Some of you may be aware of the great series of posts on educational blogging written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano of Langwitches. As a follow up to her series, she’s proposed a blog post or comment audit meme for educators who use blogging in their classrooms. Having been tagged by the lovely Kathleen Morris, this is my response.
Earlier this year I was involved in a project by the Innovation and Next Practise division of the DEECD on Contemporary Literacies in the Early Years. I’ve blogged a bit about it over the last few months, including some information about the activities involved.
The biggest activity that I ran throughout the project, however, was our class blog, which ran from the start of Term 3 until the end of the year.
I was teaching a prep class, which heavily impacted on how our class blog was run, and how students were involved in the process. When I started the blog – the first official classroom blog in my school – I wasn’t sure about the involvement and participation that I would get from the school, from the students or from the parents.
Suffice to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the whole process. I had a couple of families that took it on board and enjoyed having a blog that let them know what was happening each week, and encouraged their children (or was it the children encouraging the parents?) to also share the experience and to write messages jointly or independently.
I’ll admit that my initial goals were more around participation rather than extended comments on the blog – and when I consider that I was working with 5 and 6 year olds that was already setting the bar high. My expectations for students quickly increased, and the bar of higher quality comments was raised as a result as well.
That said, my students are beginning writers in their first year of primary school. And that’s important to keep in mind.
While I was the primary author of the blog posts – which primarily included information about the school week learning outcomes and upcoming events – we also jointly constructed posts as a class about significant lessons or activities that were important to my students, which was great for modelling different text types and writing for an audience.
The biggest part of the blog that students were involved in were jointly constructing comments left on our blog. I was often the ‘typer’ and as a class we would brainstorm the different things we wanted to say in response to a comment left on our blog (usually from another student in the class, or a parent).
For this we had a list of things to keep in mind when replying. This was in the form of a poster that we kept up in the classroom and included the following points:
– Address the author of the comment (eg. ‘Dear X’ or ‘To X’ or ‘@ X’).
– Thank them for leaving a comment/write a compliment.
– Answer any questions they asked.
– Ask questions for more information.
– Write who the comment is from (eg. ‘From Prep G-5’).
– Check with an adult or teacher before posting.
Letter-writing is one of the text types that we teach in Prep and forms the basis of how I demonstrated to my students to write and respond to comments – comments, after all, are really an informal (or formal, depending on your purpose) letter to another person.
We also referred to our Prep 5 Star Writing rubric (which was a very clear link for the preps between physical writing with a pencil and typing on a computer):
– Capital letters
– Full stops
– Sound out words
– Spaces between words
– Write in a straight line
EXAMPLES OF STUDENT COMMENTS
1. Millicent’s comment
– Used an appropriate greeting
– Began with a question specifically related to the person they’re writing to
– Attempted to use full stops and some capital letters
– Ended with a question
Mini lesson ideas:
– Revision of capital letters for names and titles, and the beginning of a new sentence
– Remembering spaces between words and the end of sentences
– Use of clear paragraphs
– Proofreading with an adult
– Overuse of :):):):):)
2. Tae’s comment
– Used an appropriate greeting
– Complimented recipient
– Remembered full stops
– Signed comment
Mini lesson ideas:
– Capital letters for names and ‘I’ and at the beginning of a new sentence.
– Lots of ‘compliments’ – expand on ideas or ask questions.
– Overuse of random letters (eg. ooooooo)
In her response to the Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme, Kathleen Morris said that “higher quality comments and posts do not automatically come with age.” I agree, whole-heartedly. I don’t think anyone at my school (except me) expected that students would be able to comment on a blog, or even talk about what a blog is, let alone ask to leave comments (independently) during writing times.
For the students who’ve been interested – and interest in blogging and writing comments is essential for students to be successful.
My students’ motivation for blogging increased dramatically when they started to see their friends and parents leaving comments on blog entries. Whenever I posted a new entry we’d discuss it as a class, likewise whenever there was a new comment left on our blog we’d read it as a class (or sometimes the students who left the comments would read their own comments – very exciting for 5-6 year olds). Then we’d construct responses together, which allowed for a great opportunities for whole class mini-lessons on capital letters/full stops/sounding out words/etc. We’d also discuss how to sequence ideas and/or questions.
For individual students leaving comments, feedback was mostly conducted one-on-one with a discussion about why the errors would need to be fixed, where students might go to find words they weren’t sure how to spell, etc. If their comments were written in the classroom we’d conference and fix errors on the spot.
They also learnt a lot from each other. More confident students would help their peers construct their responses. It was also two of my girls who informed the others how to make a smiley face appear in posts.
I’m still new to blogging with students, and I may have bitten off more than I could chew by starting to blog with Prep students. That said, I feel it’s been very successful and has had enormous benefits for my students.
You are welcome to visit my 2011 classroom blog to see more examples of my students work over the last 6 months.
Anyone is welcome to write their own evaluation on blog posts of comments, and I highly recommend you visit the Langwitches Blog for more information.
I’d like to tag the following people to complete their own audit (if they choose):
Cass Burgess (@CassBurgess)
Marie Kennedy (@marieck26)