Table Blogging

What is more fun than writing on a table? You sure can’t do that at home – at least it probably shouldn’t be done!. This year, new round tables with a whiteboard surface were purchased for the Digital Learning Lab and the students could not wait to start writing!

To take advantage of the desire to write on the tables, we chose table blogging as a way to prepare for our online blogs.

First, we brainstormed traits that make a post one that people will want to read. 

The topic, because everyone enjoys food, was:  Favorite Food. Students were to consider these questions as they wrote:

  • Why do you like this food?
  • Where is the best place to get it? or “Who makes it”

The students set to work, making everyone hungry in the process!

When all were finished, we moved on to comments. Several years ago, I heard someone talk about penny vs dollar comments. Just as a penny doesn’t buy anything, a penny comment is basically worthless. It may be only one or two words. It doesn’t provide any feedback for the author. What we want to do as a commenter is to continue the conversation. A dollar (and up!) comment provides helpful feedback (I always have to say that does not mean you correct spelling!), asks questions, makes connections. It’s more than just a sentence!

To comment, we play a quick version of musical chairs. The students walk around then sit as soon as I have them stop. They are told to read the post as well as any comments that have already been written before writing anything. We do this about three times. Finally, they return to their seat to read their comments. I ask them to reply to at least one of their comments.

To wrap up everything, we discuss the types of comments received (without naming names). I want the students to determine the “value” of the comment mentioned and, if worth a penny, how it could be improved to become worth a dollar.

We hope this exercise will transfer to online blogs!

Here’s a sample of 4th graders working on their blogs and comments. 

More Table Blogging Videos: 

Blogging with a Twist

img_6687Although our students have been blogging since first grade, I always like to have the fourth graders start off with a paper blogging activity. After working with this age over a number of years, I’ve discovered that many become lax in their posts and comments; submitting writing that isn’t their best!

The paper blogging idea is not my own but comes from a post entitled, Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, by Leonard Low. He used it with teachers to show that blogging is a “powerful strategy for empowering and engaging learners.”

Usually, the paper blogging takes two 40-minute sessions but I only had the students for one 30 minute class so it was a challenge to fit everything in, but we did it! We began with a quick review of what is okay to share and what should be kept private.

From the time we began blogging in first grade, I’ve discussed penny vs dollar comments/posts so the children can quickly tell me that just as a penny is worth hardly anything, penny writing is just as worthless. A penny comment might be only one word. Or it could be something like “great” or “wow” – words that don’t really tell anything to the writer. Penny posts lack detail or don’t make sense. Dollar posts paint a picture for the reader; adding details that help the reader make connections. Dollar comments ask questions, make specific compliments, keep the conversation going.

Using the food idea from Mr. Low’s post, I asked the students to think about their favorite food. What was it? Where was the best place to get it (home, restaurant)? What made it so special? I gave them 10 minutes to write and most were able to finish.

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We then discussed tags. Everyone could tag this as “food” and then they could add additional tags.

The next step was commenting. Each student had 3 sticky notes. They were to move around the room till I told them to stop. Once at that spot, they were to read the post then write a comment on the sticky note.

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Normally, we’d have time for 4 or 5 comments but with our shortened class period, two was the limit. The third sticky note was for each student to return to their post to respond to one of their comments.

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An important part of the lesson is to discuss the quality of comments. I asked for volunteers to share what they considered to be “dollar” comments. And, there were many! We then moved on to “penny” comments with the rule that no names should be shared. As this was discussed, we also brainstormed how to transform a penny comment to a dollar one.

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I’m eager to see if the quality seen in the paper blogging transfers to our online blogs next week!

Save

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Paper Blogging

With each grade level, we always discuss quality blog posts and comments. By the time students reach 4th grade, there is a tendency to “let up” a bit with their on-line writing. Paper blogging is a fun way to review the importance of quality writing!

A few years ago, I found a post by Leonard Low called Workshop Activity: Paper Blogging. He came up with this idea to demonstrate to teachers what blogs are and how they can be a powerful tool for engaging students. This was one of those, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that!” moments.

Knowing that students who enter a lab want to use technology and if they don’t, feel short-changed; I decided to endure their disappointment and give it a try. After doing this for several years, there has not been ONE complaint from the children! They love this activity!

