Student Blogging Made Easy

First, I want to start by saying I am NO expert on the Common Core Standards. I am learning just like most of you.  I do know, however, that quality instruction is not only about the standards!! Among the long list of factors that affect student learning (teachers being number one in my opinion), student motivation is right up there on the list! You could have the best standards, instructional strategies, etc.. but if the students don't enjoy it or want to do it, they either won't do it, or they will not give it their very best. This is why I am so incredibly happy to share a resource with you that the students actually enjoy!! They are more motivated about writing than I have seen all year.. keep reading. :) 


Oh... those Common Core Standards!
In my 5th grade class, we have been implementing the close reading strategies that support the Common Core Standards.  At first, I was rather skeptical of these new standards.  Now that I see the impact they are having on my students and their reading progress.. I am a believer!


Writing & The Common Core
One of the things I was worried about was writing.  I am used to the very strict 5 paragraph essay. With the new Common Core Standards, students are encouraged to write about what they are reading. It is a continuous process of reading and writing - writing and reading.. and over and over again.. The focus isn't so much on the organization of the writing as it is the content. (Don't get me wrong.. organization is extremely important too!

In my class, when we read, we discuss... a LOT. The students are learning how to create conversation around the stories we read. They are learning to read closely into what the authors themes are.  They are beginning to understand these big metaphors.  I have noticed how much they are learning by discussing.  I wanted writing to be that way as well.  


Writing Aligned With Reading:
First, let me explain how I am incorporating my writing with my reading. 

It would take hours to try and find reading resources and text dependent questions to use in the classroom.  Luckily for us teachers, there is a website that has taken our basal readers and has created common core aligned lesson plans that go along with each of our stories.  We have the text, and now we have text dependent, Common Core aligned questions and writing prompts to use as well. I have been using the Basal Alignment Project in my classroom, and it has been very helpful!  

Recently, we read a story from our basal called, "At The Beach".  Students were asked to find text dependent evidence supporting the fact that the main character, Fernado, learned lessons. 

First, we read the story multiple times. We discussed it in our groups, and we talked about it as an entire class.  Next, the students were given a graphic organizer that allowed them to document any text evidence that proved Fernando had learned lessons in the story. (This took a lot of teacher support for some students.  They wanted to put down "anything" instead of actual text evidence.)

Next, the students were to write a paper explaining how Fernando learned lessons.  Basically, they took their answers to the text dependent questions, and they wrote about it. They put it all together in an essay. I had to provide the students with lots of instruction on how to organize their papers.  They weren't confident enough to begin writing, so we took a few days learning how to organize their papers.  After revising and editing, students normally would type and print their papers and file them away.  I wanted something more. I wanted the students to come together as writers and discuss the content, organization, everything!

How can I create a writing community packed with discussion & peer feedback?
That question. Whew! I thought about it over.. and over.. and over.. I came up with lots of different ideas but nothing seemed to fit my classroom's needs.  It was either expensive, time consuming, or just impractical.  I searched for websites that could aide in my writing community.  I finally stumbled across a true gem!! 



Kidblog!

The above caption sums this resource up nicely, "Safe & Simple Blogs for Your Students," Kidblog offers a free and easy way for students to experience writing in an entirely new light. Kid blog offers multiple benefits to the students:
1. Students have a safe, password protected environment where they can write & save their work. 
2. Students can publish their work and share with their classmates. 
3. Students can immediately give & receive feedback to and from classmates. 
4. Students have their very own "piece of the web" that they can call their own. 
5. Students can personalize their blogs to suit their unique personalities. (upgraded version only)
6. "Kidblog facilitates feedback and moderation at all stages." 
Read more to learn how I have implemented this into my classroom!

Whole Class Website
When the students first log in, they must provide their username and password.  After inputting this information, students will be taken to a "Recent Posts" page.  This shows the title, time, author, and comments of all recent posts from any member of our class. 
 On the main page, you will also see the blog directory.  This lists all students in the class.  You can click on a student's name, and it will take you to their individual blog.  Only people registered in the class can see students' writings.  All content is password protected.  

Student's Individual Blogs
From the main page, you can also click on a student's individual post.  This will take you to their individual blog as well. Here, you can see their current blog post as well as their previous posts and all comments. 



 Comments, Feedback, MAGIC!
Excuse me while I wipe a tear of joy from my eye... 

Ok.. I'm good now.

This part of the website is my absolute favorite!! I was so incredibly pleased with how supportive the students were of one another!  I briefly spoke with the students about how to comment on their peer's writings.  I told them if they had any constructive criticism, that they should always start with something positive.  Keep in mind, we only wrote our introductions for our "testing phase" of Kidblog, but the students did an amazing job of encouraging their peers. I had students provide help with spelling, introduction organization, confusing sentences, etc... I can't wait to see what their feedback looks like when we start typing our body paragraphs! This is where it is going to get interesting. :) 


Well.. there ya have it folks! An easy way for students to, not only publish, but interact with their writings. Stay tuned.. my next post will be about how I taught the students how to organize their writing! There will be some freebies!! :D

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