Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blogging With My Grade One Students

Whenever I get talking about my class one of the first things I'm happy to share is that my young students are blogging.  I owe the idea of having my students blog to Kathy Cassidy, a grade one teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan that I have "friended" on Twitter.  While I have never met Kathy I have spent time reading her tweets and checking out her professional and class blogs.  Her class blog has a spot for class updates and a place for each child to have their own individual blog.  In September I checked out her students' blogs and I was impressed with what they were doing.  As someone always up for a challenge, I decided to give my students their own blogs too.

At first I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to do it, or more that my students wouldn't be able to do it.  I have several students new to Canada this year.  Many of my students speak a language other than English in their homes.  One of my students is a selective mute and does not speak or write at school.  Another student has extreme difficulty remembering letter names and sounds. Another is autistic.  I have a typical class in my school district with a variety of needs that need to be met. About 25% of my students do not have adequate access to the internet in their home  because they don't have a computer, or their computer does not work, or they do not have internet access.  So it wasn't going to be easy.

In all honesty it was tough getting started.  The link to our class blog where we have a link to our individual blogs was long.  But I really wanted them to go through our class blog because I wanted them to be aware of what was on it and how valuable it could be for them and their parents.  I think the first time we tried to find our own blogs it took nearly our entire time with the computers.  Nothing got published.  But I didn't give up.  I could see from Kathy's students' blogs how powerful they were.  With time we got better at logging into our individual blogs.  By Thanksgiving weekend (Oct 10, 2011) my students started submitting their first blogs to be published. I was ecstatic.

I also have a student that does not have permission to have her work published on the internet.  After a bit of searching on Kid Blog I discovered the publish privately setting.  I spoke with her mother and she was okay with her blog being published privately.  So now this one student is blogging too, her posts just aren't being published publicly.

As I write this post it makes me so proud to inform the world that my students have published 183 blog posts publicly and six privately, and have 34 sitting in draft mode.  My selective mute is an avid blogger.  My student that struggles with letters and their sounds is blogging.  My autistic student is blogging.  My limited English speakers are blogging.  EVERYONE in my class is blogging.  Many are blogging from home too - so far this school holiday I have published eight blogs written independently by students from home.

So why do I have them blog?

Blogging has provided my students with an authentic audience to write for.  I know some teachers feel the world is a scary place (and yes it can be) so they password protect the blogs that their children write.  I'm not one of those people.  My students know that what they write can be read by anyone who has internet access.  We've talked about how to blog responsibly and safely.  Many of my students smile knowing that anyone in the world can read their blogs.  Blogging gives them a voice.

Blogging has also helped them to get to know one another.  They have been encouraged to read each  others blog posts (see how I've snuck in authentic reading in there too) and comment on each others blog posts.   Speaking of comments they LOVE receiving comments.  I've made it my job to post a comment every time I publish one of their blog posts.  Yes, it takes time from me, but it's time well spent.  I've also utilized the private comment feature available on KidBlog to leave the specific feedback to help them improve for next time.

In addition each students' individual blog gives me a digital portfolio of their writing progression over time.  I am constantly reminding the children and their parents to go back and look at the older posts to see the change over time.  It's really quite incredible.

So what are some of the benefits I've seen from their blogging?

My students are writing.  Their writing is stronger, and they are much more eager to write.  They are authentic writers and they are telling their stories to the world.

My students' writing is getting read, and not just by me and their classmates.  They are receiving comments from parents, other teachers in our school, administrators both in our school and in our district, people higher up in our board office, and other students and teachers  around the world. Anyone who has taken the time to leave them a comment has taken the time to read their writing.

I have seen my new English language learners try to stretch their language learning with their blog posts.   My selective mute who is not yet comfortable enough to write in class is keen to blog from home and will even answer questions that are asked of her.  My student that struggles with letter names and sounds has gone from writing a string of letters (and then telling me what the letters say) to writing a sentence which can be read back to me.  The individual blogs have been a very powerful tool for everyone.

So where do I go from  here?

First off I want my students to remember to end their blogs with a question. By ending a blog post with a question you are inviting your audience to think about your question and hopefully make a comment to answer your question.

I also want my students to go more global with their commenting.  We follow some pretty great grade one classes and it would be wonderful for my students to read and comment on their blogs too.

I want to continue to encourage the parents of my students to comment more often on their children's blogs.

I want to teach my children more web based tools that they can embed into their individual blogs.

I want to continue to encourage my students to write longer, more detailed and meaningful posts.  I have many capable writers and it would be wonderful to see more of that excellent writing on their blogs.

I want my students to use their blogs to show all types of their learning. It can be a great place to store math, science, or socials learning too.

It's a good thing our school year is only one third over, we still have so much more to learn.

So if you've read this post this far you MUST be interested in reading and commenting on my students' blogs right? :-)  You can find them here.  I'm also curious to hear how your students use their individual blogs.  I know Kathy uses hers to have her students document all types of learning.  I'd love to hear suggestions of how I can better utilize our blogs.


  1. Hi Karen,

    One of the experts in Victoria/Australia on this topic is Kathleen Morris. Not sure if you've discovered it yet, but her blog has some really relevant posts that I think will answer your questions better than I can:

    Teaching and assessing blog comments: http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/

    Benefits of blogging:

    Kath's team-teaching class blog for 2011 was: http://2kmand2kj.global2.vic.edu.au/

    It's a very brave thing to start a class blog and you're at the start of what I think will be a very rewarding journey for you and your students. I've only recently started my own student-teacher blog and am looking forward to the day when I start my first class blog.

    Hope this helped,

  2. Thanks for sharing Anna. I am very aware of Kathleen Morris and the amazing things she is doing with her students. I have read many posts written by her and I have learned a ton from her too. It's having people like her, and the other incredible people I've met on Twitter that has allowed me to push my boundaries and attempt things I never thought I'd ever be doing. Although this is my 20th year in the profession, I am just as charged and excited to be doing what I'm doing. It's exciting times to be a teacher. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog. Karen

  3. It is so great to see what you and your class are doing online! I'm glad that blogging is as exciting for you as it has been for me. I can't imagine teaching without a blog. It is so important for the students to have an authentic audience and to get feedback on what they are doing.

  4. Kathy, I am having so much fun utilizing new technology and taking my students to brand new places. It makes going to work that much more exciting this year. Twenty years into the profession I can honestly say that I'm as excited as ever to be a teacher. I feel very fortunately to have met other like minded individuals like yourself and I can't thank you enough.