Blogging Adventures in Room 213 – Part 1, Getting Started is Half the Battle

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To blog or not to blog?

When I started this page a year and a half-ish ago, I’d always dreamed of having my students start blogging too. But how exactly to make that happen was a little intimidating. I talked myself out of it over and over again, telling myself it would be too much work up front, and too much to manage and keep track of, while all along, there was a tiny teacher voice in my head chanting “Do it! Do it!” You hear that nagging voice from time to time, too, I’m sure. Continually watching several teachers rave on Twitter about their students blogging was a constant reminder that I should just take the student blogging plunge. Still, I waited.

Fast forward to this past August, when I attended #edcampILECbus and sat in a session all about Kidblog, an online blogging platform designed for students and class blogs. I watched in amazement as the facilitators showed off former students’ blogs, some even from 1st graders who were clearly doing amazing work. OK, message received. I vowed to sign up for a Kidblog account and give it a try.

Why blogging?

Blogging has “cool factor” and teens are very intrigued by the idea of creating their own little corner of blogosphere. Some already have Tumblr pages so they were a little less wide eyed, but still pumped that they were now the “experts” in the room. Blogging wasn’t a tough sell, I can tell you that. From day one I kept dropping little hints about starting blogs and they had a ton of questions for me. Questions are some of the highest compliments students can give. It means they’re interested. Really interested.

I want my students to write with an authentic audience in mind. We write in our Writers’ Notebooks “on the daily” as they like to point out, but they don’t publish the majority of these shorter pieces. If their work is out there for the world to see, it is a whole different ballgame. A magnificent ballgame where i’s are capitalized, and spelling and punctuation are checked twice.

Ready, set, stop?

After setting up Kidblog accounts and passwords for my two classes – one an 8th grade inclusion ELA class, and the other a 9th grade English class for advanced 8th graders – I ran into a big bump in the road. While every student in my advanced class has computer and internet access outside of school, only about 1/3 of students in my other class do, and this class is notorious for not taking advantage of lunch and time after school for assignments. Because I don’t have a classroom set of computers, (though one can dream about it. Every.Single.Day.) I knew that some blogging would have to be completed outside of class. I have access to Chromebook carts and computer labs in my building, but once PARCC testing starts I will be lucky to get on my OWN computer during the day. While I wanted to keep high expectations for my students, the reality of requiring students to blog outside of school would probably be a big flop with one of the two classes. Time to reevaluate my plan and rethink this whole thing.

After much thought, I decided that I didn’t want to wait. Let’s do it, tiny teacher voice in my head! My new plan was this – I would start blogging with my 9th grade class and work out all the bugs with them and then bring my other class onboard slowly. If I could sell blogging to class number 1, they could help advertise it to class number 2. [Insert evil English teacher laugh here] Finally, it was time to launch blogging!

We’re officially bloggers!

We’ve been blogging for about a month now in class number 1, and while there have been bumps and pot holes along the way, it has been a welcomed addition to our classroom routines and rituals. My end goal is that after a month or two of everything running smoothly for the first class, class number 2 will soon beg to blog inside *and* outside of class and also want to stay in at lunch and after school. We’ll see how it goes.

In Part 2 of this ongoing series, I’ll talk about students’ first experiences with learning about blogs, and posting and commenting. Stay tuned, literacy lovers. We’re getting to the good part!

♥ Lesley







It’s Monday! What are you reading? #IMWAYR 10/27/14



It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys and invites bloggers to recap what they’ve read this week while planning ahead on what to read next! Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers added their own twist by focusing on kidlit, from picture books up to YA.

Here’s what I’ve read lately:

(Click on the covers to read a book’s synopsis and others’ reviews)



 Four: A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

Dystopian, 2014
208 Pages
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Divergent was my first dystopian book and it has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to get a copy signed by Veronica Roth at NCTE12 and to me she is the epitome of a cool writer. Reading Divergent scenes from Four’s point of view was interesting and entertaining. What a complex character! I like the books from the trilogy series better, but enjoyed how this title filled in gaps, especially regarding Four’s relationship with each of his parents.

blood of my blood

Blood of My Blood (Jasper Dent #3) by Barry Lyga

YA Mystery/Thriller, 2014
464 Pages
My Rating 4/5 Stars
The Jasper Dent series has given me more nightmares that I’d like to admit. I am not a fan of *anything* scary, but these books are so well written that I couldn’t resist devouring them. #3 is particularly twisted and has one of the most memorable endings that I’ve ever read. Just thinking about it seriously creeps me out. Jasper Dent is a true YA hero and surely will find his way to the screen someday soon.

Ill give you the sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

YA Contemporary Fiction, 2014

My Rating 5/5 Stars
Listen up, everyone – this is the BEST BOOK I HAVE READ IN 2014. It is fantastic! The main characters, Jude and Noah, are inseparable twins, with a somewhat magically connection, that end up broken and lost after a tragic event rocks their family to the core. Over the course of chapters from both twins’ point of views, the book is filled with amazing characters, sub plots and the setting is described so beautifully. This is a story about love, loss and growing up. I have read online that there is already a script written for the movie version of this book, and I think Rainbow Rowell, John Green and David Levithan fans will fill theaters for this one. This book is all of these authors rolled into one. I love Jandy Nelson’s work – The Sky is Everywhere – is also amazing. Highly suggest you check these titles out.

far from you

Far From You by Lisa Schroeder

YA Contemporary Fiction written in verse, 2008
355 Pages
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Lisa Schroeder’s novels in verse are always great additions to my classroom library. They are popular for readers of all backgrounds and interests. I like novels in verse because I find the writer’s decision making process fascinating. Intentionally having two lines on a page vs. a much longer section for impact is a valuable lesson for student writers. Alice’s mother has died from cancer, and her relationship with her dad and step mother is strained. She finds solace when she is with her boyfriend and friend, but even those relationships start disintegrating. Alice has a hard time getting over her mother’s death and starts retreating into herself and it takes an almost deadly predicament for her to come around. I Heart You, You Haunt Me is still my favorite title from Schroeder, but this one is pretty good, too.

famous last words

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

YA Mystery, 2014
320 Pages
My Rating 4/5 Pages
Katie Alender’s Bad Girls Don’t Die series and Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer are great mystery reads and I really enjoyed Famous Last Words too. It was a little predictable near the end, but creepy enough to hold my attention. Out of all of her books, Marie Antoinette… is my favorite. Alender definitely has a genre that she writes very well. Middle School readers will devour these books.