By Teachers, For Teachers
All summer long (for me it was most of the summer as I was transitioning into a new building), I eagerly arranged my classroom, carefully laminated each desk tag, creatively organized my desk, and cheerfully planned my activities for the first day. I was ready! All I needed was a new group of creative minds just yearning to soak up all the knowledge I was prepared to “dish” out.
As I was preparing my first day of school activities, I gave some thought as to how I was going to introduce the class blog I had selected and set up over the summer. I didn't want to just come right out and say, “Hey, we have a blog and it is really cool.” No, I wanted an introduction that would induce great curiosity and delight. I was going for the expression on Charlie's face when he discovered he had the golden ticket. Remember that look? That kind of eye opening, jaw dropping, awe and unbelief that such an amazing thing could happen to him!
I admit it is a bit dramatic, but all teachers strive to come up with that one idea or lesson that will engage students so much that they will beg for more. More doing, more learning.
First off, I want to explain how I chose blogging as a classroom activity. I spent a great deal of the summer researching methods to incorporate technology and writing. I wanted to do something with my fourth graders that would allow me to interact as well as guest writers (will get to that in a minute) rather than just give an assignment and send them on their way. My goal was to increase their desire to write.
So often we give our students a notebook or journal, assign a daily topic, and tell them to start writing. I am not against this, as I use it myself for extra writing, but interactive writing allows for students to receive immediate feedback, improve their social skills, and of course improve computer and technical skills and knowledge.
I also wanted to make sure I was not just blogging with my students to keep up technologically. I definitely wanted this method of writing to have lasting benefits. So I did my research and found a great site that shares with teachers and parents alike, the ABC benefits of blogging. According to A Fly on the Classroom Wall, there are at least twenty-eight great benefits to having students of all ages blog. I am not going to list them but I encourage all teachers to visit this site.
After much thought and an evening searching through Google, I decided the best way to introduce the blog was to write the first entry and send it to them before the first day. Instead of a postcard, I felt this was the most creative way to introduce myself and the blog! Thanks to our great secretary, I had all the parents' emails so it was an easy task.
I wrote up my little “blur” about myself and shared a few things we will be doing in the class, especially the books we will be reading (again to spark a little interest). I then gave them their own username and “secret” password and asked them to write back.
Within twenty-four hours, I had over 60% of the students enrolled in my class responding. They loved it! I loved reading what they had commented on and took a little time to respond to their questions. Before I knew it, we were communicating and we haven't officially met! How great is this?
Anytime you choose to do something online you need to ensure the safety of your students. Privacy is a big issue. I wanted to choose a site that was trusted among other teachers and received great ratings. What I discovered and ultimately used was Kidblog.org. I went through the site carefully and discovered a few great features:
Our school year has started. We are entering our second week and already each student has written his/her own blog and have commented on others. In the morning I hear them talking about this blog or that blog and sharing how they are figuring out how to post pictures and so forth. I love hearing the interaction and excitement.
How do you engage your students to write? Share with us!