Elementary school student writers generally view writing in terms of “assignments”. What does my teacher want from me? Am I following the rubric? Will this piece of fiction, non-fiction, or opinion writing earn me a high score? Will my writing skills pave the way for success on a state test? While all of these thoughts are generally valid in a student’s mind and in school situations, the world opens up for a young writer when they realize that their writing counts outside of the classroom as well. The world values creativity, and in this day and age of testing, testing, testing, teachers and students alike seem not to have time for the innate and wonderful gift of the creative story—reading and writing for the sake of pure enjoyment.
Student bloggers have an immediate exposure to peer writing as they read their classmates’ blog posts, and in turn have an audience among their fellow blogging classmates. We as teachers can further this peer exposure and open up new venues for students to read others’ stories and works of nonfiction worldwide by using Kidblog as a home base for peer sharing. As a teacher I am constantly looking for websites that offer works of young authors to share with my students. I pin these links as posts on my blog, and my students know that part of what their teacher offers on Kidblog goes beyond writing assignments for our class. By pinning a variety of student writing websites on Kidblog, my students know that I provide a place for them to read creative writing that is safe, age appropriate, inspiring, and allows them to appreciate and enjoy peer creativity literally at their fingertips. Here are a few such websites I have shared with my students:
https://stonesoup.com/ Stone Soup is both an online and printed magazine which houses stories written by young writers for the encouragement and enjoyment of children’s creativity. Although more for a middle school and high school audience, my older elementary students enjoy reading stories published by inspiring slightly older peer writers.
http://www.ckmagazine.org/ Creative Kids Magazine is also both an online and printed periodical. This website is for writers ages 8-16. My students enjoy the colorful, welcoming format and the variety of creative peer prose, poetry, and artwork.
https://storybird.com/ Story Bird is a particularly fun and unique website where students can view and utilize illustrations created by budding professional artists to inspire and accompany their writing. Students choose between short stories, chapter books, and poetry. I have personally dabbled in the poetry on this site as both a teacher and as an adult writer because the format is so intriguing and enjoyable. If you are familiar with the concept of “magnetic poetry”, where you must engage in the challenge of choosing from a limited base of words in which to mold your poem, as you see I have below, I encourage you and your students try this out!
In addition to using Kidblog to provide students a place to read and enjoy peer writing, we as teachers can share writing contest and publication opportunities via our blog as well. Parents appreciate teachers offering these website opportunities on Kidblog because they know that teachers have taken the time to ensure they are worthwhile, safe, and age appropriate places for their children to engage in contest experiences. The above web publications also offer publication and contest opportunities, but here are a few specific contest and publication sites in which my students have participated and enjoyed:
http://www.dobama.org/marilyn-bianchi-kids-playwriting-festival/ Although local for my students in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, I’m sharing this to encourage teachers to explore local writing contests in your area. Local contests such as The Marilyn Bianchi Kids Playwriting Festival often offer the benefit of a meeting of peer writers as part of the prize. Here, young playwright winners have their plays performed to the public in a local community theater, which allows a tremendous amount of exposure of student creative writing talent.
http://thebettyaward.com/ This is a Chicago suburban based contest established to honor a woman who dedicated her parenting skills to making reading and writing a priority for her six children. There is a reading fee for entries, but students are also eligible for cash prizes, which serves to expose students to the real world of publication.
http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/ PBS offers this writing contest for students kindergarten through third grade. Your local PBS affiliate may not be participating, but students may apply through other cities’ affiliates. In addition to this being a writing contest for young writers, students may read and enjoy illustrations of past winners’ final products.
For a young student writer, there is so much we teachers can offer to inspire a lifetime of creativity and enthusiasm for writing. Using Kidblog as a place where students can have a homebase of opportunities for peer sharing, contests, and publication gives the experience of blogging one more important benefit.