Update: Please feel free to use and adapt our Blogging Permission Slip

After seven years working with middle school students, it has taken me a few months to adjust to the pace of learning at the elementary level. But, I think I’m finally getting the hang of things – and now I get a chance to see just how much I’ve learned this year.

I started off the school year by helping three of our grade five classes start independent student blogs. Although things went reasonably well, there were quite a few bumps in the road.

For one, we started learning how to blog before we really covered the basics of blogging (ie: what is a blog, why would you want a blog, who blogs, etc). For another, we talked about online safety, but not long enough. Finally, we sent home permission slips before the students really knew what they were doing with the project.

Yikes! It sounds like a mess when I look back! But, all in all, it went over quite well. The kids are having a blast with the blogs and they’re developing their writings skills while connecting with wider audience (by the way: we’re looking for grade 5 partner bloggers – please leave a comment for me if you’re interested!).

So now that I’m starting this new project with grade 3, I have a chance to do things better – don’t you just love those opportunities!

Here’s how I’m planning on setting this one up:

Step One: Start Small

I’ve set up this project in the simplest way I can think of (thanks to Susan Sedro) in the hopes that the easier it is to maintain, the more interested our students and teachers will be in building it up. The more manageable it starts out, the more open everyone will be to adding more exciting pieces to the puzzle. One blog, one username, one password, one e-mail account – simple, simple, simple.

Step Two: Introduce the Project

This week, I’ll be spending 3 language arts lessons with Mrs. S’s class to introduce this project. We’re going to start with an adaptation of Anne Davis‘ fantastic WebQuest: Blogging: It’s Elementary!

Lesson One:

We will spend the first lesson reading the ABC’s of Blogging blook in small groups or partners. Most likely we’ll have each student pick a favorite letter and read only that page and then come together to discuss what we’ve learned – the whole book is a bit too much for one grade 3 student to read in one sitting. Then, we’ll create a class Inspiration mind map of the big ideas we learned from the Blook – later, this will be posted on our class blog for commenting by students and parents.

Lesson Two:

For our second lesson, we’ll take a look at some student blogs. We may start with the selection listed on the WebQuest, but we’ll also examine the student and teacher blogs here at ISB. The focus will be figuring out the different parts of a blog – what are the pieces that make up a good blog (titles, posts, comments, date of entry, links, calendar, etc). We’ll make sure we understand how to navigate a blog so that we can find our way around our partner class blogs when we’re ready. Most likely, we’ll add some practicalities about blogs to our Inspiration map as a reflection of what we’ve learned.

Lesson Three:

During our third lesson, we’ll talk about online safety and appropriate behavior. I’ve been using the Think Before You Post video (more here) all year and I really like the discussions that come up. The first time around I usually pause the video every few seconds to make sure the students understand what’s happening – there’s a lot going on in this video! We’ll probably end up watching it a few times with pauses and a few times all the way through. This will lead to a discussion about what is safe to put online and a class guidelines for online safety – which will be posted on our class blog.

We will also go through appropriate behaviors online. We might talk a little bit about cyberbullying (but probably I won’t use that word) so that the students understand that behavior expectations online are exactly the same as behavior expectations in class with the teacher present (if we are really struggling, we might watch this video, but it’s a bit intense for 3rd grade). After reading Miguel’s post about the current cell phone scandal taking place in the US, it makes me all the more confident that we have to teach students how to behave online as early as we can – before bad habits are formed. We’ve had some great discussions about how, when and where to share your feelings with grade 4 this year. Everything we discuss can be added to our Inspiration map at the end of the lesson.

Lesson Four:

The following week, I’ll come back for one more introductory lesson. This time we’ll experiment with learnerblogs. We’ll learn about the basics of posting (basic formatting, inserting images and links), the category function, and how to find our partner blogs. We’ll also have one teacher-written post for the entire class to comment on for our first step (hopefully this will be the post with the Inspiration map and class guidelines for online safety if everything goes as planned).

Step Three: Begin and Maintain a Routine

Once we have the introductory steps all mapped out – the students understand what’s happening, the teacher is comfortable with the technology tools, and the parents are all on board – we will begin to blog regularly as part of our normal classroom routine. Making time once a week to read a partner class blog and leave comments will be a great way to connect with other students on issues and ideas that they can relate to. I’d ideally like to have a blogging “center” in the classroom that students could go to whenever they have something they’d like to write about. There’s something about forcing all of the students to blog at the same time on the same day just because it’s convenient that I don’t like (plus, it might not work so well with the one log-in option), so hopefully this personalized activity center idea will work out.

Step Four: Build

After a few months of writing, I hope that we are ready to add in more exciting elements. Maybe we’ll start some podcasting or some VoiceThread that the kids can share. Either way, although we’re starting small, I do hope to see this project grow into something bigger over time. I hope that, at the very least, it becomes an integral part of school-home communication and that parents, students and teachers see the value in this ongoing conversation about learning.

So, I’m looking forward to see if this (somewhat more thoughtful) approach to beginning blogging works a little bit better the second time around!

