Well, it surely wasn’t as easy as it sounded, but here I am 3 months into the school year and my class of 26 students are blogging away. I will give you some helpful start-up hints here, because there are bumps in the road, that is for sure.
#1 I started a class blog at www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com to get students familiar with blogging. First of all, they don’t understand the sidebar area versus the new post middle area, so modeling the format of a blog is an absolute must. I also created additional pages by topic for the blog, but I actually think it was a waste of time, as not too many people search the other subject area pages, plus each new post goes on the main page anyway, if you want to update the additional pages, you need to edit the existing pages, not just click “new post”. So anyway, lesson learned. (directions for starting a class blog are in an earlier post if you need gadget/widget info)
Update: KidBlogs stopped allowing students to change themes or backgrounds, it is now an upgrade fee.
#2 After students had mastered the “how to comment” and “navigate the blog” lessons, they were ready to build their own. After parental permission of course. I found www.kidblog.org to be extremely user-friendly and the best bet for teaching children how to blog for many reasons. First of all, you set up a class set of student blogs that all correspondence goes through your school email address. It sounds overwhelming, and it is at first, until you get on a schedule and realize that you can just delete all emails and monitor directly from the blog. And monitor you need to do. First lesson to create a student blog was to create the blog names with the students, I had them brainstorm a good blog name and I entered them right then and there. Next, we headed to the computer lab to choose a theme background and avatar, most were successful, but some didn’t click “update profile” at the bottom of the page, so it didn’t save, but a good lesson was learned. What ever changes you make, you need to “save”, “submit” or “update” for the blog to listen.
#3 So now, each student has an individual blog through kidblog.org that you can see by going to www.mrsdibattista.blogspot.com and clicking on the top link to the right that says “Individual Student blogs click here”. Students started by posting a book review and commenting on classmates’ reviews. I would only approve “error-free” posts and comments. It took a while to sink in and many sessions of me editing with the student and then approving or me pushing the “trash” button for too many errors. Spell check exists within the blog, so this is an introductory lesson also. I chose kidblog vs. blogspot or edublogger because it doesn’t have too many bells and whistles that would distract from the serious writing and reading that I want my students to do. I also need the monitoring feature to work for me and BOY have I needed it- it is a shame, but I have received comments on the student blogs from sites with “sex” names in their addresses. Delete Delete Delete. If I wasn’t monitoring posts and comments through this site, they may have slipped through and I don’t even want to go there.
#4 We are ready to add photos and begin a contest through the blog which will be a step above regular posts and comments, so stay tuned for more updates and good luck with your’s!