“I don’t want to do this.” The second grader looked at me with determination. Her mind was quite made up. I was surprised to find this little island of resistance in my sea of excited students.
“Do your parents not want you to do this?” I questioned.
She flashed me a bored expression. “Nah, I just don’t want to.”
How it Started
This all began with our blogging experiment. We all have students who don’t like to read or write. I wanted to change that, but I needed to find a solid motivational tool. Something that would spark student interest and keep them coming back for more. The answer I found was blogging.
I blogged about the beginning of our journey here: http://www.fortheloveofteaching.net/2011/01/student-blogging-is-brain-based.html.
Since then, we’ve blogged about thinking stems, summaries, math, our snow days, and about an egg-drop we did during brain-awareness week. Students are always excited to go check for new comments. Which leads me back to the student mentioned earlier. She put her thinking stem on the blog that day. That evening she received several comments from around the globe. She was so excited; she created her next blog post from home, on her own time.
I have seen a marked improvement in use of thinking skills, fluency, and writing throughout our blogging journey. Students respond to comments, which improves their written communication skills. Blogging is a powerful tool. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Which Blog Service to Use
There are many tools available. For this blog, I use blogger.com. I didn’t think it had the functionality I wanted for my 2nd graders though, so I chose kidblog.org. It has proven to be the perfect tool for my class. It is easy to use and update even for an early elementary child. Setting up a class is quick and easy even for the technologically challenged among us. It also has versatile security settings. If you want comments from outside sources though, make sure your settings allow anyone to comment…but choose the option to approve comments before they appear. Other blog options include Classblogmeister, Wordpress, Edublogs, ClassBlogs, and Typepad, among others.
I introduced blogging to my class by showing another class blog that was already underway. We read some posts and even left comments. Then I showed them their very own class blog and demonstrated the steps to make a blog post. When we went to the computer lab, there was still some confusion but most were able to proceed without much additional help. We took our pre-written thinking stems to the lab with us that day to post to the blog. I wanted them to be able to focus on the process of making the post rather than the writing process at that point.
What to Blog About
I see student blogs being used in many different ways. Some are publishing stories, yet others are discussing physics. It’s up to you. I recommend blogging about things you want them to practice and/or have a deep understanding of. Remember they will be motivated to do good work because people outside the class will be reading and commenting on what they write.
Receiving comments is a key to maintaining student interest. If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, now is the time to create one! Once your students have their posts up, sign on to twitter and say something like:
2nd grade bloggers looking for comments! #comments4kids http://kidblog.org/mrsdahlsclass4
Image via CrunchBase#Comments4kids is a hashtag. That means that anyone who follows that particular hashtag will see your post. (Hashtags always have a ‘#’ in front of them.) Don’t forget to include the link to your blog. Several fellow twitterers will retweet your post to their followers. Be sure to comment on others who are asking for comments as well. You’ll soon find yourself with several blogging pals.
Leave your blog address at http://comments4kids.blogspot.com/ to hook up with other classroom blogs.
Also be sure to send the link out to parents, who will probably forward the link onto grandparents and other family members. They love to leave comments.
Students will be excited to respond to comments left for them and to leave comments for classmates. You will want to set clear guidelines on commenting. Here is an awesome video to share with your students about commenting: http://comments4kids.blogspot.com/p/how-to-compose-quality-comment.html.
Student blogging is a remarkable motivational tool. If you have students you are struggling to motivate, give this a try. My student mentioned earlier is still blogging happily away and is quite animated in her discussion about her blog.
Note: If you have not discussed Digital Citizenship with your class yet, please do that first. Check out this post: Digital Citizenship in the Classroom