This collection of resources is designed to support teachers interested in bringing blogging into their classrooms. It includes articles on the hows-and-whys behind classroom blogging, handouts and resources that can be used in classrooms immediately and links to samples of successful classroom blogs.
If the notion of teaching verbal persuasion by getting students involved in efforts to raise awareness around important local, national and international issues appeals to you but you're not QUITE ready to start your own classroom blogging project yet, the Edspace Do Now website might be the single best starting point for you to explore.
Maintained by KQED -- a public television station in Northern California -- the Do Now site uses short text selections and/or videos to introduce students to a new controversial topic every Friday afternoon.
Then, students are asked to take a position on the topic -- either by leaving a comment on the Do Now blog or by Tweeting their thoughts out using the #KQEDDoNow hashtag.
By regularly responding to the Do Now prompts -- and by reading the responses left by other participants -- your students will have a ton of simple opportunities to begin practicing the skills necessary to articulate their thinking in writing.
Better yet, regularly responding to the Do Now prompts will give your students a collection of first-draft thinking on important topics that can easily become longer blog entries at a later date.
One of the biggest challenges for teachers new to using technology in the classroom is imagining just HOW new digital tools can blend nicely with the kind of existing work that they are doing with students.
For teachers interested in making blogging a bigger part of their classroom practice, the Comments4Kids project -- and its Twitter Hashtag -- can be an invaluable source of inspiration.
Started by William Chamberlain, Comments4Kids is an online home for classrooms that are passionate about blogging.
Visit the site to find a TON of sample blogs from across grade levels and curricular areas. Just as importantly, visit to find blogs for your students to read and comment on as they learn more about the power of blogging.
For high school English Teacher Nicholas Provenzano, giving students the chance to write creatively about any topic is simply a must in a world where kids are constantly told what to write and when to write it.
That's why he's changed his own approach to classroom blogging this year. Instead of asking students to focus on pieces related to the curriculum, he's asking students to focus on a series of interesting visual prompts.
Learn more about Nick's strategy for creating writers through creative blogging posts in this piece.
Eat This, Not That. The worst and best menu items at restaurants. Make healthier choices at your favorite restaurants
William Ferriter's insight:
One of the groups of people who feel that they are left out of conversations about classroom blogging are health and PE teachers, who don't automatically see a connection between the causes that kids care about, the writing skills that they are mastering in other classrooms, and the curriculum that they are required to deliver.
While he's not tangibly blogging with kids in the health and PE classroom, session presenter Bill Ferriter often recommends that PE teachers consider getting their students to create school-based Eat This - Not That blogs.
The Eat This - Not That concept started with a series of books sponsored by Mens' Health magazine that detail ONE unhealthy food that people like to eat followed by ONE healthier option to replace it with.
Given the struggles that students in schools often have with making healthy eating choices, a school-based Eat This - Not That blog could be a cause that kids rally around.
Creating an online home for knowledge about healthy eating would give students in health and PE classes the chance to make a difference AND study content related to the curriculum all at the same time.
If you teach elementary schoolers, this video on composing good blog comments made by Linda Yollis's second and third graders may be a fantasti resource to explore. It makes the principles of good blog commenting approachable for younger audiences.
A key point to remember for any teacher interested in integrating blogging into the curriculum is that blogs don’t motivate students; wrestling with interesting ideas and interacting with others motivates students.
The Our World, Our Stories project -- a six-week effort designed to pair elementary students in six different countries together through a shared blog -- is a great example of that principle in action.
Each week, one class of students would create new posts around a different theme that were designed to introduce their country to their digital peers. Then, students in all six classes would leave comments for one another -- finding similarities and asking questions about the differences between their cultures.
One lesson worth learning from the Our World, Our Stories project is that blogs don’t HAVE to go on forever. Sometimes blogs focused on a single topic with a clearly defined starting and ending point are easier to tackle for both teachers and students.
Another lesson worth learning is that shared blogs matter. Not only do shared blogs automatically give your students an audience, they make generating new content on a regular basis less intimidating.
Linda Yollis (@lindayollis) -- a second and third grade teacher in Los Angeles, California -- is widely recognized as one of the foremost experts on integrating blogs into instruction.
Her classroom blog is worth exploring simply because the broad variety of content that her kids are creating. You can quickly find a list of spotlight posts from across content areas by clicking on this link from Linda’s Educational Blogging resource wiki.
What makes Linda’s blog unique is the work that she puts into teaching her students to comment on blog entries.
While looking at the content that her kids are creating, be sure to look through the comment sections of several posts in order to better imagine the role that commenting can play in any classroom blogging project.
