Saturday, May 28, 2011

14 Steps to Meaningful Student Blogging


So you have heard about blogging with your students and you are considering taking the plunge but just not sure what or how to do it? I am here to tell you; blogging with my students has been one of the most enriching educational experiences we have had this year, and that says a lot. So to get you started, here is what I have learned:

  1. Pick an easy platform, both for you and the students. I used Kidblog with great success, it fit our needs, it is free and it offers easy moderation.  There are other great alternatives out there such as WordPress or EduBlogs
  2. Teach them how to blog first. We did an excellent paper blogging lesson first (found on the blog of McTeach), which brought up why we were blogging and how to do it appropriately.  This got the students excited, interested as well as got them thinking about what great comments look and sound like.
  3. Talk safety! We assume some students know how to be safe, but don't assume it; teach them the do's and dont's. I came up with the lesson of why the Internet is like the mall and it really worked.  I also sent home safety plans for students and parents to discuss and we discussed it throughout the year.
  4. Teach them how to comment. 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.
  5. Start small.  The first post was an introduction of themselves. It was an easy topic and something they really liked to do. They then got to comment on each others post as well which started to build community.
  6. Include parents. Parents always know what we are doing and are invited to comment.  The students loved the extra connection and parents loved seeing what the kids were doing.
  7. Connect with one or two classes to be buddies. While comments from around the world are phenomenal, the connections are what it is all about. So reach out on Twitter or through the most excellent #comments4kids and set up something more permanent. The students relish getting to know one another and the comments become even more worthwhile.  Thanks Mr.  Gary's class in Egypt and Mr. Reuter's 6th grade class in Merton, Wisconsin for being our buddies.
  8. Speaking of #comments4kids, this excellent site created by Will Chamberlain is a must for anyone blogging with students. Link their blog to it and ask people to comment, tweet it out with the hashtag #comments4kids, and use it to find classes to comment on.
  9. Visit other classroom blogs. Show them how other kids use it and have it inspire them.  Blogs can be found through Twitter or the comments4kids site.
  10. Let them explore. My students love to play around with font, color, and images. They taught each other how to do anything fancy and also let each other know when font or color choices were poor. This was a way for students to come into their own as creative writers and also start to think about creating their online identity.
  11. Don't grade! Blogging is meant to be a way to practice writing for an audience and learning to respond to critique, not a graded paper. I would often tell students my requirements and even make them go back and edit but I never ever chastised them for mistakes made.
  12. Challenge them. Often students would ask to write about topics but we also had a blogging challenge almost weekly. This was my way of finding out what they really thought about fourth grade, their dreams, their hopes and their lives. The kids always wondered what the next challenge would be and looked forward to writing them.  We would also share creative writing pieces from class, create diaries of work we did, and share our op.ed. pieces.
  13. Map the connections. We have a world map in our classroom that we use to push pin people we connect with, it is amazing to see it grow and what a geography lesson is has turned out to be. Students are acutely aware of where Egypt, Alabama, New York and other places in the news are because they have connected with people there.
  14. Give it time! Some students took to it right away, others weren't so sure, and yet they all ended up loving it. The sheer mass of paper I have had to print to create their writing portfolio is staggering and it shows how ingrained it became in our classroom. I now have kids blogging when they are sick, out of school or just because.
So here it is, take the leap and believe in your students' ability to stay safe and appropriate on the internet.  Stay tuned  for a student-created video tutorial on how to use Kidblog, kids teaching kids, that is learning worth doing.  To see our student blogs and maybe even leave  comment, please go here.

42 comments:

diggers27 said...

Thanks for this post ... very timely for me as I am thinking about starting a class blog with my year 8 students ... I am trying to get them to feel a greater connection to the world around them and am thinking a blog might be a way to do that - real audience, authentic learning and all that! You have given me a lot of food for thought (*u*)

Gary said...

My students have loved blogging with your class. We also started blogging with a class in Singapore as well. We hope to blog with ya next year!!

Mr Gary
AIS-Egypt

George Couros said...

AWESSOME Pernille! Thanks for sharing this :)

Mr. Francik/@kyfrancik said...

Great recommendations on your students' learning regarding blogs. I am excited to do this with my students next year. I may be asking you questions as I go through next school. I appreciate your efforts to share what you are learning as an educator with others.

Mrs Ripp aka 4thGrdTeach said...

Thank you everyone for comments and enthusias. This has been such an integral part of my year that I just hope to inspire others as well. And Gary, yes, let's blog next year! And Kyle, anything you need let me know.

49er Gone Aggie said...

This is awesome. I too, teach 4th grade and I started piloting Schoology with my group this year and will use it full force next year. This will be awesome for the students and myself to teach safety and proper usage of flogging and commenting.

Sharon Davison said...

Loved reading this! I use kidblog in Kindergarten and it is amazing what they are doing! Thanks for sharing this!!

kylie said...

This was really great and helpful! I'm hoping to use students blogs in the future. Maybe not with my kindergarteners next year, but hopefully sometime soon!! Thanks for the tips!

Trevor J. Collazo said...

Shared this with my staff. I know a few of them have tried it out and are jumping all in next year. Thanks for sharing your experience

Joel Heinrichs said...

These are great tips! We hope to see more students blogging this coming year. I just posted this blog post about why students should blog and the benefits in response to Cool Cat Teacher. http://blog.lightspeedsystems.com/joel/2011/06/01/why-students-should-blog/

Marina said...

