Got Feedback?

By Siobhan Shonk

As teachers, we’ve all heard of really great ideas we’d like to incorporate into our lessons.  Sometimes our excitement is met with success, while other times we try it and vow never to do it again.  Using a blog with a classroom of kids has the potential to go either way. It’s all in the planning – and it’s worth it.

There’s a learning curve involved with blogging that we need to address so our students can be successful.  It doesn’t always work when we unleash a class full of creative wonders and keep our fingers crossed that students will stay on task and be respectful. With my classes, I try to focus on feedback before we do anything else.  It’s something they receive on a regular basis, but it’s not always something that they have practice giving.  Being able to collaborate and discuss ideas is an essential skill.  Before any authentic blogging occurs, we work on sharing ideas and giving each other feedback in a way that will further everyone’s learning.  This is an important skill.

The Importance of Commenting

Students love blogging for the authenticity of audiences and format.  They are willing to put themselves and their writing out there, and they don’t want to read a bunch of comments that are irrelevant or only serve as false flattery.  They want to know what their audience really thinks, and even discuss their ideas with them.  So the best thing you can do as a teacher is teach kids how to comment on peers’ work, in such a way as to improve the original piece, or further the understanding of the one who is commenting.  Sounds easy right?

Involve the kids, and practice with writing that is low risk, or does not belong to them.  Use examples which are not blog posts, but other formats; or have students create paper blogs (a practice I adopted from @pernilleripp). It calms students’ nerves, and allows for honesty in comments.  Honesty is a great teaching tool because in encouraging honesty we ensure authentic feedback, but we need to teach them how to be honest in a productive and friendly fashion.  So, practice and set some ground rules from the discussions you have with your class around their commenting.  Discussing how a comment might make someone feel is important, as is a discussion around the purpose of posting a comment.  Does it further anyone’s understanding? Does it enhance the discussion?

How to Leave Effective Comments

Have students take notice of interesting ideas in the post and make connections to what they already know, ask questions, and notice what’s going on in their heads while they’re reading – reading comprehension strategies at their best.  When they’re ready to comment, encourage them to give an honest opinion – but not a critique of the writing.  Focus on the content.

  • Ask questions about difficult concepts
  • Share what the writing made them think about
  • Challenge the thinking of other people. Sometimes learning happens when people are forced to rethink their ideas.
  • Always be polite. Rude people are rarely influential.  In fact, their opinion is usually ignored.
  • Encourage them to finish with a question which other bloggers and commenters can respond. This encourages conversations and purposeful comments.

Be polite, Be specific, and Be positive

In the end, our class motto ends up looking something like: Be polite, Be specific, and Be positive.  However, we work really hard on separating a comment which disagrees with ideas made in a post, with a personal attack on the writer.  If their thinking gets challenged, we don’t want them to be offended.  Instead, encourage them to listen to their peers, consider their positions, and decide whether or not they agree.  Give them the right to accept or reject ideas, and have them respond to the comment to let the audience know how their ideas have influenced them.

Ideally, working together to enhance our communication and solidify our ideas will serve us all well in the future.  Starting a blog where kids can safely learn how to interact and provide kind, quality feedback to each other, will make them more aware of themselves as writers and thinkers.

 

 

Photo Credit: Alan Levine via flickr cc

Give Your Students a Voice

October 09, 2014


By Jeff Bales 

With the huge shift to implementing Common Core in my classroom, I found myself not giving students enough opportunities to write and express themselves thoughtfully. That’s when I came across the idea of using blogging with my fourth grade students.

On the very first week of school, I explained that their writing was going to be public to the world. No more writing in isolation – it would be inclusive and collaborative. Lesson by lesson, I modeled very clearly how to blog and made sure the students knew the exact expectations. I made certain to explain that each post could accomplish many objectives:

  • Provide a place to showcase and present student work
  • Address several reading and writing Common Core standards
  • Be structured thoughtfully to eliminate confusion
  • Give students the opportunity to write for a variety of purposes
  • Hold students accountable while diminishing their anxiety

 

How to Start Off the Year Using Classroom Blogging

For the first several blogs, I have students post about the books that they are currently reading. In an attempt to expose them to a variety of literature, I assign them a different genre each month. The book that they choose must be a novel that is at least 100 pages and falls into the specified genre. Then, students write a short summary of the book, along with a review of exactly what they think of the book and why. Once posted, they are required to read each other’s blogs and make constructive comments.

Since I have started combining reading and Kidblog in this way, students are extremely motivated to read and respond to their reading in ways I have never seen before. Not only are they getting the opportunity to see great writing, they are also receiving instant reviews of books that they may want to then read. When a student writes about how much they liked a book and why, other students are more willing to take that recommendation than if it came from me.

