I can remember hearing the word differentiation during my college education courses, thinking that the word alone sounded daunting. Little did I know how truly daunting it would become when actually faced with a room full of students with different needs, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Blogging has opened up so many doors for my students over the past two years, anywhere from helping to build our classroom community to generating writing enthusiasm amongst my 6th graders. Additionally, and quite surprisingly, Kidblog also provided an opportunity for differentiation, an opportunity that snuck up on me; I didn’t even realize I was doing it!
I see my 6th graders for 90 minute block periods. During this time, I often utilize three center rotations. These centers vary from independent seat work, writing time, grammar games, etc. However, more often than not, Kidblog is one of our activities. If the other two centers can be completed independently, I focus on my bloggers. My three groups are flexible and change from week to week. Sometimes, I may group all of my weaker writers together, other times I may stagger them.
During the Kidblog center rotation, students may be working on a writing assignment or their My Space: journal blog. During this time, I meet with students individually for writing conferences. These conferences are used to read through their posts together as well as the comments they leave their classmates, in order to make a game plan for what they need to work on.
These conferences vary depending on the strength of the writer. Conferences with my stronger writers are brief, and used as a time to challenge these writers to push themselves further. We discuss their word choice, paragraph development and ideas. I challenge them to write their own books where they can focus on dialogue, character development, etc. Using center rotations allows me to have more time and therefore longer writing conferences with my weaker writers. During our conference, I often have the student read their blog post aloud to me. This often helps them find their own mistakes, and then we work together to fix them. We use this time to focus on sentence structure and mechanics as well as developing the main idea.
The best thing about using blogging as a method of differentiation is that my students don’t recognize it’s happening; their teacher hardly recognized it was happening! Using individual writing conferences provides a great opportunity for meeting with my students independently, and helping them with what they need to focus on in order to improve their writing. Kidblog is an engaging learning tool that is helping to keep my students focused and motivated, so much so that they don’t even realize how much they have grown as writers.
Photo Credit: Disruption by Tsahi Levent-Levi; CC BY license via flickr