Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Taking a Risk with Blogging

In my last post , I asked the questions:

What are the goals I have for my readers and writers?
How can digital mentors support these goals?

I want to continue with these goals by sharing my experiences using kidblog in the classroom knowing how the tool has allowed me to expose students to a deeper understanding of audience, sharing, publishing and connecting as readers and writers.

In Kevin's post, Considering Mentor Texts: Teachers as Mentors and Creators, he states:
What we need to be doing is constructing our own mentor text collections, even as we keep an eye out for what others are doing. This means, too, that we teachers need to be sharing our worlds of exploration with our colleagues, and with the world. Don’t keep your work hidden inside of your classroom. Use the tools of the modern publishing age to share out your expertise, and together, we can begin building a database of mentor texts in the digital age. And push the limits of what technology can do.

I too agree that we need to be in the practice of constructing our own mentor text. Beginning to introduce primary children to the notion of blogging gave my students and I many opportunities to do this. While immersed in blogging my students had time to read many blogs, explore and study mentor posts/ picture books, publish and share.

Immersing in Blogging:
Sites like National Geographic for Kids hosts a main blog with many posts surrounding different topics. I used this site to begin to introduce my kids to reading blogs as a class. We used the You are here posts that follow Ava through Australia before skyping with a parent who travelled to Sydney to help us build background. We also used the dogeared posts to help us study kid book reviews before writing some of our own. This site also has other kid blogs called green scene, news bites, and hands on explorer that might work as mentors for what you are studying or thinking about in the classroom.

I also started to bookmark kid blogs I found while surfing, many of them kids who are home schooled and blogging about what they are learning and loving. These blogs gave my students ideas for writing about what they love when posting.

Finally, I introduced my kids to an introductory type post we read here and my second graders introduced themselves to the world of blogging. My first graders (who blogged with Cathy's class last year about books we love) used a picture we made on pixie to help in our introductory posts after Cathy and I created mentors for the kids.

Exploring Mentors:

As kids began to post about what they know and love, I used began to use their posts as mentors for each other just as I would do with their written pieces in workshop. Students would compose new ideas on the blog and I invited them to share at the end of workshop. It was time they needed to play with ideas and blogging. My friend Lauren and I were talking about how kids have to be trusted to go out there and just blog. Yes, we have assessments we need to give and standards we need to teach but we have to strike a balance between play and performing for the teacher, a notion that Troy hits on his his post about the tension to allow students freedom in the classroom vs what we as teachers feel like we need to teach. Often kids best work is produced in a play -like atmosphere. I know Bud Hunt would agree as he writes about the need for purposeful play here.
Kids then chatted about what ideas they had after reading each others posts. They also began to comment often with ideas that reflected their "reading like a writer" thinking. We didn't leave our study of picture books when crafting and writing on the blog. Books like Sophie Peterman tells the Truth (where Sophie points out the stinky truth about babies) inspired Maddy to write the truth about hugs. Another student, Grace, began a series of short fiction stories about different animals in our blog all inspired by a book called Baby Animals (I can't find online). We kept charting and thinking about ideas as we blogged.

I also ventured into using the blog as a place for publishing. Books of poetry including: Toad by the Road, Lizards, Frogs and Polliwogs, Animal Poems and All the Small Poems and Fourteen More inspired lots of discussion after a spring visit to the Metro Park. My students were fascinated with loads of life science we witnessed including salamanders, toads, vernal pools and food chains that they had hands on time to learn about with our park naturalist. I decided to study the non-fiction poetry to compliment their learning.

Publishing and Sharing:

While publishing on the blog, we were able to use an option called revisions (at the bottom of the edit window) which allowed us to go back to look at a student's the piece overtime. This function was powerful for students to see the before and after of a student's poem in process. It helped deepen the questions students posed during share, it allowed me to infer more deeply about student process and gave students opportunities to explain the decisions they made when reviving and editing their piece.

Grace's piece about the food chain in the wetlands is one example of how the ease of publishing and sharing on the blog deepened her work. After sharing her first posts publicly, she was encouraged and guided by her classmates to reread so that her piece made sense, add description and end her poem. She was able to do this with help from the mentor poems we had read as well as the other poems written by her classmates.

One of the most exciting parts of the publishing process on the blog was the ability to comment and read students thoughts about each others pieces of writing. Commenting on the blog helped bring kids who would have never verbally raised their hand or told their partner about their thoughts, the ability to share in writing. It also allowed everyone to easily access each others pieces allowing kids more opportunities to comment. It allowed kids to take risks.

Thinking back about the goals I have for readers and writers, there really is nothing more powerful than playing and take new risks. This is when kids learn. This is when kids grow.


Kevin Hodgson said...

What I find powerful is that even as you are showing how mentor texts helped you and your students, you are laying the groundwork of mentor texts for someone else to use, and to follow, and that is the power of connected networks. This was powerful sharing!

Mary Lee said...

I had my fourth graders write their first post on paper and then POST it up in the classroom when they were finished. They used sticky notes to comment ON each person's post. Then, when we brought out the computers, each child had their first post ready to go, and most of them already had an idea for what they wanted to write about next.