Blogging in the classroom is praised as a way to publish student work for an authentic audience, motivating students to write with a meaningful purpose. While absolutely true, these benefits may be hard for students to envision. Some students are excited to share their thoughts and ideas with a world beyond their teacher, while others may be nervous about the possible criticism they will receive. This was evident in my classroom. It forced me to think outside of the box to accommodate every student in my classroom.
What if the perspective of the blog was from someone other than themselves? How could the students best encompass the thoughts of someone else? Then it hit me. What if that someone was a something?
Critters as Authors
In our classroom, a “critter” is a stuffed animal, Beanie Baby, or any other type of animal. The idea is simple. Students name their critter and give these animals life through their blogs. Writing from the perspective of their critter friend allows the students to take ownership of their writing without worrying about added criticism.
Steps for Success
Looking to try this with your class? Begin by spreading the word throughout your community of the need for donations. Not only does this increase community involvement, but also allows for a greater selection with little to no cost.
Once you have received critters for your students, I suggest finding a classroom mascot – a critter of your own. I use a Folk Manis Puppet named Maverick as our class mascot. He is very well loved and blogs weekly on his adventures. My students cannot wait to read Maverick’s next post because it is always unpredictable. Having Maverick gives me an opportunity to connect with students. For example, Maverick always leaves a special message for the students when I am out. Additionally, he provides an example for students as they write their own critter posts in Kidblog.
Finally, allow students to pick out their OWN critter. Students drew a number and then picked out their very own critter. For my students, this was almost as exciting as hearing, “We’re going to Disneyworld!” Students’ first assignment was to name the critter and share a short bio. This was a perfect way to begin blogging with the students. It is a relaxed topic that students can easily write on without struggling to find content.
With these three simple steps, your “critters” will be actively blogging. The topics throughout the year have been unlimited. These critters are always doing something with and without their student!
Building an Audience
My students love to tell their fellow classmates and parents about the critter’s daily activities. I have even had parents ask for login information because their child continues to talk about how “Jake is sneaking around the school in the middle of the night!”
Blogging as critters has helped my students gain confidence and acknowledge that they are successful writers. I continue to be impressed by the imagination and creativity I have seen in my students. And, best of all, my students are excited to share their “work” with the world.