Before writing begins, we brainstorm what makes a quality post. Students come us with ideas such as: details, interesting sentences, good spelling, proper punctuation and capitalization. Since most of the children have been blogging since first grade, they know my favorite question is:

  • “Is this a penny post (or comment) or is this a dollar one?”

We all know a penny can’t buy anything so we’re looking for more valuable writing. The students are quick to say that a $20 post is even better!

We start with the food topic (Perfect topic for hungry students ready for their after school snack!). The students are asked to name their blog, add a title, write about their favorite food (what is it, where do they get it, . . .), add a tag, and illustrate the food. This generally takes one 40 minute class period.

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Writing the post

The next step is commenting with sticky notes. I randomly send students to different “blog spots” where they stop to read the post then write a comment.

The comment rotation

The comment rotation

Once finished, they are sent to another spot where they must read the post and the comment. They can choose to respond to the post by placing the sticky note on the side of the paper blog OR they can respond to the comment by adding the note to the bottom of the actual comment.

Adding comments

Adding comments

We do this type of rotation four times. Then I ask the children to return to their blog post, read the comments and choose to respond to one.

The final step in the lesson is to debrief. Without sharing names, students gave examples of penny and dollar comments and why they categorized them as they did. We talked about anonymous comments and how perplexing those can be. (We all like to know who the author is!!) This was an excellent discussion and I’m eager to see their thoughts and ideas transferred to their on-line blogs!

Paper Blog Example

Paper Blog Example

 

Paper Blogging: Learning About Quality Posts and Comments

This is not my original idea but it is a powerful way to review the blogging process!

The following resources introduced me to paper blogging.

What always amazes me is how involved the students become with paper blogging! Not one person asks about getting on the computers! Our students have blogged since first grade but I always like to include this activity – just to make sure students refocus on the intent of our blogs: To share their learning in a positive and meaningful way.

Taking the food idea from Leonard Low’s Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, I asked students to raise their hand if they liked to eat. Of course, that brought an enthusiastic response! I told them that they would be writing a blog post on paper and the following day would be spent writing comments using sticky notes.

The instructions were to write about a favorite food – it could be from a restaurant or something made by parents, relatives, or anyone else. They needed to write something that would paint a picture for the reader – use details! Pictures always spruce up a post so illustrations were strongly encouraged.

The paper was distributed and we worked together to include the basics of a post:

  • First name at the top (good place to talk about keeping personal information private; no last names)
  • Tags – This was a good review for students. What is your post about? Everyone could add “food” as a tag. As you write, you’ll think of other tags to add that would help readers find all posts about specific subjects . . .
  • Title – every post needs a title!

Then the students scattered in the small room to find a space to write. At first there were murmurings about their topic and how delicious their chosen food was (and how hungry they were becoming just thinking about it . . .), but soon all you could hear were pencils and pens scratching across the paper.

photo 4The next day, students came in to find four sticky notes on top of their post. We discussed penny comments versus dollar (and up) comments. There were some puzzled looks when I mentioned a penny comment but I asked how much they could buy with a penny. “Nothing” was the general consensus. We compared that to a “nothing” comment – a word or two that didn’t add anything to the conversation. But a dollar comment would include details, ask questions, make connections. Of course, the competitive nature of children meant that each wanted to beat a dollar comment – $5, $10, and up were certainly better than just $1!

I had the students stand at their seats with a pencil in hand. Instructions were to read the post and write a comment, including their first name. I had them count four chairs clockwise. At that point they stopped, read the post and wrote a comment. When finished we repeated the process. This time they could comment on the blog OR respond to the comment. We did this a total of four times, going clockwise or counter-clockwise (just to keep everyone guessing!).

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photo 2After the last round, the students returned to their seats to read their comments. We then discussed the following, sharing examples:

  • Anonymous comments – it was decided that we prefer to know who the writer is
  • Irrelevant comments – those that had nothing to do with the post
  • Penny comments – Students offered to read what they thought were penny comments without giving the author. The funny thing was that, even though the reader gave no clues as to who the author was, the student in question generally confessed, “That was me. I know I should have written more.” (Yea! They are getting it!)
  • Dollar comments – Lots of hands went up to share. We really had some strong, quality comments – possibly because the children wanted to impress each other.

