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.
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!