Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Student Blogging

I had been talking to my teaching partner one day after school about how I just didn't have time to have my students do much writing in my grade 8 ELA class and she suggested blogging.  

I loved the idea as soon as I heard it.

Our class blogs are set up on Kidblog.  It's very simple to understand and if you do any blogging of your own already I'm sure it will be a snap.  

It took us a couple of weeks to get started with the blogging (in my defense I only see them every other day) but here is how I started off with (for many) this new concept of blogging...

1)  I told them about my blog.  I told them how I've earned about  a whole $1.50 off my blog.  We talked about how many people have successful careers just being bloggers.  They can sit around at home in their pyjamas eating bonbons and watching day time television while working (in fact some people probably earn a living by blogging about those day time television shows that they are watching!).  They thought it was hilarious how little I had made off of blogging begging me to spend it on them.  But it got them interested.  Make sure you tell your students that they will not be making any money off of these blogs but it could be practice for the possibility of one day making money this way.

2)  I showed them others blogs. 
 I started off by showing them my blog (the ads were all blocked by the school division but I explained where they were).  I read them a story or 2 off of it and we discussed the theme of my blog (teaching/subbing).
Next we jumped to a blog about a woman who just blogs about her every day life.  I told them the theme to their blog doesn't have to be anything special... it just had to be something they knew a lot about.
This one took a bit of hunting around to find but one class was super into Duck Dynasty.  I had told them they could probably find a blog on almost anything and so my challenege was to find one on that show.  While I found one and we looked at it and they made fun of me for not knowing how to pronounce all their names.
Finally, I showed them a funny blog (look up Reasons Why My Son is Crying).

3)  We discussed ideas on what the themes to their blogs could be.  Many of these kids come from farming families so I've got a couple of blogs on farming/horses, I've got at least 1 on volleyball (perhaps because it is volleyball season) and another student who is supposed to be reporting on the hockey games.  Some don't have a theme yet and that's ok.  I post questions/videos/websites on the weekend for them to look at and respond to.  

4)  I let them help me come up with a rubric.  Below is what I posted to my Kidblog about how they will be graded.  

Now that we are halfway through the month I'll make up a better rubric and pass it out so that students have a really good idea of how they will be marked.  Once students start letting me know they are done with their posts I'll starting marking them (I've already got some claiming to be finished which is great - less marking to do at the end of the month).

5)  I have no plans on paying for that blog.  But no one loved the tree and bird theme as much as I did.  To solve this had an online vote.  Basically I posted photos of their options and in the comments section they told me which one they wanted (doodle won).

-  Originally I only had it set up so that I had to approve their comments.  But I was constantly about 100 behind them.  I had to be really firm about leaving quality comments and eventually I took off this function so that they could post their comments right away without my approval... I warned them about the consequence if they started posting anything inappropriate.
-  Students started posting in German and I got really firm with them that it was an English Language Arts class and that any posts with German in them would get deleted.  I've stuck by this.
-  Since a couple of my students ruined it for the bunch I put comment moderation back on AND blog post moderation.  Now I have to approve everything they post.
-  I gave my students the option to switch back to pen and paper journals because some were complaining about the typing (A LOT) but I strongly urged them to stick with blogging telling them that typing would get easier with practice.  Also, if they make the switch they will be required to write 4 journals a month instead of 3 and will not have any access to the blog.
-  I've got 2 students on my radar when it comes to what they post. I spoke with both on Friday about appropriate behaviour for the blog.  I warned them that if  I don't see improvement they will be removed from the blog.  The nice thing is that everyone wants access to that blog so I have yet to hear of anyone wanting to switch from blogging to writing and no one has acted out again to have themselves removed from it.
-  I handed out a couple of "How To" handouts.  One was how to access the blogs and write a comment (they were required to practice leaving a comment on one of my posts) and the other was on how to write a blog post.  They were pretty fancy if i do say so and I think they helped them out a lot.  If you are planning to get your class into blogging I would be happy to share them (we were using the tree and bird theme at the time so all pictures have to do with that)

And... here is what our blog currently looks like (the screen shot is of my page - each student has their own page to blog on)

I made this post shortly after I found all the German comments... can you tell I was a little mad?

Since the post was so long...
Most of us are having a great time blogging in grade 8!

Do you have questions?  
Don't hesitate to post your questions here.  I know I've been a little absent from posting for a while but I do respond to my e-mails and I will also respond to comments.

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