I teach in a diverse community where students sometimes travel with their families for events in a different country. Students would leave throughout the school year for up to a month attending weddings, family functions, or just to vacation. Although, I want to support family time, it isn’t easy to keep those students up to date with classroom work while they are away.
For several years, parents wanted me to make packets of homework to cover the topics that the children would miss while they were gone. They didn’t always complete the work, and if they did, it was hard to know how much was the student’s work and how much was completed by someone else. Most of my assignments aren’t set up for distance learning, and students missed valuable instruction and class discussion.
I settled on a plan that worked for a while. I assigned the packet of math homework that the rest of the class would do during the same time period. I expected students to continue their home reading and reading log. I also had students write about their trip. If they needed a journal, I would give them a few pages of notebook paper stapled with a construction paper cover.
However, the travel journal wasn’t very effective. If I got it back, the writing was poor in content and delivery. The entries contained little information about the exotic places my students were traveling. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it except give a single writing grade and give it back.
This year I had already started using Kidblog in my classroom when the trip requests began flowing in. I decided to forgo the paper journals and ask for blog posts. I couldn’t have made a better decision.
On Kidblog, students can post pictures (if the parents allow it). They know that their classmates will read their posts, so the content is more interesting. Because I have already set a standard for what goes on the blog, students edit their posts for spelling and grammar. I have already established a checklist for grading and can grade a blog post like I would any other post.
If a student needs more direction on what to include in their post, I have two graphic organizers that may help. The first one encourages sensory images by having students write down what they experience using the five senses. I have used this same graphic organizer for a family traditions writing assignment, and students know how to incorporate those experiences into a narrative.
Another possibility is using a compare/contrast graphic organizer like a Venn Diagram. Students can compare the place they are visiting with where they live and use it to write several paragraphs.
Although I am currently using this as a substitute writing lesson for students who travel. I am considering using it as a twist on the “What I did this summer” writing assignment I give at the beginning of each year. Students can report on their vacations or staycations, and I can establish my expectations for blogging as well.