Sunday, March 07, 2010

Ten Things Your Students Can Blog About Today


Yes, I have my class blog, but things got really exciting when my 4th grade students starting taking on their own blogs!

It's been six weeks now since my students began blogging on their own. I spent very little time showing them how to navigate the site and then they pretty much figured the rest out on their own. Some have figured out how to hyperlink & crosspost, some figured out how to upload audio files, embed video and even scan and embed their own graphics. At this point, I don't edit the students' blogposts and I do post with minor errors. I also don't publish any personal information or if the student-blogger has included a link to an inappropriate site/video or where the readers will be prompted to register or input their personal information on a form/petition.


If you read some of their posts, you can get a pretty good insight into what's going on in their heads. There's thoughts about upcoming testing, environmental causes, puzzles and more. Recently, some of the students are posting this question, "What should I blog about?"

Here are my top 10 easy topics about which students can blog:
  1. Blogging can be like a journal. Why not choose a theme for your blog and update it every few days with what's happening? For example, your blog theme might be about your soccer team or theater group. You can update every time your team practices and/or has a game. You can pretend you are a sportscaster and report on the events of the game. Don't forget to pose a question to your readers to encourage comments.

  2. Another theme example could be an upcoming event, like a party or religious event. Every few days, report on how the event is evolving. Once the event passes, it's ok to change your theme. Remember, it's YOUR blog. (Don't post pictures of your friends and if you post pictures of yourself, be sure you have your parent's permission. Also, if you take pictures from the Internet, check out this tutorial from teacher, John Howell, on how to correctly use images from Google.)

  3. What happened in school recently? Did you do a science experiment that interested you or maybe didn't interest you? Blog about it! Be specific so that your readers understand what you did in school and how you felt about it. Don't forget to ask your readers if they've done something similar or if they have recommendations for you.

  4. Did you just learn something new that you've been trying to do for a long time? Write about it. Don't forget to encourage your readers to contribute their thoughts too.


  5. Are you interested in snakes or something else in nature? Why not make your blog about different types of snakes, birds, insects? Take a look at Santiago's post on The Black Necked Spitting Cobra. Don't forget to pose a question to the readers to encourage comments.

  6. What's your favorite TV show? Create a "TV Review" blog. Each week, review your show. Post a summary of the show and your thoughts. Don't forget to ask your reader what they think too.

  7. What book are you reading? Don't wait until you are finished to post about it. Write about it as you are reading it. Better yet, invite others to read it with you and maybe you can get a "book discussion" going on your blog.

  8. Are you an avid reader? Take a look at Raegan's blogpost where she makes some recommendations for others.

  9. Is there a cause you feel strongly about? Write a blog post about it and encourage others to do something about it.

  10. Are you having trouble with something in school? Why not explain the problem you're having and ask for help on your blog. You may be surprised at who may respond and the help you'll receive.
Those are just a few of my suggestions. Do you have other ideas for student bloggers? Please leave other ideas in the comments. I'm looking forward to sharing them with my students.

43 comments:

Mark said...

Great ideas. There are some ideas of things to write in Tony Ryans 'Thinkers Keys' that should get kids creative juices going. Some of theme are drawing based- great for visual kids and adding variety to your blog.

Keep up the sharing!

Karen McMillan said...

Thank you for these great suggestions! I must admit I've been a little leery about letting my students blog about whatever they wanted. You just never know what seventh graders are going to say! But there was an incident recently where one of their classmates sent out a few anger-filled, inappropriate emails to the entire class, and my students handled it beautifully!! I was so proud of them; even the tech teacher made comments about it.

So, after reading your post about your fourth graders, I will share your ideas with my kids tomorrow and let them start writing!! That's really the point, right?

Lee Kolbert said...

@Karen
Well, that is MY point, but doesn't necessarily have to be YOUR point. In 7th grade, they are certainly much braver and will test you more often. That's the beauty of moderation. I'm not worried about what my students are going to say with kidblog.org because nothing goes live (posts nor comments) until I approve it.

I've had many conversations with students about what they've written (and I've not approved) where I've asked them to rethink how they've written it, remove a link, or check their spelling or grammar because I think they can do better. Some will go back and edit and I'll then publish and some will not bother. Oh well, right?

I would not recommend anyone moving forward with public blogging with their students unless they're comfortable because, as with everything, there will come a time when you may need to defend what you are doing.

Good luck and thanks for your comment.

Colette Cassinelli said...

Excellent ideas Lee!

Now we need a another post titled, "Ten way to encourage kids to read and respond to each other's blog posts" :)

Sue Waters said...

"Do you have other ideas for student bloggers?" - yes they could join our Student Blogging Challenge (http://studentchallenge.edublogs.org/) to create connections with student bloggers around the World while being given fun tasks and being guided through the process of improving their blogging.

Barbara Day said...

I really appreciate all the things you have shared, both on your blog and on Twitter, about your student blogs. I am going to set them up for my class so we can begin after spring break. I have bookmarked the blog post because that gives me lots of ideas. Thanks so much for sharing.

