Wednesday, November 24

Blogging with Kids - Wish I Started Sooner!

At back to school night this year, I explained to the parents that the fourth graders would be blogging this year.  It took me until this week to get it off the ground and boy, is it soaring.  My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.  Lesson learned: make the time for technology.

One of my goals this year was to integrate technology more into my teaching.  I often heard myself state that I love technology, but was I using it as much as I could?  I spent time this summer researching an abundance of tools, signed up for what feels like a million different sites, but was I actually using the technology I claimed to embrace?

To be fair, I work at a small school whose teachers don’t use a lot of technology.  I’m pretty much an enigma and the go-to-girl when people have problems with their computers.  Trust me, I don’t know what I’m doing the majority of the time.  I just read help menus really well.  I’m the only one who has their own class website.  When I try to explain my passion for Twitter, well, let’s just say the crickets chirp pretty loudly.  It is amazing how much a person can communicate with a blank stare.  (I do have my mentee signed up and tweeting, though – hooray!)

I had so many goals this year and I was determined to start blogging with the students. My first step was I switched my class website over to iWeb, which made my love of photos/video so much easier and a massive time saver!  I taught the students about podcasts and some kids are actually using them for studying on their iPods. Our weekly Wallwisher is a favorite, too.  What was the hold-up with blogging?

I wasn’t sure where to begin.  I kept seeing so many different sites that other people were using and I had trouble choosing.  I saw that many teachers were using, but I wanted more pizzazz and color for the themes.  I signed up for both and blogger, and created individual blogs for the students.  (Luckily, I have a small class.)  On the other hand, I didn’t want to get involved with email addresses with the kids.  I wanted to control the posting of blogs and the comments.   I admit I have control tendencies, but I also wanted make sure I wasn’t borrowing trouble.

I went back to where I was the most comfortable: iWeb.  I created a new page on our class website and wrote a blog about blogging. I took what they had written in class, typed it and created new “entries” for each of them.  I also put a photo next to each student’s entry.  Technically, they do not have their own blog – they have entries on a page on our class website. However, the look and feel of it shouts “blog.” 

Next, I wrote a comment on each of their blogs. When the students came to school the next day, I showed them what I had done.  It was like Christmas morning.  They were practically pushing me out of the way to start reading and commenting. 

Aside: For some unknown reason to me, if you use Safari as your internet browser, you can’t always leave a comment.  Firexfox and Internet Explorer seemed to be working.  I tweeted this problem on Twitter and no one seems to know why.  I have found if you refresh the browser, the comment will appear.  

When the students went home, they were filled with excitement and actually got their parents to look at our site.  One mom wrote a comment on every student’s blog.  The computer teacher at our school did the same.  Then, @rcantrell, a principal in San Antonio, Texas, left a very detailed and amazing comment on one student’s blog.  The excitement level rose another notch.  All of the students were awe-struck that someone so far away, and a principal, too, took the time to write a comment on a student’s blog.  Wow!  I was impressed, too.  I sent Mr. Cantrell a message thanking him for his time and the gift that he gave to this student. 

To keep the momentum going, I told the students that they could blog anytime, anywhere they wanted.  All they had to do was send me an email and I would put what they wrote on our site.  Well, they all went home and started writing.  Some emailed, some came in with blogs on paper. During our Reading Workshop time, I allowed students to rotate to our class computers to read,  type or comment.  This worked so smoothly that every student now has a second blog ready to go.

Is this the best way to blog with students?  I have no idea.  All I do know is when students are excited about writing; I must be doing something right.  The parents are involved and checking the class website, which is another goal reached. 

I would love to know how other teachers found their way to blogging with students.  Do you have technology support people at your school that can help you?  Have I missed a step along the way?  Is there a gaping hole in my approach that I don’t see?  I’m so willing to learn more.

My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. 


@Jessica_Dubois said...

I sometimes feel disheartened too Nancy when I talk about twitter and try to excite others in my district and don't get the reaction I expect from collegues - how can they not be excited and eager to join in when the potential for development and personal learning is so high and so accessible?! I often hear "Isn't twitter just for celebrities to tell us what they are eating for breakfast?". I must say though that I have only just joined (I don't know where I had been hiding!) and am slowly learning what it is all about. I have recruited a few other teachers here to join and I think those teacher's enthusiasm, and the unbridled enthusiasm of my growing PLN, will keep me going.

