Thursday, January 30, 2014

OK, OK... I'll Try and Turn My Students in to Bloggers

It was another great day in the neighborhood, yesterday, as I continued my marathon of running on sunshine beams.  Apparently, the miraculous transformation I saw in my kids on Tuesday wasn't just a one day fluke.  Yesterday, they were just as good and energetic and focused... and I was able to hear first hand that I wasn't just imagining it all.  Several other faculty members gave me compliments about how wonderful they were acting.

They earned a highly coveted Tiger Paw from their specials teacher.  They earned several compliments about how quiet and well behaved they were in the hallway.  And everyone that came in to my room yesterday made some kind of comment about how hard they seemed to be working.

I'm not going crazy!!  They really are acting different.  AND I LOVE IT!

One of my kiddos told me yesterday that all of my students must have evil twins that were coming to school for them up until this point, and they won't let them ever come back again.  Cute, right?  I told them I didn't care who had shown up before these past couple of days, but whoever these kids are that are coming now, I LOVE them very much and hope they stay with me for the rest of the school year.

Math was another fantastic adventure filled with deep questions and self-solving strategies.  Grammar and spelling was filled with some fun and quirkiness as we discussed definitions and past and future tenses.  I threw in some funny examples and explanations, and that seemed to help liven up the discussion.  During reading, the students were really focused on completing a "during reading" strategy, and it helped generate questions about what they were reading.  And writer's workshop was another awe inspiring session of me being blown away at the level of imagination and creativity I'm seeing from my students.

The kids actually got to go out for recess for the first time in a week, and I waived some recess sentences or gave time off for good behavior.  Figured it was the least I could do on my part to show them that good behavior and hard work pays off.  

After school, I attended a faculty meeting/ mini professional development about blogging.

Yep.  Blogging.  

Did I need a professional development on blogging?  I sure hope not.  I mean.  Urm.  Is this thing on?  It's kinda what I do.  

Even though it may seem that all I do is get on here and ramble about my life in general, now, doesn't mean I don't have some blogging credentials.  I have been featured in Shape Magazine's most influential blogging list.  I have guest posted on several blogs.  I won a blog award on a blogging website (that for the life of me I can't remember the name of at this particular moment in time), that earned me a feature post spot and drove a lot of new visitors in my direction.  And, I have received almost 200,000 page views on my blog, and 200 followers from many countries I've never even heard of and people I've never met in my life.  OK, so all that mostly came from when I was a devout weight loss blogger, but it was enough to earn me some serious knowledge on blogging and the blogging world.

But, even I will admit that I did get some great stuff from it.  Like the fact that I now want to try again at the whole class blogging thing.  And seriously, can I really sit and brag about all my "blog cred" and not want to motivate my students into becoming bloggers themselves?

Last year, I set up blogs for each one of my students.  But, there was so much on our plates, we just didn't have the time to put in to really make it work.  I had the same concerns during that meeting.  Kid blogging is a great idea, but exactly when do we fit it in our already jam packed schedule?

I have two computers in my classroom, and it's hard enough to get all of my students on those computers to take a 5 minute AR test during the week, let alone give them time to get on and compose a blog post.  Especially when I have a class of extreme "hunt and peckers".  Trying to get them to type a sentence could take up to five minutes.

Which is exactly what I said when asked by my principal as to why I wasn't the first in line, behind the blogging guru we have at our school, getting my kiddos blogging.

But, as the presenter shared and was then reinforced by my principal when I had a quick chat about it, blogging doesn't have to be writing an extensive post about a given topic or free writing.  It can be a tool to get a student to share ideas, answer questions, and generate discussion about whatever it is I want.

Our school's "blogging guru" (as I refer to him) has made it work for his students.  He has an extremely successful class blog, and does all kinds of interactive work with those blogs.  He has students present work in the blog, answer discussion questions, give opinions on certain subjects, and even completing assignments that would normally be done with pencil and paper.  

