Monday, February 3, 2014

Having Fun Blogging in K-1

With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

This is a line taken from the Kindergarten and First Grade Common Core Standards for writing. W.K.6 and W.1.6 to be exact.  I am sure I was not alone when I read that line and had no idea how I was going to implement that with K-1 students! Thanks to Lindy Hockenbary, Technology Integration Specialist for RESA4U I learned about the power of blogging in the classroom!

At first I liked the idea of blogging as a tool for creating digital portfolios. I save work samples throughout the year and then have my students compile them into portfolios to share with their families on the last day of school. I never felt particularly proud of those portfolios. They weren't exactly student centered since I was the one choosing the work to go in them. Often I would forget to save things for months at a time or the kids would feel so attached to their work that they didn't want me to keep it until the end of the year. I knew digital portfolios would reduce the paper I had to file and save until June. I also knew the students would have more say over what they featured. I knew it was a good idea. I just didn't know how to implement it.

Over the course of a few months Lindy shared a variety of blog apps and sites with me and finally sent me an article that helped me get started blogging with my students. She found an article written by a Kindergarten teacher who was not just blogging with students but using Twitter as well! My answer for how to get started was in that article. I needed to start small and introduce my students to the concept of blogging, the concept of digital citizenship and the practice of publishing on the Internet!

In the first part of December I used to start a class blog. In the beginning I was the only user and the only one who posted anything on our blog. Instead of having the kids blog on their own we did “shared blogging” for the first month. We gathered on the floor in front of the Promethean each afternoon and talked about all the things we had done that day. As the students talked I typed their words exactly as I heard them. We posted their comments and just like that we were using digital tools to publish our writing! I created a link to the blog and put it in the signature line in my email. This way every email sent to parents had a link to our classroom blog. I asked everyone I could think of to visit our blog and leave us comments so my students could see how many people were reading their writing.

Our daily blogging ritual was fun for all of the students for about….three days. Then some of the more restless students wanted to do something else. It was important to me that blogging was always fun so I never forced anyone to do it. If students wanted to play math games at the end of the day they could and those that wanted to blog with me could join me in front of the Promethean Board. This went pretty well….for a few more days. I started playing with the Kidblog app on our classroom iPad and showed the students how we could take pictures and post those as well. Periodically, I would just take a picture of our art work, Science experiment or the thermometer and post it on the blog. This inspired the students to come up with other creative photos we could post. We had a very cold week in December and we were enjoying posting pictures of our class thermometer with the mercury below zero!

After Christmas I decided the students were ready to start posting on the blog. I created a job in our daily job chart for a “blogger.” That person would follow along with our daily data meeting and write the results on a piece of paper, take a picture of it and post it on the blog. We use our daily data meeting, also known as our routines, to track the weather, look at the calendar and count how many days we have been in school. The “blogger” uses a form I have created and placed in a clear sheet protector to write the results in dry erase marker.  While a photo of the daily data was probably not very exciting to our readers it did teach each of the students how to post on the blog. I had the first graders do it first and once they each knew what to do they took turns mentoring the Kindergartners through their own “blogger” responsibilities.

Today we turned a new corner in blogging! All seven of my first graders were added as users to our Kidblog site. I gave them usernames and passwords and showed them how to use the Kidblog app on the school iPads. (Thanks to our Tech Teacher Mr. Greenwald for adding it to the school iPads!) My first graders were elated! They could not wait to write their own blog posts. I left it up to them for our first attempt. I did not give them any requirements or a set assignment. Many of them chose to follow the topics we often wrote about during our shared blogging sessions. They told about the events of the day. Some of them took pictures of books they were reading or pictures they had drawn. Some of them even figured out how to comment on the posts of their peers! COLLABORATION! DIGITAL DISCUSSION! Amazing!

I showed the students how to access the Kidblog site at home should they feel the need to do more blogging. We had a brief discussion about digital citizenship at this point as well. We decided that to be a good digital citizen we must always remember to post things on the blog that are positive and appropriate for school. The rule of thumb is that if they wouldn't want me or their parents to see what they posted then it was not appropriate. We will have this discussion many more times as we continue our blogging adventures. The best part about Kidblog is that I have complete control over what is posted. I can delete anything I don’t think should be posted. I also have to approve all comments made to the posts before they appear on the site.

Now that the first graders have become bloggers I know the Kinders will be excited to try it as well. I will use the first graders as teachers to their peers as we help the Kinders begin to post their ideas. Now if only I had that 1:1 iPad ratio I have been dreaming about……..

Next up, Twitter! Stay Tuned!

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  1. Yay! So excited to hear the students are blogging on there own!

  2. Way to go! You didn't even mention the best part; thanks to you, blogging is taking the school by storm. Keep up the great work!