Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Been a Year. So What's Changed?

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog
I honestly can say I can't believe it has been a year since I pushed the orange publish button on this blog's very first post. Here's what I said a year ago:

For months I've been contemplating this leap of faith - blogging. I've written blog titles on post-its, chatted with friends about possibilities, and read posts by many bloggers trying to decide if jumping into the blogging world was really something I wanted to do. I've wondered if I will be able to keep up with blog posting or if this will be like my exercise programs - short lived. I've thought about what the focus for my blog should be, what
voice I'd want to write in, and what strengths I might have to share with readers. The truth is, I haven't figured any of that out. I'm going to trust the process and dive right into the madness.

It was actually a challenge in our writing group, shared by Julie at Raising Readers and Writers, that helped me make the final leap of faith. At the time, I really wasn't sure I could keep up with a blog. I set a goal of writing once a week and at 31 posts I think I will have to continue to work to post regularly. I could tell you the ways I think my professional world has changed since I started blogging. I could tell you about the reasons I have continued to blog. I could tell you about all I have learned as I've reflected on my practice and read the thoughtful comments of so many. Instead I want to tell you about what has been the most significant change since I began joining learning communities a little over a year ago.

A Peak Inside Our Classroom
The change really struck me today. I walked into my classroom with a busy day ahead of me. The assistant superintendent was coming to read to our class, we had a writing assessment to complete, and a parent literacy meeting was scheduled for the evening. The bell rang to begin the day and students began filtering into the room. Honestly, my head was full of all that needed to be accomplished, but somehow in the busyness of the morning I noticed these events.

As students settled into their day and began to read books at their tables, the computers quickly filled with students beginning the day on Kidblog. Two students were reading and commenting on friends' posts. The other student was finishing a post he had started the previous day.

After our morning meeting I pulled out Saturday and Teacakes to read to the class. We're talking about personal narratives and this story by Lester Laminack is a must read. After our read aloud and focus lesson students began to settle into their reading. Soon a student

came to me with Lester's book. She looked disappointed as she held the book out and said, "I thought he'd have the recipe for the teacakes in here." It wasn't long before a friend joined the conversation. As the two friends started to chat and search they found a note in the back of the book with a link to a website for the recipe. Before I could blink my eyes they were at the computer looking up the website and printing the recipe.

The computers filled again at Reader's Workshop with students blogging about books. This has become a common way for students to share books with classmates. Most bloggers take a picture of the book, insert it into the post, and then write a bit about the story.

During Writer's Workshop I glanced up from a conference to see a student taking pictures of his story. A friend was showing him how to take the pictures using Photobooth so his story could be turned into a podcast.

So What?
There's really nothing overly significant about those events except that they demonstrate shifts in my teaching which I think have resulted from joining this community of learners. Changes as a result of these professional conversations:
  • Seamless Use of Technology: For years I've struggled with making technology as common as a pencil in my classroom. Though I still have a long, long, long way to go, I am starting to see a shift. My students, and many colleagues, are helping me to see all that is possible.
  • Independence: None of the activities above required me to help. Students can independently make choices about the best way to compose and share a message.
  • Collaboration: In all three of these examples, students were working together to figure something out. They no longer see me as the person with the answers. They have learned how to help each other problem solve. They are so willing to help one another.
  • Going Public: As a primary teacher it is easy to get caught up in the "we read and write because we have to learn to read and write". Now we are reading because we have something we want to know and writing because we have something we want to say. Going public with our writing is important in this shift. Students are empowered and encouraged when friends read their work and comment on their message. They're learning the power of their words.
Looking forward to another year of reflecting on our conversations, refining practice, and extending my learning community.

You might want to read:

Teach Yourself What You Think


  1. Happy, happy birthday!!! Your posts are always incredibly reflective and give me so much to think about. I love the vignettes about your students and all you have empowered them to do. So glad you're part of my learning community!!

  2. Congratulations, Kathy. I can totally relate. I too have just hit the one year mark blogging and had many of your questions and doubts starting out. Also, found that I really enjoyed learning from other blogger,s such as yourself. You do provide great insight into teaching. Thanks so much.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  3. You have so much to celebrate and share. Thank you for this post! You have helped me think so much about kidblog and authentic uses of it. HAppy B-day!

  4. Can I come be a first grader in your classroom? No, wait! I can be...just by reading your wonderful blog! So glad you took the plunge a year ago!!!

  5. Your classroom sounds like a lovely place to be - for the students and the teacher.
    Your comments about the children being independent of you are music to my ears - I love that concept. The teachers guide and learn alongside - the students take responsibility.
    Blogging is a wonderful tool - for people of all ages. As we are starting our new school year in Australia, I am hoping to get children blogging more- I will think of your examples whilst I do.


  6. Happy Blog birthday! I think your blog is so inspirational! It makes me have itchy feet to get back into the classroom-- and makes me feel a little "not ready"-- there's always so much to learn out there in the wonderful world of teaching!

  7. Happy Birthday dear friend! As always, I love reading your blog. (Can you tell I'm a little behind). Your words inspire me and push me forward!