Summer is full of opportunities for reflecting, learning, and planning. Teachers and students have the ability to review the past year and develop goals for both the summer and the upcoming school year. While summer gives teachers a chance to unwind and relax, it is often used as a time for exploration and preparation for the new year.
During their time off, many teachers participate in professional development events, become involved in learning communities, and look for new ways to engage their students in the classroom. I am no different. This summer I had many opportunities to connect with other educators and discuss ideas for increasing engagement in students’ learning and blogging became a common topic. I welcomed these conversations as I have seen first hand the positive results blogging has had on my students. These discussions revolved around questions about getting students started, privacy, the best use of blogs in the classroom, and how to create new ideas and keep students motivated to blog in and out of the classroom. I was always happy to offer my advice. I created this post in hopes of sharing what I learned from these discussions with a wider audience.
The benefits to student blogging are endless. If you are looking for something new to try with your students, to get them talking, and to learn about your students, I highly recommend blogging as a way to start this new school year.
If you are not familiar with classroom blogging, I suggest setting up your “class URL” first – select a theme, familiarize yourself with the settings, features and how students will create their accounts and log-in. Additionally, by setting up an account as a student in your class you can better understand the student experience and be prepared to answer any questions. Once everything is ready for real students, creating a handout to explain the use of blogging for your class, listing your expectations and some guidelines, and encouraging creativity in the process, is a great way to start the blogging conversation.
I have tried various methods to getting students started in our class blog. Regardless of the method you choose, it is always worth while to start with a conversation regarding your class blog. Talk about what students will write, when they will use the blog, who will be reading their posts, etc. Getting students excited about the options for post styles, fonts, and the wide audience they can reach in the process is helpful in driving motivation to write.
One option to get students started writing in class is through the use of prompt responses. I started small by instructing students how to join the class and having them begin responding to my posts with meaningful discussion points. If you have time in class to do this, facilitate as the students create their account, personalize their page and begin writing. Eventually students will feel comfortable and excited about creating their own ideas for writing.
Another successful way to get students blogging is to start with what they know – pen and paper. Try providing a prompt and having students write a response on paper, as they had done in the past. This is a great way to ensure students learn to evaluate their work and self-correct. It also reinforces that the true value in blogging is to feel comfortable and confident in expressing one’s ideas and using it as a means for personal growth. Once the students have written their responses, you can ask them create their Kidblog student account and use their writing as the first entry. By having the first draft, and then entering it as a blog post, students have the opportunity to think, reflect and work on their skills.
Either option provides a great starting point. I recommend that you base your decisions for your class blogging on your students and what will be the most beneficial to your classroom.
Getting students excited about blogging only takes that first step. It is a continuous work in progress. We are all involved in ongoing learning, and by being learners ourselves, we can help our students to take risks, accept challenges, reflect, and grow. And, through the process, we learn about each other, reinforcing the value of relationship building and support in the classroom.