The role of an elementary teacher can vary. To some of us, that means donning the hat of the “Traveling Teacher”; we take our Mary Poppins bag of curricular tricks on the road each week in order to meet the needs of a certain population in multiple school buildings. We risk rotator cuff issues carrying heavy bags of materials back and forth as we work out of our cars, post our crazy schedules on the refrigerator so as to show up at the right building on the right day, and fight for an empty classroom or perhaps a makeshift closet in order to meet with our students in an environment conducive to learning. The challenges are numerous, but the rewards far outweigh these challenges when the right tools are available.
I am an Elementary Gifted Specialist working with academically gifted third graders in the area of language arts. I see a total of twenty-two students who are housed in three different buildings for fifty-minute class sessions two times a week. The curriculum I use is based on higher level reading material and related literature circle discussions. The immediate challenge I faced when I began this job was that each group had a different number of children in it. Literature circles look incredibly different with a group of two or three children as opposed to one with twelve or fourteen students! Add to that the issue of only meeting as a group twice a week, and the untimely and often frequent absences or schedule changes of students or myself. The result was a lack of continuity in class discussions and a disconnect between students. I knew I needed to combine these classes and become one group in order to best meet the students’ needs. But I also knew that this was not a feasible physical solution.
Using Kidblog with my gifted students has been an exciting, creative, and practical solution for both me and my gifted readers. It has enabled me to create one virtual classroom where all of my students can read the same material, blog in a literature circle format, share their opinions and responses, constructively comment on each other’s ideas, and create and extend enrichment activities. Our virtual Kidblog class of twenty-two students shares the same sense of community—if not slightly more intimate—than they would if they were physically sitting next to one another in a literature circle, despite the fact that many of the students have never met! These students now have the benefit of receiving and offering many more peer responses than they would in a regular literature circle environment, thus exposing them to more varied opinions to process, analyze, and evaluate. They are able to bounce ideas off one another virtually while never leaving their home school. In addition, they can participate in our virtual class outside of our meeting times, either in their regular classroom as time permits, or outside of their school day at home on any personal mode of technology available to them.
As a traveling teacher, Kidblog has been a godsend. I am able to check in with my students wherever I am, update blog posts with new stories, discussion questions, and related links. I am able to write comments and edit their work from any location. Kidblog enables me to send private messages to students with suggestions for improving their writing or just to let them know what an important contribution they are making to our virtual class. Kidblog has allowed these twenty-two students to become a family despite the limits of physical boundaries, and the comfort and quality in which they discuss and write with each other is positive proof. Because of this virtual classroom experience with Kidblog I feel confident that my students will continue using blogging as a method to share literature and their own writing long after our school year is over.