Aviva said...

I love your blog post, and I'm going to share it with my students too. My Grade 1's have recently started their own blogs through Kidblogs (I love the site!), and while I often give them some topics to choose from, it's nice to have some new topic options too. Thanks for sharing!

Heather Mason said...

Thank you! Class blogging has been something I have been trying to work in to my classroom this year, but for some reason I'm struggling with it. Some student take off with the "write about anything" mode, but this helps me help those who need a little more direction.

The Petulant Child said...

Great post. Thanks for the ideas. My 6th graders began blogging about six weeks ago as well. We did lots of frontloading before I set them off. We spent considerable time with the unit found at the Langwitches blog.

I, too, struggled with many questions. It consumed my Christmas break. Should we just have a class blog? Should each kid have his/her own blog? If each student has his/her own blog what should the parameters be?

I decided give them their own blogs. Each student has chosen a theme for their blog. Can they change the theme if it's not working for them? You bet. They're beginning bloggers. I submit they're, still, beginning writers, trying to find their voice and identity in the world.

I'm an administrator on all the blogs. The kids tell me when they post. I check it out later during the day. They may approve comments on their own. If someone has commented inappropriately they simply don't approve it, and tell me. Luckily, that hasn't happened yet.

We do have a class blog. I post something on the weekend, usually a school or classroom related issue. Commenting on the post is one of their homework assignments for the week. For kids that don't have computers/internet at home I make time during the week for them to comment; typically during read-aloud. I have five computers in the room, and they can "be present" while I'm reading, but also have the opportunity to comment.

Blogging has turned into the kids' favorite thing. I'm asked everyday if we'll be blogging. I've committed to one 40 min. period per week exclusively for blogging.

A couple of times I've made myself available after school for blogging, and have got an impressive turnout; about ten kids.

My only regret is we didn't begin the year blogging. Next year we will!

You can visit our blogs at the following link.

http://fbus6.weebly.com/our-blogs.html

We look forward to checking out your blogs.

Lee Kolbert said...

@Colette
WmChamberlain has a Wiki for exactly that. Located here: http://comments4kids.wikispaces.com/ is a listing of some classes where students blog and he encourages all who leave comments to use the hashtag #comments4kids. Thanks for your suggestion. I may take your challenge and blog about that next.

@Sue
Thanks for the link to your challenge. Since we aren’t using Edublogs, I will have to modify the challenge a bit (for example there is no “About” page) but after looking at the first two challenges you have posted, I’ve already got some good ideas to use with my students. Thanks very much. I will keep checking back!

@Barbara
Your comments make me feel really good about my blogging and sharing. I’m so glad I can help motivate someone else to try something new. Best of luck to you.

@Aviva
Wow! First graders are blogging? How are they doing with that? I’d be interested to read some of their posts. Just imagine how prolific they will be by the time they get to 4th and 5th grade, if they keep it up! Thanks for your comment.

@Heather
Its hard to manage everything and blogging doesn’t need to be the most important thing your kids do. It should be fun and then it will become meaningful. Maybe after testing season…

@Petulant Child
Sounds like you’ve got a great system and your students are really seeing the fun and the value. I love how each of your students has his own theme. I will be sure to share your link with my classes. Thanks so much for your comment.

So, here’s my question to everyone…. How do you keep these blogs going year after year if the students are no longer in your classes?

Sue Waters said...

@Lee There are a wide range of blog platforms being used by the students in the Challenge.

We are encouraging teachers to do exactly what you meant here -- adapt the challenges to your platform and your students.

The best aspects of the Challenge is it does connect students with students around the World. Knowing people from other locations are reading their posts is incredibly motivating for most students; and you can see same great improvement in their ability as they progress through the Challenge.

Heather Mason said...

I have to admit, I would be reluctant to let kids own the blogs I provide for them in class once they get past me monitoring them. I also don't think I can monitor the kids I have this year and the year before that and the year before that. I work with middle school students and they are notorious for making bad decisions. You can't say, "Well, Susie's a good kid. She wouldn't do anything wrong." So many are still learning what is and isn't appropriate and many so impulsive that they might post something that they don't mean or were pressured into doing. However,I do acknowledge that the content is theirs and they shouls be able to keep it after they leave me. I give them their written portfolios the last day of school; why not their digital ones? Perhaps I can let them transfer it to a blog they (and by extension, their parents) are responsible for? I never thought about this issue until just now. Hmm...

Aviva said...

We started blogging in small groups on the SMART Board using Posterous (http://dunsiger.posterous.com), and now they have their own blogs (http://kidblog.org/missdunsigersclass/student-blogs/). They write their posts on their own using classroom resources to assist them with spelling and conventions. I will sometimes write an editor's note, but it's amazing how great these students can write, especially when they know that they're writing for an audience. It's very motivating! Blogging with my Grade 1's is one of the best things that I tried with them this year, and with your post, I'll have even more blogging topic suggestions to share with them. Thanks!

Humanities 9 Planning team said...

