Summer Writing Through Blogging: The Power of Social Media
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
This week the school librarian and I are conducting a parent workshop on summer reading. In the process of putting that workshop together, I realized we hadn’t prepared a viable platform to encourage writing over the summer. However, through social media — Facebook — I knew that fellow blogger Megan Power had her kindergarten students blogging, and I decided to follow suit. Learn how I started a social media frenzy in my school, and how writing has caught on like fire. (As in I approved 218 comments yesterday alone. 218!)
Why Blogging Is Important: The Safe Facebook for the K–5 Crowd
Let me begin by stressing how successful blogging has been in our school. I quite literally have students writing around the clock. It’s mind boggling how excited students are about writing. Suddenly the topics I have to nudge my students toward are fresh, viable blogging topics. No nudging required.
And why is this?
A 2nd grader said it best when he said that this was the closest thing to being on Facebook. A simple blog post by a 1st grader on his dog attending dog camp (i.e., obedience school) for the month garnered nine comments within the hour. And not just from his grade-level peers, but from 4th and 5th graders. Just imagine, as a 1st grader, having 4th and 5th graders leaving positive messages about your bad dog on your blog. Pretty cool, I imagine.
The Immediate Benefits: Giving a Voice to Those Who Don’t Have One
The benefits were immediate. One student struggled with writing so severely in my intervention group that we had someone from Central Office join us in brainstorming how to help. This student seemed terrified of writing anything at all. And the graphic organizers they suggested did little to combat the student's real problem of being afraid to write. I was curious to see how this student would manage. After we started blogging, I was amazed to see that this student was now writing complex sentences about his summer plans to visit several famous ball parks. The result? This student is our third most commented on blogger in the school. This student has not only found his voice, but also his audience. I had the same result, just as incredible, with 4th grader who has rather severe dyslexia. And it goes on.
Getting Students Interested in Blogging: How Top Teaching Helped in My Room
Before jumping into blogging, I asked each of my classes to join me for a whole group discussion at the SMART Board. What did they know about blogging? Had they heard the word before?
Roughly half had heard it before, but no one knew what blogging was for K–3 students. Fourth graders quickly connected it to a form of Facebook, where people can write about what they are interested in and people comment on it.
I told students that I had been a blogger since 2008 and pulled up the Teacher to Teacher Blog page. Immediately I heard, “Look, it’s you! Cool! Oh, there’s Mrs. Burt . . . ” All year I had been saying I write for Scholastic. Somehow blogging for Scholastic was much cooler. Who would have thought?
From here I explained how my blogging role works. I write about literacy topics for teachers. I have an editor who looks over my writing. My posts come out every other Monday, and I respond to comments from readers, who are most often teachers. I pulled up a recent post on guided reading using graffiti tables, and the students were fascinated to learn that the article had 189 Facebook "likes" and several comments from teacher readers. “That’s pretty cool!” several students responded. A few even asked, “Are you going to blog about us blogging?” My students are so smart.
They were sold at this point. “Who wants to be a blogger?” I added, just for fun. I already knew the answer.
Kidblog.org: The SAFEST Blogging Platform on the Net
Rather than research blogging platforms online, I went straight to the best source I have — our technology teacher. She quickly recommended Kidblog and touted its security measures. I followed this up by asking Megan Power what she uses for her kindergartners. You guessed it: Kidblog.
Off I went to set up an account.
Literally ten minutes later it was set up and ready to use. And there are some pretty cool features built into the program. First and most importantly, you can’t beat the security measures offered. This includes
- Secure log-ins and passwords for every student and parent.
- Approval from the blogging moderator (teacher) before comments go live.
- The ability to edit comments and posts with ease.
It also offers a quick and efficient process for adding bloggers.
Getting Students Started: No Learning Curve
I teach small groups of 10–12 students each day. I tackled 1st grade first and totally assumed I would spend the entire period on the SMART Board helping students navigate the Kidblog tools. Not necessary. My students firmly asked if they could just log on and start playing around on their own. I hesitantly said yes and learned I had sorely underestimated their abilities. They jumped right in: this is natural territory for our digital natives.
So, don’t underestimate your students! Students as young as kindergartners can and will blog, if you let them.
And that’s the biggest step.
Are YOU Afraid of Blogging?
Because that might be the largest barrier in the way of getting your students started. When I shared the exciting social media trends I was observing in class with my principal, I also suggested she write a quick blog and wait for the comments from students. She was petrified! “I don’t really know how a blog works. What do I write about? How do I do it?” she asked. I gave her written directions, but also asked her to email me a paragraph.
Third graders were in my room blogging when I heard a sudden gasp. “Dr. Clark commented on Harrison’s blog. Dr. Clark commented on Harrison’s blog!” Instant celebrity status and excitement. I held back a large smile. Every student was now reading a 1st grader's blog, fascinated by what our principal had to say.
But then it got even better. A post titled “My Summer Plans” by Dr. Clark arrived on the digital table. You would have thought someone won the lottery.
Needless to say, at this moment, our most commented-on blogger is our principal. And to think, she was petrified two hours earlier.
What Are Students Blogging About?
Watch Harrison in action.
What Are Students Saying About Blogging?
Straight from the source, here is a statement from Grace, one of my bloggers, about blogging.
Questions/Comments: Fostering Writing Over the Summer
I have promised students that I will comment on any post they put up during the summer and have provided them information on how to give friends and family access to the blog. I am confident the writing will continue. What are your plans to foster student writing over the summer? I would love to hear about them!