Blogging Bumps & Best Moments
So here we are…a month into 5th grade and four or five blog posts under our belts…depending on the student. I’ve learned a few things about blogging, and I’m hoping my students have as well. I can see that this will be a year of trial and error, of refining and redefining as we move through this process together.
I learned very quickly that I needed to give parents a thorough explanation of how I want to use the blog this year with their children. Specifically: This blog will be a digital archive of your child’s writing and will show their progress from the beginning of the year until the end. If I had said this upfront, perhaps I would not have had parents writing their child’s blog posts for them, or editing them to the point that I could hear adult voices and see complex sentence structures not evident anywhere in the student’s usual writing. This issue became a newsletter item that will now be part of my introductory conversation with parents next year.
Another lesson I learned was that I should’ve taken more time to show my students how to navigate the blog in terms of finding my blog (where their assignments are posted), locating their own dashboard, and using the toolbar effectively. I’ve grown so used to most of my students being able to navigate technology effortlessly and intuitively that I left behind those kids without experience and technology skills. The good news is that I noticed this issue pretty quickly because blogging is a weekly exercise for us, but I felt badly for not paying attention to my former principal’s new school year mantra: go slow to go fast.
In spite of the above trials, there have been so many bright spots for me. Students are beginning to notice and wanting to correct spelling errors. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been tempted to comment about misspellings but continuing to look beyond the errors has forced me to continually ask myself, “What does this student do well as a writer and how can I help them grow?” This kind of thinking is making me a better writing teacher and helping me deliver targeted instruction that meets the needs of my students where they are at the moment. When I hit the craft lessons or skills I see lacking, my students are able to practice and grow as writers.
We’re wrapping up our narrative unit and many students have been struggling with adding sensory details to their stories. So this past week they had to blog about the experience of walking outside using as many sensory details as possible. The results were a perfect formative assessment: I know exactly who has got it and who needs small group or one on one work. The best teaching moments for me came through student writing, as always. There are always those students who you know will do a beautiful job, but then there are those unexpected gems that come shining through:
These students aren’t the most confident, the most skilled, or even children who profess to love writing. I don’t know if it was the assignment or the technology or a combination of both, but the results make my teacher’s heart happy and strengthen my resolve to continue blogging because for me, this is best practice. Will there be more bumps? I’m sure of it. But I’m just as sure there will be more bright spots than bumps…and I will learn from both.
I’d love to hear from other teachers who do regular blogging with their students. What bumps have you encountered along the way? Have you learned to anticipate them? Advice?
Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006. She is blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner teaches all of their math and science. This enables them to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.