Thank you so much for posting. I'm an EFL teacher from Venezuela and would definitely like to try this for next school year.

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Random Teacher said...

Wow- great post. Thanks for collecting those resources. Any thought specifically for HS age?

Jay
Thepapergraders.org

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

I think most if not all of the same steps apply whatever age you start to blog with. Yu may just go through them faster. I would still recommend KidBlogs but you could also use EduBlogs. I hope this helps.

Best,
Pernille

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Technology Instructor said...

I am interested in blogging with my students, however, it will be only a small class of 7 girls, and I am concerned that they will use the venue to make comments about their classmates, that on the surface seem fine, but underneath is a whole different story. How do I teach them proper blog etiquitte and how do I make sure that nothing underhanded occurs (especially since I am not privy to all of the dynamics of the group). Thanks!

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Anonymous said...

This is an awesome article. You should write more often on this.

Marcie Harvey said...

Love this article. It gives step by step instruction on how to bring blogging into your classroom with explanations. Very helpful.

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Anonymous said...

What a great post! I am a proponent of student blogging--and have been doing it with my students for 5 years now. I love your list of suggestions. I would also like to add the site that I blog at--it is free as well, and moderation is easy. http://www.teacherblogit.com It is a fairly new site, but it is so simple to use I thought it worth mentioning. Happy Blogging!

Mrs.Newbold's blog said...

Thanks for creating this post!! The world of blogging is so new to me, and this gave some excellent guidance on how to get started and get connected!!

Becca Morris said...

Thank you for this great post! I am moving from 2nd to 4th and I like hearing your expectations.

~Becca
Simply 2nd Resources
Fun is Found in Fourth

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarah Rajewski said...

Hi, I'm looking to start my students blogging next year and am very impressed with what you've done! One drawback for us is that we only have one computer lab in our school that all the teachers can reserve. Do students do your weekly challenges during class time or usually on their own? How much built in time each week do you give students to blog in class? Thanks!

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Hi Sarah, We also only have one computer lab with very limited time, and a couple of student computers in the classroom. What I did last year is give the students time in the computer lab, as well as let them use student computers and my computer whenever they had the time. There was always time to try to get it done in school so that it didn't become a chore. They really don't need much more than 15 - 20 minutes once they get used to it, if even... Please let me know if there is anything else I can help with

Anonymous said...

More great information. Last year I had a class blog with grade 4s, using Wordpress. I would write a basic post with questions for them to answer and reflect upon. I had to do a lot of cutting and pasting to get it archived in their folder. Towards the end everyone became authors on the site which saved me time. In grade 5, they will have personal blogs for sure.

Trying to decide whether to have students as authors on class blog or give them personal blogs that are reacher by link through class blog. Your thoughts??

Other issue is that parents are worried about their child's thoughts/reflections out there for all to see. If I tweet a post link for 'world' to reply to, is their entire blog visible? Any way to limit it?

Thanks for your insights.
Charlene

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

Hi Charlene,
Well, i don't use WordPress so I am not so sure if I can tell you all you want to know. I use Kidblog because of privacy and safety concerns, however, I know many people that use WordPress successfully.

The reason I use KidBlog is so that each child can have their own blog within our group. I have to approve all posts as well as all comments so nothing"bad" ever gets posted. That therefore eliminates the need for individual blogs which my 5th graders legally cannot have since they are not 13.

I take time to explain to parents and show them the safety measures we take to keep their child's thoughts safe while still maintaining the global presence. Kidblog offers you different levels of openness so you could have it open to just those with passwords, but I think a lot of the fear comes of the unknown. I have yet to have a parent refuse their child permission to have a blog open to the world.

Does this help? Otherwise please email me or reach out on Twitter etc. Would love to help as much as possible.
Best,
Pernille

Sarah Rajewski said...

Thanks so much! I'll definitely let you know if I have more questions.

Mr. Logan Walker said...

Really enjoy your blog. I started using KidBlog because of your recommendation last year. I hope to expand our use of it this year and get more comments using your suggestions.

I also enjoy your post on grading. I hope I can implement many of your suggestions in that area too. Keep up the good work.

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This will be awesome for the students and myself to teach safety and proper usage of flogging and commenting.
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Kyle Brandon said...

First and foremost, students who are planning to be involved in blogging should know the basic etiquette on using the net. Just to set up a precautionary measures and a sense of responsibility and discipline in using it cause most of the time, I observed that the young ones tends to be so emotional and impulsive in posting stuff online.

Colleen Waddell said...

Thank you for all the information. I'm a freelance blog writer, and a lot of my readers (mostly students) ask me about meaningful writing. I just sent them this link because your tips are easy to read and follow. Hope to read more from you.

John Sutton said...

Hi, I build blogs for schools in the UK and while I would pretty much agree with everything you've said here, I would add 2 further steps.

1: Teach children how to tag Without making their digital content searchable their class blog will rapidly become a black hole.

2: Teach children how to hyperlinkThe ability to reflect on their work and link to content around the web is one of the key affordances of blogging.

I would also spend a great deal of time teaching and modelling commenting. Here's a great post written by an 11 year old in Bolton, England: http://6d2012.highlawnprimary.net/2013/02/05/good-comments/

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