Being new at something means you can try it, and revise it until you get closer to what it is you want to accomplish. This is true in blogging for sure!
While the initial interest in blogging was high in my Grade Five classroom, it has not been sustained over the last few weeks, in particular. The level of participation has waned -only somewhat - but I want to re-examine what was happening, especially as it pertains to my classroom practice. (Many had been posting and commenting at home as well.) Given that I had not set particular times in school for blogging but was letting it fit into the independent choices students could make was likely, I figured, to be the main factor.
I’m wouldn't really be surprised at not finding time to blog- we’re very busy with all kinds of activities on the go across the curriculum. There’s a hands-on Social Studies project where, in addition to research about the Beothuk (First Nations people unique to Newfoundland and now extinct), the students are building replicas of their mamateeks, sewing felt moccasins, and bending boughs to show how deer fences led the caribou towards hunters. New Math links on our class website have caught some students’ attention and in their choice time they head off to problem solve. During Writing Workshop the students also are continuing to use the computers for their creative writing, research and creating other types of responses. So I had to consider how to ensure that blogging didn't become a chore but a desirable choice easily managed by all.
I talked to the kids first to see what they felt. While the interest was still definitely there, several were a little overwhelmed by the number of posts that they wanted to read and to which they wanted to respond. (A feeling to which I can relate!) Others fell into the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ category!
So off I went surfing through the many sites that talk about starting to use classroom blogging. While there many different ways that teachers utilize blogs, and as many different views on the management of them, the general framework that I synthesized from my readings includes:
- Involve the students in setting up guidelines for the use of the classroom blog(s)—a sense of ownership is essential for participation.
- Be creative in their ‘in-house’ use. Blogs that have the same ‘task’ can be quickly become little more than worksheets on a screen.
- Topics should be highly relevant, motivated by interest and selected by students as much as possible.
- Assign partners or small groups to respond to blog postings. Be flexible with this grouping and change it periodically.
- Set different days of the week as publishing deadlines. Students then know when to be ready to publish.
So I’m going to take this advice and I’ll let you know what happens!