces of work.   I can use this tool (from home) to leave quick comments and suggestions about editing, spelling strategies, word meanings and content like any other writing conference.   The students respond positively to seeing my feedback on their post (I often leave it in coloured font!) and they seem to be taking it in more readily than other mini-conferences I hold with them.

Hey there! I really liked the way you organized your thoughts about using bottled water in schools.  Remember the meeting we had about spelling there/their/they're?  You have two places where you could have used 'they are'; check that out and then we'll send this piece to the publisher!

It was made clear through discussion that the expectations for final draft quality would also apply to efforts in writing the blogs.  An ongoing concern of many (parents and teachers) relates to students’ use- or lack of- spelling strategies and using texting terms in their written responses.  Using Kidblog allows for a level of intervention that can be determined by the teacher.  You can leave it open; that depends on your comfort zone and the age of your students, I would think.  My intention is to use a model of gradual release as they develop that sense of ownership while learning/practicing effective revising/editing strategies (peer and independent).

Getting started is a little time-consuming but the results are definitely worth it! 

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