I had one student who, shall we say, is not always into the lessons. He surprised me by writing some amazing comments and was always the one we were waiting on to finish the comments! When we debriefed, his name came up several times when we shared the dollar comments.

I can’t wait to read their online blogs!

When Paper Blogging Trumps the Computer!

I will preface this by saying that paper blogging is not my idea! It’s one of those, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that!” activities.

A couple of years ago, desperately wanting to take student blogging to a level past the “Hi. How are you? What are you doing?” stage, I started searching for ideas – and came across a wealth of information!

The following resources introduced me to paper blogging.

Who would have thought that students coming to a computer lab would become so engrossed in writing that they never once asked when they would get on the computers! Now, even though the students have blogged for the past few years, I always start with this unit – just to make sure students refocus on the intent of our blogs: To share their learning in a positive and meaningful way.

Taking the food idea from Leonard Low’s Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs, I asked students to raise their hand if they liked to eat. Of course, that brought an enthusiastic response! I told them that they would be writing a blog post on paper and the following day would be spent writing comments using sticky notes.

The instructions were to write about a favorite food – it could be from a restaurant or something made by parents, relatives, or anyone else. They needed to write something that would paint a picture for the reader – use details! Pictures always spruce up a post so illustrations were strongly encouraged.

The paper was distributed and we worked together to include the basics of a post:

  • First name at the top (good place to talk about keeping personal information private; no last names)
  • Tags – This was a good review for students. What is your post about? Everyone could add “food” as a tag. As you write, you’ll think of other tags to add that would help readers find all posts about specific subjects . . .
  • Title – every post needs a title!

Then the students scattered in the small room to find a space to write. At first there were murmurings about their topic and how delicious their chosen food was (and how hungry they were becoming just thinking about it . . .), but soon all you could hear were pencils and pens scratching across the paper.

 05 blog

 

023M blog

 

026M blog

The next day was commenting day. I had folders on the keyboards and 6 sticky notes on the folders ready for students when they walked in. Using information from Mrs. Yollis’ third graders on How to Write Quality Comments, we discussed what kinds of comments would encourage a conversation as opposed to those that would stop the discussion. We discussed how important it is to avoid comments such as: Cute! Wow! That’s awesome! because these didn’t further the conversation.

I am pretty sure that the idea of penny and dollar comments comes from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano and we use this often. (If not, I sincerely apologize and ask that you let me know!) This is where you compare a penny to a comment – you can’t buy anything with just one penny so it’s basically worthless. On the other hand, you ARE able to buy a few things with a dollar simply because it’s worth more.

That’s the way comments are. Penny comments are pretty much worthless. They really don’t tell you anything. They are often just a word or two OR they are completely unrelated to the post. But a dollar comment offers so much more! It acknowledges the author, asks questions, gives details, relates to the writer. In this day and time, though, we don’t just talk about dollar comments. With inflation, our students decided that $20 and up comments were much better than a measly dollar!

After the discussion, instructions were given. Students were to leave their paper blog at their computer but take the sticky notes with them. I had them stand behind their chair then told them to count 4 chairs clockwise. They were to stop at that spot, read the blog and write a comment (being sure to put their first name on the sticky note).

When finished with the first comment, students were told that from now on they would need to read the post AND all comments. It’s important to do that so that they don’t repeat someone else’s responses.

013 blog

038M blog

We continued to make the rounds until there was only one sticky left. At that point, students were instructed to return to their own blog, read all comments, and then choose one to write a response.

After that we regrouped to reflect. Some things that were brought up included:

  • Legibility – Of course, handwriting can be hard to read at times but even when writing on the computer, colors and font need to be considered. Can it be easily read?
  • Anonymous comments – It’s more meaningful to know who is doing the writing. (Besides, I don’t approve anonymous comments!) Even though students were told to write their names on the sticky notes, some forgot – perfect teaching moment.
  • Penny vs more valuable comments – Without telling who wrote comments, students shared ones they thought weren’t helpful to furthering the conversation. They also shared the dollar and up comments they received.

example of penny comment

044M blog

I have to say this is my all-time favorite activity! The students really get into paper blogging and I have NEVER had anyone complain that they came to the lab but never got on the computer! This is such a worthwhile activity to do to prepare students for online blogging. I can’t wait to get them going in KidBlog!

 Just a few Resources:

Paper Blogging with Students

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!