Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Blogging with Students

I have just finished reading and commenting on my class's blogs. They just get better and better! Very gratifying at this time of the year. 

Like everything new, it takes time to learn of course and now three years of blogging later, we all have a better idea of what it's all about. I find I can also talk about the blogging as a blogger myself and this really has made a big difference this year, perhaps because I now understand the process better. 

When we started three years ago, the children's blogs were very basic. There wasn't a lot of substance to posts. There were lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And enough swimming fish, fluffy bunnies, cute ponies, virtual pets.... to open a mini-zoo!

Generally each year my students take to blogging like ducks to water, being far less self-conscious about their writing than I. Not that that meant that they were producing quality work!  I struggled with improving what they were doing.

And then, at the start of this school year, we had a tech inservice with guest, Chrissy Hellyer from ISBangkok who shared her experiences.  And this year I got back into twitter and there is no shortage of great ideas being shared! The most useful has been Kim Coffino whose work at ISBangkok and Yokohama IS has been (and continues to be) inspiring, and Steven Anderson who tweets so many useful ideas.

My students and I understand that it is no less important to talk about writing for the blog than for any other type of writing. They are mostly all clear about what is expected and in my blog that I share with my class, I give reminders and sometimes target particular aspects to think about.  
We have agreed that:
  • We use 6 Traits so therefore that writing process should be used for blogging as it is for any other writing.
  • We  look at examples of good reflections and identify what makes them good and I expect them to really think deeply.
  • We talk about commenting. I make sure now that there is always time to comment on each other's blog posts and expect to see this happening.
  • We talk about suitable language and what expectations on a school blog would look like. 
  • We talk about netiquette, decide on how that should look in our interactions with each other in emails and blogs (just as we look at our behaviours in the classroom) and there is an expectation that everyone will follow.
At our last PLC our Pattimura grade 5 team, which included some of our specialist teachers, set out what we would like to see so we have guidelines for next year. It has taken a long time to get to this point but good to have a draft now to share with the rest of our school and anyone else who's interested.

What should your Grade 5 Blog look like? DRAFT
Overall Appearance
      Your blog looks tidy, simple, organized, academic.
      You can be as creative as you like to make your blog reflect you as a learner.
      You can use bright colors to catch the reader’s attention.
      Your title and tagline are interesting so that readers want to know more.
      The fonts are simple, easy to read, consistent size.
      Contrasting colors for the background and text make it easy to see and read.
      Your topics and interactions with others are positive.
      The topic of your blog posts is consistent with the theme.
      You use 6 Traits Writing Process.
      Your writing is appropriate for your audience.
      You can organise your different topics/themes into pages.
      The page about yourself has a short description about the author to help readers understand who is writing.
      You follow JIS Acceptable Use Policy guidelines for posting personal information.
      Images match the text. They have captions if needed.
      They are evenly spaced.
      You use images that you have permission to use.
      Attributions are shown.
      Links within posts and on sidebar are to your classmates’ blogs or are school related sites or sites to do with your topics.
      You comment on other blogs regularly, following the commenting guidelines.
      You reply to other people’s comments on your post when appropriate.

Ideas adapted from Grade 6 Blog Criteria by Kim Coffino Yokohama International School

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