And sure, he teaches junior high and taught 6th grade last year making it somewhat easier to use because his kiddos are a little more "adept" with using a computer... but that doesn't mean it's impossible for 4th graders to do something similar.

As my principal pointed out, I've jumped in to creating my own reading units for my students.  I've moved away from the normal reading cycle of reading a selection, studying that selection, having lessons that pertain to a specific skill that pertains to said selection, and then taking a multiple choice test at the end of the week to determine understanding of the selection.  

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with that format, I wanted to do something different.  No.  I needed to do something different.  Instead, my students are selecting their own books on their reading level, having discussions about their books with their peers, creating graphic organizers and applying various reading strategies to the reading of their books, and ending the week out by creating some form of "presentation" on their understanding of various reading skills and opinion of their book.

Why on earth couldn't they spend 20-30 minutes each week writing a short blurb or answering a quick question about their book in blog format?

My principal suggested setting up the class blogs and having the students use the blogs for very direct instruction.  Meaning, instead of asking and expecting them to get on their blogs and compose posts about random topics... I could start out with just having them answering a simple question about the week's reading experience.  Or maybe having them compare the book they are reading this week to the book they read last week.  Or having them share one thing they learned while reading the book.  Or their favorite part of the book.  You see where I'm going with this, right?

I think one of my biggest problems I had last year, and the ultimate reason my class blogging experiment failed, was the fact that I expected WAY too much from them.  I wanted them to get on their blogs and compose a piece of writing.  Or use their writer's workshop notes to publish a piece they had written.  

The big flaw with that idea is the fact that I had AMAZING writers, but TERRIBLE typers. They could write pages for a story, but it took FORVER for them to type a paragraph let alone their whole story or piece of writing.  And that was very overwhelming and stressful for them.  They felt so much pressure from how long it was taking them to type, that what started out as a very exciting opportunity ended with them having anxiety about their computer time because they were so worried they wouldn't be able to complete what I was asking them to do.

Type up a 200 word document, then revise and reread said document in 20 minutes when you can only type 2 words per minute.  


So, instead, my principal wants my focus to shift from my using blogging as a composing tool and use it for a comprehension tool.  Just getting them familiar with the idea of blogging, rather than trying to throw them in to the deep end and hoping they can swim.

Maybe start out with asking them to write a very short summary of their book.

"My book, Goldilocks and the Three Bears was about a girl named Goldilocks that went in to a house where bears lived.  She ate their porridge, broke a chair, and fell asleep in the baby bear's bed.  In the end, the bears found her and she ran away."


Then, maybe the next week I ask them to share their favorite part of their book.

"My favorite part of the book Goldilocks and the Three Bears was when the bears found Goldilocks sleeping in the baby bear's bed and it made her run away."

How about some author's purpose?

"The author's purpose of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was to entertain with a funny story, but to teach people that you shouldn't go in to houses without being invited."

Maybe after a couple of weeks, I ask them to go in and select a classmate's blog to read and then comment on what they read or ask a question about the post.  To help them interact with blogging and using it for more than just a place to write stuff.

It would take no time to have them write short little blurbs like this, and each week they would be developing their comfort zone with their blog and the typing process.  If started at the beginning of the school year, I'm sure I could have my students publishing more in-depth, thought provoking responses, opinions, and their own discussion questions about whatever books they were reading, and interacting with each other and offering suggestions and thought about each other's writing.

I think I can make it work.  I'm going to try, anyway.  I think if I start out slow, and ease them in to it, it could be a very fun, exciting, and educational experience for all of them.

Today, it's my goal to set up the class blogs and have a look around the site I'll be using.  I've decided to give KidBlog a go, and see how I like it.  

Then, maybe tomorrow, my kids can have their first go at writing something.

We'll see.

OK, I really need to go... I rambled on WAY more than I thought I would.  

Have an awesome Thursday, everyone!!


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