Congratulations for beginning the blogging process with your students! It is wonderful to hear they are so excited about writing!

Thank you for sharing :)

Rich@rcantrell said...

First off, your blog page lay out is terrific. I am using blog spot and don’t believe I could create something as attractive as your page. If I make a move it will be to iweb.

Thanks for the kind words about my comment to one of your students. Writing does not come easy for me and therefore blogging is not an activity that thrills me. I do have a blog Rich's Sharing Spot where I try to post to a few times each month. As the title tells you, most of the entries are sharing of news or items from my web surfing. The power of student’s blogging for student learning is greatly under estimated. I firmly believe the there are few activities that are more engaging and stimulating of our students that blogging. My hat is off to you for introducing the activity to your class.

By making comments on student blogs, I may have found my little niche for building relationships and making connecting to help students develop their self-esteem and begin to understand the joy of learning. I hope Sean is walking taller and continues to have a great week.

Hugs and High Fives to you and your students!

Mrs. Kennedy said...

I have just started blogging with my 5th graders as well. Its such new territory for me that really don't know where I'm going with it yet. I had the same goal as you at the beginning of this year - integrate technology into my daily teaching. I got a Smartboard and started writing my own blog and set up a blog for my parents. That has been a big hit. I keep reading that Twitter is this great thing for teachers but I don't seem to be able to bite the bullet and join it. I am also the only teacher at my school interested in all of this. Its so great to be able to read what other teachers are doing. Could you post about some of your Wallwisher ideas? Christine

Elizabeth Peterson said...

This is a great reflection and a motivator for me. I am about to launch a "pilot blogging program" in my class (and my school) with 7 of my students who are interested. (They are very interested.) I am working out the kinks. It would be nice to use kidblog, but they want me to try having students blogging through our district site which doesn't really lend itself to individual blogs. BUT, it's a starting point and hearing your story and success is just what I needed.

It's true when you say, if students are excited about writing, then something is going right. I figure that even if I don't have all 26 kids blogging right away, they will still be involved through commenting.

It is quite exciting to see young writers find their voice! Thanks for the great post.

Melissa said...

It sounds like you are off to a great start. I used to teach 4th grade and found myself starting in many of the same ways that you did. I think blogging is an excellent activity for students (and teachers too). I think being able to effectively express ideas ia a very important skill. It sounds like you are making great strides working on that skill.

When I talk to others about Twitter, I make sure to mention some of the great ideas and resources I have found that I would not have found any other way. I also share that I think it is important to have a focus for who you follow and what you tweet on twitter. I decided I was going to use twitter to find/share educational resources/ideas. I started with a focus in mind and that made it easier to organize and made sense of twitter.

I also think you blog looks great!!!!

Hen Jen said...

oh wow, how exciting! I would have loved something like this when I was young, I always loved creative writing. As a blogger, I find the comments and feedback both addicting and uplifting.

I get the crickets thing when I talk about twitter, or even blogging...if you are not doing it, you don't really get the point...

bravo on your adventure!

loonyhiker said...

I really enjoyed reading the student blogs and I think I commented on all of the ones I saw! In fact, they motivated me to find this book so I can read it. I think it was awesome that you introduced the book this way and motivated them. They seemed excited about reading this book! I applaud your creativeness!

Candice Hodde said...

I love your blog! Thank you for sharing all these wonderful things!

I actually teach high school English, but stumbled onto your site somehow, and am thoroughly impressed by your (and the kids') accomplishments.

I think for the age group you're working with, your method of blogging is great. I have been toying with the idea of switching my classroom website to iWeb, and after reading this, I think I'll check it out again! :)

I have my students respond to two blogs per month. Our class website is set up through weebly, and it has a blogging feature on it. I guess my kids aren't so much blogging, as they're just commenting. But I guess it's a start (for now). Feel free to check out the class blog at -- I always welcome constructive criticism!

In the meantime, I'll be keeping up your blogs. Someday I hope my class will be able to use technology like your class does!