Friday, September 27, 2013

Blogging in the Classroom begins! (finally writing a post again)

  Wow it has been some time since my last post.  I have felt the thrush of the school tidal wave hit and we are rocking along as my dad would say.  We're already 5 1/2 weeks into the year.  I'm thankful for the solid start to my year and I have really enjoyed getting to know my students.  I really have a great group who are willing to take risks and ask insightful questions.  All of my students have realized that history can be interesting and fun to discuss.  Many of them wouldn't have said this at the beginning of the year.  Since my last post here's a brief recap of our progress.  We've successfully set-up our blogs and students have posted three times, Open House for parents, completed our first unit on Native Americans and European Explorers, and completed an inter-disciplinary project with ELA and Science.  Are you tired yet?  I'll be posting about these activities in coming posts but wanted to give a glimpse of our progress.
Blog Day!
      To focus this back on the blog set-up, I could not have had success without the great help of my colleague Lorena Swetnam, Media Specialist Extraordinaire.  She and I were able to meet and plan out an approach to sharing info. about how to use blogs, examples of blogs, and appropriate comments on blogging.  We also spoke about editing one's writing.  In the examples below you'll see strength in making the point clear but help on editing.  Lorena's presentation was short and sweet but incredibly practical.  Blog Intro  After this discussion we proceeded to logging into  I found this site to be the best for my 6th graders.  One, it is safe and easily controlled by the teacher.  Two, I can approve or disapprove comments before anyone sees them to ensure respect is shown.  Third, it allows for my ultimate goal of connecting with other classrooms.  I'm a fan of Kidblog.


  • The free version of Kidblog allows up to 50 students per class.  Since I have 100 students, I decided to create 4 classes.  
  • To get students logged in create a "bulk" list in Excel with 2 columns.  One column titled "Student Name" and the other "Password."  
  • For password, start with something generic: DOB, phrase, or number, and then let students change password to something they'll remember after they log-in.  Trying to each individuals before hand is too much work on your part.   
  • Do those steps and you're all set to start blogging.  No other info. is needed on Kidblog for students to use site.  

The first topic:
  As I told in an earlier post, I used Ashton Kutcher's speech from the Kid's Choice Awards.  I wrote a transcription of the speech and read it to students due my feeling that some parts would be better for me to omit without losing the main point.  After reading, I had students write a post and then react to someone else's posts to get the dialogue going with one another.  Here are some examples:

"While  I was listening to the speech I was thinking that people under-estimate most actors hearing that speech told me that he is not just a shallow rich,actor like all of those magazines say. He is a very hard worker he has already had five jobs in his lifetime and he started at the age of thirteen. The most inspirational part in his speech was when he quoted jobs and the quote said to "build your own life." In my world that means be creative and don't do what other people want you to do, do what you want to do, if you don't you might be unhappy forever. So comment about what you thought it meant."

  Student Comment to this post:

"I thought that build your own life was really inspirational too. I totally agree with you on you post. Also I like how you said “be creative and don’t do what other people do."

Another Post: Great example of reflection but also challenging readers to respond and think.

"to answer the question i will ask another question what will you work hard for. for me i want to work hard on computers to game design that's what i work hard for. for that i need to be smart and patient for this. this is the base of the life i want to build the life i want to live. so what do you want to work hard for and tell us what it needs, what work it needs, and  if its the life you want to live."

Pics of our class work:

Closing and Reflection:
    I was really excited by the posts of my students because they grasped the point of the speech and found ways to make it applicable to their lives.  That's what I want out of learning in my classroom.  Find relevance and a connection.  When these two words meet in the classroom, I find myself in the "sweet spot" of teaching.   

1)  Going forward with blogging.  I'm trying to figure out the best way to view all the posts and provide feedback and assessment.  I don't want to hinder creativity by putting a grade but I do want to reward involvement.  Any thoughts as to how to best assess blogs? 

2) Secondly, the area I see where I need to improve our blogs is in the comment section.  I want students move from just saying good job but more consistently giving meaningful feedback to the post.  In some ways I feel like I should be looking in the mirror because I need to do that for them with the writing assignments I give.  Feedback that doesn't have depth to it is weak and unhelpful.  I want to improve this.  Anyone have successes or ideas for this?  

So glad to have another post written.  I feel like I've saved a quality teaching moment from the depths of "I did this lesson once."  As always, do your best!  

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