This week we my 6th grade Langauge Arts class is starting the novel, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet. Spurred by the success of our Tangerine Wikispace, my co-teacher and I are going to start a blog for our last period language arts blocks. We decided this cohort would be the best because it is the smallest group of students so the computer to student ration will be low. If this blog works out, we will expand to all of our classes for the next novel. We decided to use 21 Classes because it is free and the students do not have to have an email address to join. It is fairly easy to set up accounts for your students and to protect who views and edits the blog. All postings can be sent to the teacher first before they are posted. We decided to give the students two discussion questions to answer a week, one question must be blogged and the other can be done in their journals.
Edutopia recently had a digital discussion about taking your class to the Internet: How to set up blog in your classroom. It discussed different approaches to setting up a classroom blog. The approach that connected with me was to stress how important personal expression and ownership is in a blog even if it will be used as a traditional homework assessment. One of the first things I will let the students do is personalize their blog and perhaps create an animoto that expresses who they are without using any words.
One of the most important blog lessons is teaching how to comment on a blog. Even on the wiki we had some comments such as "I agree" and "Yeah." But it was no fault of the students; they were never taught how to comment on someone else's post.
Vicki A. Davis, author of the Cool Cat Teacher blog gives teachers some suggestions on how to teach effective blog commenting:
- Write a meaningful comment
- If you have written about it, hyperlink it to your post
- Share something about yourself if you have a blog
- Use a comment tracking service
- Don't be afraid to comment
- Teach commenting
- Remember the power of words
If anyone has any suggestions on blog start up we would be more than happy to hear them!