Tags: elementary, 21stcentury, globalcollaborations, internationalschool, flatclassroom, collaborations, blogging, grade3, blogpals,

25 thoughts on “Learning to Blog: The Elementary Way

  1. I don’t know of any schools in my area offering blogging classes to children. This sounds like a wonderful way to get children to write and think creatively. I’m concerned about online predators, but it sounds like you cover a section on safety – which is extremely important. Best wishes on this approach!

  2. I am interested in following our story as you put this togher in a third grade classroom. I encouraged my followers to watch your story in my blog post. Hopefully, it will inspire teachers at my school.


  3. Hi Kim,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Almost everything I’ve learned related to tech integration has been from others who take the time to share on the net. I’m glad you are now at the elem level, which is my focus, and I appreciate the time you put into this blog to share.
    I’ve just moved from the elementary classroom to tech integration specialist and from a US public school to private international school. It’s a great opportunity and I’m loving it- but I need to keep telling myself to start simple and build.
    Thanks again,

  4. Thanks for the timely post, Kim. I’m finally going to get my class this year into individual blogging – I’ve been procrastinating for over two years now and must bite the bullet especially as I’ve seen the way I want to use them in the classroom. By the way, how do you approach the parental permission angle – do you have a form that is filled out? That has always been the point at which I baulked. By the way, I’m going to doing this with Year (Grade) Six students.

  5. Mike,

    There are lots of schools around the world where students blog – we’re one of the many :) I think it’s critical to teach students about online safety through authentic learning experiences (like blogging) and in elementary school, so that they learn and form good habits before they get to middle school.


    Great! I hope it’s helpful for you and your teachers!


    Awesome! We are in desperate need of partners in grade 5!


    There is just so much to learn, isn’t there! I’m so thankful to all the people who consistently share their knowledge online – it certainly makes life a lot easier for me!


    So glad to hear that you’re going to start blogging with your year 6’s. Konrad’s posts are amazing – the way he has developed his blogging program is an inspiration, thanks for pointing me back to the expert!

    I do have a parent permission slip that I use. It’s actually an adaptation of the one featured in Will Richardson’s book. I will update this post and link it here for everyone. Thanks for asking!

  6. Kim,
    I also have fifth graders and we would love to have blogging buddies as we are just starting as well. We have been working with a class in Bucaramanga, Colombia through podcasting/Skype calls but I know my students would be excited to have a wider audience. ou can see the start of our blog at http://globalexplorers.learnerblogs.org

    I appreciate your timely post as my student’s blog was created more from my students inititiave as part of another project. You offer great advice that I am sure to use now and in the future. Look forward to hearing from you.

  7. Cheryl,

    I love your Global Explorers blog! I will definitely share this with my 5th grade class – are your students writing individual blogs, or is it just one class blog? I have a different set up for the 5th grade – they each have their own blog. I like the idea of individual student blogs, especially for the older students that are looking for a slightly more personal learning experience, but the class blog is also a very powerful tool.

  8. Thanks for your acknowledgment of the difficulty in transitioning between grade levels. I think that it is good to recognize and acknowledge that using technology can sometimes be a bit messy; however, as educators we can reflect on our instruction, get student feedback, and make adjustments to improve. I think that your plan is easy to follow and implement for any teachers. Are the rules regarding the internet and its use in the classroom different where you are teaching than in the US schools?

    I am looking forward to using this as an example with the pre-service teachers that I work with as an option for literacy instruction

  9. Tami,

    It has been an interesting transition for me. I definitely think I’ve become a better teacher through the experience of switching grade levels – lots to learn when teaching different age groups!

    Internet use is very different in international schools than it would be in the US. We don’t have any mandate to filter or block (like CIPA) and we can determine best use and best practice at the individual school level, rather than at a larger district or board level. It certainly makes things easier to customize for educational needs!


    Good luck! I’m sure both you and your student will truly enjoy the experience!

  10. Dear Ms. Cofino,

    I missed your workshop on 21st century literacy at the EARCOS conference. Would you be able to email on your ppts, handouts, notes and the like so I could do a bit of self-study?


    Ian McKay

  11. Kim,

    Teachers at the elementary level will appreciate the process of blogging broken down into a step-by-step process. Especially when introducing a new concept to young learners, it is vital to outline the steps and focus on each one, as you have done. As a 5th grade teacher, I have learned that my students need a foundation to build upon before diving into a project.

    You reminds us as educators to start off small. We cannot develop a technology-based classroom overnight. Instead, we should start by a few small projects and allow ourselves and our students to become comfortable with technology. From blogging, perhaps we can move to podcasts, videos, and other projects that require a mastery of skills to complete.

  12. @Ian

    You can find all of the resources for that presentation on the wiki. Feel free to join and add your 2 cents too!


    Starting small is absolutely critical – especially at the elementary level. I think it’s more important to have small successes, than try to tackle the world in one go. A small success leads to more small successes, which (hopefully) leads to changed classroom practice. Definitely a lesson I learned in a big way this year!

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