I began this school year feeling a little lost. Due to curriculum changes within my school district, my teaching assignment changed to include teaching science. With my new curriculum in hand and knowing I wanted to integrate technology, I began to delve into the subject. A new curriculum presents unique challenges, as well as the exciting prospect of growing professionally and improving the way I teach.
I love that science offers opportunities for my fifth-graders to inquire about the world around them and to participate in hands-on learning through STEM challenges and labs. While I felt excited about the opportunities for exploration, I questioned how to best assess what my students learned in the process. As a classroom teacher with most of my experience teaching reading and writing, I constantly look for ways to integrate writing into the curriculum to help my students dig deeper. Kidblog has become the tool that helps me give my students time to develop their ideas beyond the textbook and to practice writing with an authentic purpose.
To determine the prompts for my students’ responses, I take the essential questions from my school’s science curriculum and require my fifth graders to conduct further research to develop understanding of a concept. These essential questions help students connect their prior learning to new content and are aligned to state standards, as well as Next Generation Science Standards. Having questions already developed for my fifth-graders is a great time-saver for me, but teachers could also develop their own essential questions for a unit of study in science. An essential question can be any question that is thought-provoking, requires inquiry, and does not have one “correct” answer. By writing a blog response based on essential questions, my students review the content they learned in their textbook, research information from additional sources, and reflect on their learning. An example of this came from my students’ responses to the question of what they can do as fifth graders to help ecosystems near us. Through their responses, students were able to identify things they were already doing to help the world around them as well as identifying simple changes they could make at home and at school.
The process of reviewing content, researching, and reflecting could all be achieved through responses in a science notebook. This paper format had been my original idea for assessing inquiry. However, I elected to use a classroom blog instead, because it allows my students to read and comment on one another’s posts—a benefit not offered by a simple notebook. The use of technology has become a huge motivator for my students. They enjoy the process of typing their responses and being able to see what their classmates have written. Through reading others’ responses, my fifth-graders are able to gather ideas from their classmates. I have noticed improvements in students’ writing, because they know they have an audience reading their work.
By reflecting on learning in classroom science blogs, I have seen increased engagement in the classroom. My students are required to think critically about the content they learn, communicate their ideas through a digital media, and make connections between their learning and the world outside the classroom.