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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!