My 4th graders are enjoying their first forays into blogging. We began with several lessons on Internet safety and citizenship from Commonsense Media, followed by taking a quick look at some existing blogs to give students a visual image of how a blog might look with the template background. We then moved to creating the first posts on paper. I assigned the first topic, which was favorite foods, thinking that everyone likes food. And everyone did have a favorite food, from ribs to tofu, which they wrote about.
Next, we discussed commenting. My guidelines are that comments need to be positive, related to the post and written in complete sentences, with capitals and punctuation. For the paper blogs we used post-its to stick comments onto the posts. Here is the bulletin board my partner teacher made with the paper blogs her class created:
Moving onto the Kidblog site, I had my students type up their favorite food posts onto their blogs. Most of their posts were not very long, which judging from last year, is typical for the beginning of the school year. After typing and publishing their posts, students read and commented on their classmates' posts and uploaded avatars for themselves.
Now we will be blogging each week in class. The students can also access their blogs from home and I encourage them to finish posts at home, as well as read each others' posts, comment, and start new posts on whatever they would like to write about. It's working! One of my students just published a post, about an experience he had, less than an hour ago. Each week I offer a "challenge post," which is just a prompt, but the children are only required to take a challenge once a month. If they have other topics they want to write about, I'm delighted to let them do that! The challenges are a help with those students who can't get started and also with ensuring that at least once a month everyone writes about a topic with some substance. The first challenge was to write about a favorite book and explain what you liked about it.
I attended a session at a tech workshop this fall on blogging in school. I was impressed to see how many different ways teachers were using blogs in the classroom, but the main idea I took away from the session was the importance of teachers blogging along with their students. The presenter showed with real examples that when a teacher writes a blog of several paragraphs, students will model their writing on that, sometimes even borrowing some of the language. On the other hand, teachers who only wrote a sentence, giving the topic that students should write about, students wrote very brief responses. One the things I will be doing differently this year is to blog each week, writing in response to my challenge.