Sunday, November 7, 2010

Am I Crazy? Blogging with First Graders!

Getting Started

My goal this year is to utilize technology with my students in purposeful ways. By sharing their examples, enthusiasm, and expertise, educators like Katie DiCesare (@katiedicesare), Aviva Dunsiger (@Grade1),Greta Sandler (@gret), and Kathy Cassidy (@kathycassidy), convinced me to start blogging with my students. It seemed the only way to begin was to just dive into it.

Starting blogging with first graders was a bit intimidating to me. There were so many questions. How would I manage 22 first graders on a blog site? What would we blog about? How would I handle commenting? Would they be able to compose on the computer or need prewriting strategies? What about the dotted red line under their words? Am I crazy? There were so many questions I asked myself. I didn't know how to start, but I've learned one thing across my years of teaching: TRUST THE KIDS to figure it out. They always make it work. I knew that as a community we would find our way as bloggers.

Here We Go

So, I took the plunge. I headed to school one morning in early October knowing the day was going to be messy. I pushed the computer carts down to my classroom, rolled up my sleeves, said a little prayer, and began. I'm so glad I did! Honestly, the hardest part was getting everyone signed into the site, From there we were off and blogging.

Putting all my doubts and fears aside I began because I wanted to see the growth from the beginning of the year. To make it more manageable we began with a common post about visitors from Hong Kong. From the first post, kids were off and rolling. I couldn't believe how easily they navigated the blog. It wasn't long until they were commenting on each other's posts, blogging from home, and before I knew it someone figured out how to add a picture to a post.

Within days students were independently and purposefully blogging about what was important to them and finding their voice within our community of learners. It also wasn't long before a parent asked me about the purpose in blogging. It was a genuine question, and one I had thought about often.

I suppose my reasons for blogging with my students are very similar to my reasons for having my own blog. Aside from the obvious benefits of writing often, here are some of the advantages I think my students receive through blogging.

We Blog To:

build community. Blogging has strengthened the community in our classroom. We have common conversations on our blogs about our learning, but we also have opportunities to read and learn about each other. Blogging gives students a chance to share what is important to them in their daily lives and comment on one another's worlds. It's not uncommon to hear someone come in and say, "I saw your blog about your favorite stuffed animal. I take mine with me everywhere too."

have an authentic purpose for writing. We sometimes write about a shared topic, but I'm finding the blog is best for allowing students to choose their own purpose for writing. I'm learning a lot about them through blogging (and this really helps in Reader's and Writer's Workshops to support book choice and develop writing ideas). I don't see any reason to constrain their writing. Bloggers write about a variety of topics that are important to them --- so do my students.

expand audience. This is probably one of my number one reasons for blogging with my students. Writing for a teacher isn't true writing. We write for an audience because we have something important to say. My students are writing for themselves, their classmates, and our community, but parents and other staff members are also reading and commenting. Students are motivated by the response of others to their message. I'm envious of schools that allow student blogs to be accessed by the world. Imagine the excitement when a comment is received from a reader in another state or country.

understand the power of our message. Writing a response to turn it in, or creating a story to be put in a folder, is not really how writing works. Yes, many writers have a notebook they use to play with their writing and collect ideas privately, but they're looking for the power in the message they want to share with others. Students need to feel the joy their message can bring. They need to understand they can ask important questions to make others wonder too. They are not in school to learn to be a part of our world, but are in school to be a part of our world. I want my students to have a voice now.

develop a learning conversation. I'm finding my students blog about some common learning ideas. They're sharing what they've learned in content area studies. They're reflecting on the authors and books we are reading in our classroom. They're connecting the learning in our classroom to their lives at home.

encourage revision. This is just starting to take shape. When writing is going out into the world for others to see, you have some responsibility in revising your message for clarity and editing to make it easier to read. Students seem more willing to do this work when they know their audience benefits.

move my classroom into the 21st Century. I read a post recently (and I wish I could remember where) in which the author talked about finding some photographs from her classroom that were taken 20 years ago. She was reflecting about how similar her classroom looked today. She was asking herself, "Has my teaching change?". I've been watching children outside of their classrooms with their parents' iPhones, library computers, and various real-world technologies. I've realized our classroom needs to look more like the world my students are living in today.

teach social responsibility. This has been an added bonus. I'm impressed by how thoughtfully my students comment on each other's posts. We've been able to have conversations about creating a positive image online. If you're mad at your brother you really don't want to write a post for others to see about him. How can your voice help make the world a better place?

learn about internet safety in a monitored environment. This is another conversation I am happy to be able to have with these young learners. How do you protect your identity? How do you post and comment safely? There is information you do not want to use in your posts. We're talking about that.

More Reasons to Blog
My students are blogging for authentic purposes. Here are a few reflections about why others have started to blog. I think you'll find the reasons are often the same. (There are some great comments on these posts as well.)

Aviva Dunsinger, Why Do I Blog?
Microbiologybites, Why Blog?
Dr. Jeff Cornwall shares a video clip of Seth Godin discussing reasons to blog, Why Blog?


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  2. Okay, if you can do it with first graders I have no excuse. I started blogging with my fifth graders. So far so good. They are really enjoying it. inspired me to try it this week. Christine

  3. Thank you for supporting blogging with all your smart thinking. Can I add that it is just pure fun? So glad to be learning from you.

  4. Thanks for mentioning me in your amazing blog post! I am so glad that you took the plunge and had your students start blogging. It's great to read about their success stories! I love all of your various reasons for blogging too. I think that I'll share your post with some staff members at my school that are trying to figure this out as well.


  5. I love all your reasons for blogging and agree entirely. Our school started blogging this year and we have 4 class blogs you might like for a bit of Australian flavour. Year 3/4 Year 1/2 (prep/kinder) (prep/kinder)

  6. The creators of the Common Core Standards assume that if students are literate, then they are automatically technologically literate. Students must now be able to "analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new" (Dalton 2012). However, students come from many different backgrounds in which some students are much more technologically literate than other students. I think that blogging with first graders is a great way to incorporate technology into daily literacy instruction. I like that you wrote that the blogging activity created a greater sense of community in the classroom. I'm sure students are excited to use technology to write about topics that interest them, and they are willing to share their knowledge with peers, parents, and educators. Reading each other's work will also help them develop critical literacy skills as they develop their own opinions on the topics that their peers are writing about. As a bonus to literacy instruction, young children learn how to use the internet safely and how to interact with their peers online. Technology continues to become an integral part of classroom instruction in the 21st century, and I think blogging is a great way to incorporate many different skills that are necessary for students to learn. As a future teacher, I will definitely use blogging as an interactive and fun way for my students to learn literacy.

  7. Technology is still growing here. It costs so much $ and there isn't a lot of money in our province. There has been great development and support over the past years but access is still challenging. We have an interactive white board now. We still only have one computer lab/period a week in grade 1. No computers in our classroom. ...It's hard to know how best to use that precious amount of time.