Sometimes blogging becomes a personal passion for students, too -- particluarly those that are naturally articulate. For those students, having a space to write long after they’ve left your class is rewarding.
Miriam -- a fifth grade student in Wyoming who spent time in Mrs. Yollis’s class before growing up -- maintains one of the best student blogs that you’ll see.
She writes about anything and everything that comes to her mind -- and she ends every post with a question designed to engage her readers.
Like both William Chamberlain and Linda Yollis, Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) is one of the leading experts on integrating blogging into classroom practice.
Her fifth grade students are also some of the most active student bloggers on the web. This link connects to a complete collection of recent posts made by her students on a variety of topics.
What’s most interesting to explore are the comment sections -- where her students are learning to interact with one another in a meaningful way and practicing the skills connected to articulating thinking through writing all at the same time.
I have been an elementary-school teacher for more than 25 years and I am always on the lookout for meaningful ways to engage and motivate my young students
William Ferriter's insight:
For elementary school teacher Linda Yollis, blogging was originally designed to be a way to give parents updates about what was happening in her second and third grade classroom.
She quickly realized, however, that blogging could be a powerful literacy experience for her primary grade students.
This bit -- written for the Smartblogs Education site -- describes the hows-and-whys behind blogging in the primary grades. Most interesting are the suggestions about specific blogging activities and projects that Yollis runs on a regular basis.
Understanding & simplifying life via funny graphs & charts
William Ferriter's insight:
Math educators often wonder just how blogs can be used to drive student thinking and participation in their classrooms -- and while there's no single answer that will fit in every classroom or at every grade level, session presenter Bill Ferriter often recommends that math teachers encourage their students to begin carefully evaluating the statistics that surround them in the form of graphs and charts.
That's where the Let's Graph blog might play a role. Originally introduced to Bill by High School Physics Teacher Sergio Villegas, the Let's Graph blog shares a collection of really funny graphs that are created quickly on the back of cocktail napkins.
Math teachers interested in making a place for blogging in their classroom could get their kids to create a similar project, couldn't they? Couldn't students create their own graphs sharing interesting information in an interesting way -- and then couldn't students review and evaluate the graphs being created by other students?
On a similar note, couldn't students collect examples of INACCURATE or MISLEADING graphs and statistics that they find in popular media sources and then blog about why those graphs and statistics are mathematically incorrect? Couldn't they then revise the incorrect use of statistical information and create a new graph?
In the end, manipulating statistics -- and being able to identify when statistics are being used incorrectly -- is an essential skill for surviving in today's world. Blogs are a great way for students to share what they are learning in this area.
One of the mistakes that teachers make when setting up blogging projects is overlooking the role that comments can play in the blogging lives of their students. This handout is designed to help students find ways to contribute to classroom blogs through comment sections.
Like the Our World, Our Stories project, The Birds of Salem blog -- created by the sixth grade science students in Bill Ferriter’s classroom -- had a singluar purpose: To educate the teachers, parents and students about the birds that could be found on their school campus.
After weekly bird-spotting missions, a group of self-proclaimed “bird nerds” would write short summaries about their confirmed sightings. The result was a nice online resource created by kids for their community.
The ninth and tenth grade students in Bryan Jackson’s (@bryanjack) British Columbian gifted high school classroom see themselves as a group operating outside the boundaries of what schools define as “normal.”
Working together to study both content and personal interests, they are passionate about exploring and networking and thinking and growing together.
The Defying Normality blog is their landing space -- a digital home where you can find the challenges that they are wrestling with together. Each student also maintains a personal blog. Explore individual posts from those blogs here.
Sixth grade teacher Mike Hutchinson (@hutchinsonjm) has one goal in life: To make reading cool for the boys in his middle school. As a result, he’s started a remarkably active and remarkably successful Guys Read club that gathers weekly to talk about books.
Their blog contains TONS of video antics sharing the thinking and tinkering of the club.
Perhaps most interesting are the Intercontinental Ballistic Reading Group posts -- part of an ongoing cross-country reading group that Hutchinson’s kids carry on with Adam Shaffer’s (@MrShafferTMCE) fourth and fifth graders in Northwest Washington State.
One of the most passionate champions for blogging in the classroom is William Chamberlain -- the mind behind both the #comments4kids hashtag in Twitter and the Comments4Kids blogging resource site. In “the real world,” William has taught grades 5-8 in Noel, Missouri for the better part of his teaching career.
His classroom blog is worth exploring primarily because its core purpose has changed many times during the past six years.
Spend some time poking through both the current posts and the archives to see if you can spot the changes -- and to steal a few ideas about the broad range of roles that blogs can play in your own work with students.
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