Storytelling with Kidblog

hands-hand-book-readingBlogging helps develop critical skills students need. In addition to working on necessary skills for communication and mastering grammar, blogging boosts creativity, increases confidence in expressing thoughts and ideas, and encourages authenticity when students write with purpose. Blogging for increased social interaction in the classroom will also lead to a more positive learning environment and help students develop critical peer relationships and collaboration skills.

The prompts

I have focused on transforming my classroom from “teacher centered” to “student-centered” and, as a result, created a student-driven learning environment. Moving the direction of your classroom in this way can help students emerge from learners to leaders and become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses in writing. Writing prompts are often discouraged in blogging – hindering student creativity. However, there are ways to design prompts that increase student engagement, lead to more authentic and meaningful learning, and provide an opportunity for students to be in charge of their learning. 

It is important to offer a variety of prompts to reinforce student choice and voice in the classroom. Additionally, prompts that include a picture lead to a variety of creative and authentic responses, while also giving students ownership in learning. Not to mention, it is a fun way to practice their writing skills.

Something new I tried this year, in an effort to open up more options for student choice and authentic and meaningful learning, was to design a “let’s tell a story” prompt. My goal was to help students build their vocabulary and refine their writing skills by learning and applying new words outside of our textbook chapter theme. To do this, students in Spanish II read a short Spanish book and while reading, they were tasked with creating a list of unfamiliar vocabulary words in each chapter. These lists would become their personal “dictionary” of (ideally) 50 – 60 words. I wanted them to select words that they did not understand and incorporate these words within their stories. This provided an authentic method for the students to create with the language and practice their writing skills.

Co-creating a story

I decided to have students participate in writing a collaborative story. Using a theme similar to the reader, which was a story involving a student who solved a crime and helped to capture a thief, each student was to select a certain number of their words, and create a story of their own. Once a story had been created, we selected another student to continue the story using different words from their vocabulary “bank”. In the process, I would read each of the posts, provide feedback and keep my own lists of some of the most commonly selected words, so that I could later use these additional words for building vocabulary.

This was a fun way for students to collaborate with their peers and make learning more meaningful through their own choice and voice. It enabled students to work together, to provide support and to keep each other focused on the writing task. After all, collaborative skills are so important, especially for building vital classroom relationships and social interactions.

Overall, this activity was an engaging way for students to practice the language, increase opportunities to show their language skills, all while being the main driver in their learning. Giving students the chance to demonstrate what they know, in their own way, amplifies their learning and connects them with the subject content in a more personalized, meaningful way.

About the Author
I am a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and earned my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and have a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. I am the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, the President-Elect and Innovations and Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT Historian. I was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT (the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications in Technology, the PA affiliate of ISTE) and by the NSBA as one of the "20 to watch" educators. I am proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, an Ambassador for BloxelsEDU, Buncee, CoSpaces, Flipgrid, Hoonuit, and an Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod PioNear, Recap Pioneer, TES Ambassador and Ambassador for several other networks. I wrote chapter 3 of the Edumatch book “Snapshot in Education 2016”, and I am a contributing author to “Gamify Literacy” from ISTE. I enjoy blogging and writing for Kidblog and I am always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915.

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