Saturday, October 6, 2012

Work on Writing with Blogging

Mrs. Rosenquist's Classroom Blog
Last year I jumped into blogging with my class and they LOVED it!  It was so meaningful and authentic.  Each student was motivated to write more and write well.  At first I started with Kidblog and each student had their own blog.  As the year progressed I decided to also use Edublog to create a classroom blog.  I purchased a year's subscription.  I decided to do this because I like all the added features Edublog had, including uploading media and use of widgets.  So, let me tell you how I began.

I have 3 desktop computers, with 1 connected to the Smartboard.  There is no computer lab at our school or laptops on carts either.  I know of teachers out there in my PLN that have more and some that have less - so I will not complain (at this time).  I had heard that a local teacher center had Netbooks that you could check out - so I visited the center and checked out 11 Netbooks.  I got to use them for the whole year because nobody else asked for them!  But, now the problem.  There was no wireless available near my classroom - it was only available in the library.  So, because I don't give up I contacted my superintendent and told him of my dilemma.  Hurray! A wireless port was installed near my room!

Introducing blogging
First I introduced my class to blogging.  I explained what a blog was, we looked at the different parts of a blog, and talked about the purpose of blogging at school and outside of school.  Throughout the year I also discussed being safe on the Internet.  This is a great way to discuss the concept of strangers.

How to write a quality comment?
This was the first thing I taught my students how to do.  My plan, once we got started was to write a post on Kidblog, and then have then make a comment.  Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog and Mrs. Kathleen Morris and her second grade blog were the biggest help and inspiration for me.  It was important that I find quality blogs with quality comments for my students to use as models for their own comments!  In addition Mrs. Yollis' class has the best video to teach students what to include in a quality comment!  As my class watched the video, I asked my students to remember at least 3 things they learned about writing a quality comment.  Eventually, we wrote our own tips for writing a comment in our classroom.

Problems Encountered with Typing on the Computer
The first problem we encountered was how L-O-N-G it took my students to type and how difficult it was for them to compose anything of quality as they typed.  So, I now have my students plan and write their comments in a notebook first.  That way they can compose their comment over several days if necessary and proofread their writing more easily.  I can also look it over as well.  As for the typing speed, I would have to live with that.  We just don't have the time or technology for keyboarding skills.  I often let students write comments with a partner too and this was very successful.  The other problem, related to typing speed was that once they were on the computer typing they had to finish typing during our work session or their comment would not get posted.  You can't save a comment as a draft like you can a post.  One way to get around this is if you are moderating your comments - have the student post the unfinished comment, and as the moderator you can open up the comment for them to revise at a later date.  Just don't approve the comment until they are finished.  This got a bit confusing last year because I couldn't keep track of who had finished!  This year I plan on keeping a sign up list to keep track.  Now, eventually your students will want to comment on other class blogs and then they must finish their comment during that work session.

Daily 5 - Work on Writing - Launching Blogging this year
This year on Day 5 of school I began doing the pre-teaching necessary before launching our Work on Writing daily.  Here's what that included:

  • What is a blog?  What are the parts of a blog?
  • What is the difference between a blog and a post?
  • Watching Mrs. Yollis' video about writing quality comments.
  • Reading comments on other blogs to notice how many of the qualities they included.
  • Shared writing of comments on other blogs and Wonderopolis.
  • Shared writing of a post for our blog.
  • Constant discussions of Internet Safety interspersed throughout.
On Friday I partnered my students and asked them to write a comment to a post I had written on our blog about Wonderopolis.  They were so excited and eager.  I was so eager and excited that I nearly forgot to discuss our Work on Writing "rules" that would become the basis for our Anchor chart I plan on doing this upcoming week.  They stayed on task for about 10 minutes!  Volume control will probably be the biggest challenge.

NOTE: It is now the 21st day of school, as I finish writing this post.  I have been out of the classroom 4 days already for training and testing - this of course disrupts teaching and getting routines established.  The wireless port got removed over the summer, so I have hit a little bump in the road.  But "the computer guy" tells me he can install a wireless port if I remove one desktop computer.  I have decided to do that so I can use my little netbooks that I borrowed again this year.  But blogging does continue - we are writing posts together as a shared writing experience.  With 25 students I just haven't found a way to manage them on the desktop computers.

I would love to hear from teachers who blog with their class, teachers who want to or have just begun!  How's it going for you?  Any helpful hints for me?