 

Benefits of Classroom Blogging

First and foremost, blogging has transformed the writing in my classroom. My students’ writing abilities have dramatically improved, and they are able to produce high quality work that is engaging and insightful. As a teacher who has taught for many years, student writing often used to make me want to pull my hair out. I found students were careless with their work with too many errors to count. Knowing that they have a huge audience and are being held accountable, their posts are generally free of common mistakes and grammar issues. Since they are fourth graders, not every post is going to be perfect. The great benefit of blogging is that the students will help each other find errors and address them in a comment. Often, it only takes only that one comment and the errors are cleaned up.

I truly feel that Kidblog can be adapted and used in a variety of ways. In future posts, I will share other ways that you can incorporate blogging into your daily routine. Encouraging students to blog can certainly help them make connections between academics and the real world.

Try blogging today; see how your students will light up.

 

Photo Credit: Brad Flickinger via flickr cc


An important motivator for getting your students blogging with Kidblog is the chance for their publishing to draw the attention of an international audience. Routinely, Kidbloggers are fielding comments from different corners of the world like Taiwan, Europe, South America, and New Zealand. Students might be too young to appreciate just how remarkable that is, but it’s still a valuable lesson in the “flattening” of our world.

The lesson becomes even more valuable when the classes can work together on a shared project. Luckily, a few teachers have already thought of ways to bring classes together in meaningful ways.

Global Read Aloud

The first is the Global Read Aloud, the brainchild of a past guest blogger here at Kidblog, Pernille Ripp, a fifth grade teacher from Middleton, Wisconsin. The premise is simple. A book is chosen and read by all the classes signed up to the site. The classes then connect through various technologies, including Kidblog, to share their opinions on the book and perhaps plan future collaborations together.

 

Quadblogging

QuadBlogging is a little more free-form. Classes sign up at the site and are organized into “Quads” with three other classes. In a four-week cycle, each class is the “focus class” and the other three make it a point to visit their blog and comment as much as possible. There is no prearranged topic or task, but one can be determined with the other members of your Quad. With the site itself based in the UK, a quick scan of the current list also shows classes from the US, Eastern Europe, Asia, and more.

Skype

Beverly Ladd’s class just had a Skype chat through #MysterySkype with a partner class in the UK. One of her students, Elisa, blogged about it on Kidblog. By her account, they had a little trouble locating the class on their map.

Twitter

An international community has been building up for over five years at Twitter. A search for “Kidblog” finds a rapidly updating timeline of teachers sharing projects or seeking new international partners for their Kidblog classes. Perhaps a more efficient way of finding partners for your class is to use the hashtag #comments4kids, where teachers solicit other classes to come check out their Kidblog and leave some comments.

Connecting with others deepens relationships and broadens understanding – academically and culturally. We hope Kidblog helps you extend the reach of your classroom.

-Scott Sterling


We love it when classroom teachers publish articles about their own experiences implementing Kidblog in the classroom. Here’s a list of recent posts that can help you find success with student blogging.

 

Mrs. Klipfel’s Top Teaching Tips

Mrs. Klipfel is a curriculum integration specialist in Massachusetts whose students started using Kidblog late last year. The beauty about her post is not just how beneficial blogging can be for students, but she actually includes the contract she has students fill out before they start blogging. This is a great way to get the kids to take their work online seriously and with full respect for themselves and others. The contact covers her expectations in online safety as well as how students can best accomplish her learning goals.

 

Assessment the Web 2.0 Way

The folks over at Assessment the Web 2.0 Way have created an authoritative Wikispace about how to use Kidblog for all of your assessment needs. Not only is an overview of the system given, but also learning objectives, assessment examples, and sample rubrics are listed for most subject areas. This is a great place to start if you’re having trouble figuring out where Kidblog might fit into your assessment strategy.

 

MiddleWeb: Get Your Students Blogging!

Last year, Pernille Ripp wrote a guest post for MiddleWeb that might be looked at as a manifesto for classroom blogging, as well as a short explanation for why she chose Kidblog for the task. In 10 + 1 steps, she goes over how to start your kids blogging from the ground level. There are also some key links about setting permissions correctly, instructing kids on safety, and how to connect their blog with others around the world. Blogging in the classroom might seem like a big undertaking, but this post can help relieve any intimidation you might feel.

 

The Colorful Apple: Have You Tried Kidblog?

Sara over at The Colorful Apple describes how she’s using Kidblog as a repository for book talks with her students. Like many teachers, she was having students log the books they read outside of class on paper. Many kids responded by saying they love to read, but filling out the logs was cumbersome. By using Kidblog, kids have become more engaged in the book logging process, which has led to the opportunity for the students to think more deeply about what they’re reading. Every week, she posts a focus question, then students take it from there. They even comment on each other’s work, something that wasn’t possible with the paper book logs.

 

If you know of other great Kidblog resources that would benefit teachers and students in their daily work, don’t hesitate to let us know. Happy blogging!

-The Kidblog Team

 

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