Great stuff. I have a class Ning with Grade 8's. So far we have explored how to set up a safe, ethical, accurate profile, post discussion starters and responses and upload appropriate photos and comments. We haven't got into the blog function each student's my page has. I am not sure what to do at the year end. How does one make a digital portfolio that the kids could move on with.

Dan Kirk said...

Great stuff. I have a class Ning with Grade 8's. So far we have explored how to set up a safe, ethical, accurate profile, post discussion starters and responses and upload appropriate photos and comments. We haven't got into the blog function each student's my page has. I am not sure what to do at the year end. How does one make a digital portfolio that the kids could move on with.

Mark Moran said...

I am heartened to see this trend. I hired 3 employees to be writers for my company because of work they published while in school; all 3 of them had weaknesses (poor interview, spotty job history, etc.) that I overlooked because of how impressive their published writing was. All job applicants now are having their "Web resume" scoured by employers, and soon this will apply to college applicants as well. It's not just about not having anything incriminating on the Web; students need to build a strong, positive Web presence to stand out in a crowd. This is a great first step down that road.

Mr Wood said...

Thank you for some wonderful ideas. I start the year blogging as a class on our class blog. Next term my students will get their own blogs which they are already looking forward to. I start their blogging by giving them sentence starters like, "In maths this week I learnt ..." Eventually they take ownership and need less guidance.

Lee Kolbert said...

@Heather
I agree that I would not turn over the moderation rights to the students either. I would still feel responsible. It’s true that we give their paper portfolios to the students but not digital… I’ll say I’m more reluctant because of the potential for damage. There, I said it.

@Aviva
Thanks for sharing your link. Wow! Amazing that first graders can write so beautifully. Keep up the great work. You should be very proud!

@Humanities and @Dan
Sounds like you’re building a good solid foundation for being effective bloggers and users of online social media. I don’t know the answer to your question about a portable digital portfolio. I hope to figure it out before June. Thank you for your comments.

@Mark
What an interesting comment. I wonder if there is a trend towards employers looking towards positive digital footprints as you did or if yours is an isolated case. I hope there is a trend. I mean, I wish students would clean up their acts with regards to their interview techniques, job history and all, but my goodness, if they can create a rolling resume online, that just seems so much more relevant. Especially in a situation where you hired employees to write. Good for you for seeing the big picture! Thank you so much for sharing this.

@Mr. Wood
Good luck with your class blogging. I hope my post has been helpful in some small way. Thanks for visiting my blog and for commenting.

Aviva said...

Thanks! My Grade 1's have worked hard this year. I'm proud of them!

Mark Moran said...

Lee, employers looking at digital footprints, for both good and bad evidence, is a well-established trend. Hiring someone is scary; any smart employer is going to find out everything it can about a potential hire. Anyone can write a good resume, say the right things in an interview, and line up friendly references. It's when they've had their guard down, posting on the Web, that I really want to see them. Interestingly, here's a blog post from two years ago by a teacher asking what you are doing to make your kids "Google-able." I realize there is privacy risk here, and what your students write on their 4th grade blogs is not going to influence an employer when they are 22; what matters is you are getting them into the habit of being a Web publisher, and they'll be more likely to do so when it does matter.
http://weblogg-ed.com/2008/making-kids-googlable/

Ryan said...

This is a more niche idea, but blogging would be good for students involved in Student Council or other after-school programs and groups. For Student Council, it's a great way for the rest of the school to hear about what's going on. For specific groups, it allows students to give insight on what they do and potentially attract other students to their groups.

Erica said...

Thank you for the suggestions. As a teacher, I feel like I run out of ideas, but it is nice to have people like you always willing to share new and inventive ideas. I like the idea of a movie review. Keep sharing. Check out my blog, http://ericap.edublogs.org/

Caitlyn Warnberg said...

Wow! This is such a great idea! I'm still in school to become a teacher, but I would love to have each of my students blog and share their ideas with others! I am so excited to start!

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Pam Thompson said...

Some of my students have had blogs since last year and I've just set up blogs for the rest of them. I do moderate them as this sits well with our parents. We've just taken part in the Mary and Max character competition so it was an ideal opportunity as they all had that to write about. Thanks for the other ideas - some of my kids need no help but there are others who will certainly ask the "What do I blog about?" question.

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A blog is one of the most useful tools available on the Internet. Since its conception, blogs have become a widely used form of media for people to share their interests and opinions about different kinds of topics. It is one of the catalysts in the revolution of social media in the Internet. Owning and maintaining a blog site can be an interesting and enjoyable way to communicate with the world through writing.

Because of blogs, people are becoming bolder in expressing their opinions about anything. You can sometimes see how a person thinks through his blogs. In a particular topic, you can read a variety of opinions that do not necessarily coincide with each other. That is democracy at work! Everyone has the right to voice his or her own opinion on any subject matter, and blogs have made it more efficient.

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Richard2000 said...
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Trey said...

Trey

Hi admin, i like the post about "Ten Things Your Students Can Blog About Today"
really suitable for a teen like me.

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