After enduring “runaway” social blogging last year with students, the goal this year is to guide them to work toward producing quality posts and comments. For the first few weeks of school I could see we were headed in the same direction so I searched for tips on how to teach students to blog effectively to help others grow in their learning.
I discovered all kinds of resources that helped me develop a lesson. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has created an extremely helpful Guide to Blogging flyer; an excellent tool to share with teachers who wonder about the benefits of blogging with students. That led me to her post about Wall Blogging with Students. She talks about tips for writing quality comments and the importance of preparing students offline before they actually make an online comment. Silvia also worked with third graders at her school to create a video titled Making Quality Comments on Blogs.
We use KidBlog with our students and as I searched that site, I came across a link to 14 Steps to Meaningful Student Blogging. The author has shared several extremely helpful techniques to help students in their blogging journey. She also had a link that let to another paper blogging lesson from Notes from McTeach and this is the one I ultimately decided to use. Below are some photos of the 4th graders doing their paper blogging.
I was actually amazed at how engaged the students were in this lesson. Our class is 40 minutes long and they didn’t even get on the computers but there wasn’t a complaint from anyone! On Monday I had told the students that we were changing the focus of our blog from social to one that will help others learn. Groans and moans immediately filled the room. “That’s not fair. How are we going to communicate with our friends. Aren’t you going to let us use something like Facebook?” My answer was that you should communicate face-to-face or by phone call if you have social things to talk about with friends in the area. I certainly don’t want them to think the best way to “talk” is over the internet! At that point, I thought blogging with this group was doomed to failure.
However, we watched the video by Silvia’s third graders on creating quality comments. Then I used Wallwisher and had them write a comment about keeping safe on the internet. They were amazed that they could refresh the page and see their classmates’ comments so the technology got in the way of the lesson at first. We had some inappropriate comments (silly and meaningless); those I just deleted. When they realized that I would take away comments, most decided to come back with an appropriate one. They wanted to be sure theirs showed up on the wall! We talked about the comments – Were they proper sentences (punctuation, capitalization)?, Were they relevant to the topic? The next assignment was to make a comment on a favorite book they had read. Unfortunately, we ran out of time so not all were able to contribute but overall I though the quality increased with the second attempt.
On Tuesday, the students were given a sheet of paper and some sticky notes. The assignment was to write a post about a favorite food – what they like, why, best place to get it (home or restaurant), what makes it so appealing. I gave an example about my favorite food – guacamole. As soon as I said that, someone called out, “Yuck! I HATE guacamole!” That was the perfect opportunity to discuss how to disagree in a polite manner!
Armed with colored pencils and the paper, the students started writing their food post. They drew an illustration and added tags (at least some did). After about 15 minutes, everyone returned to their computer and put the “post” on their keyboard. I then told everyone to go 5 chairs in a clockwise direction. At that point, they had to read the post then write an appropriate comment (with their name) on the sticky note. I don’t think it’s ever been so quiet in the lab! We did this 3 more times and there was so much concentration you could literally hear a pin drop!
We had just a small amount of time to reflect on the activity (we’ll do more tomorrow) but the students were impressed with the comments received and even said they needed to answer some questions that had been asked. They were annoyed at the “anonymous” comments – those that forgot to write their name.
I was really excited about the entire lesson and amazed at how well it worked. Now the question is, will this transfer to online blogging? We’ll find out tomorrow!