Using Blogging in the Classroom!

Using blogging in the classroom!

I introduced “Kidblog” in my classroom last year and was amazed at how often students were posting their “assignments” at midnight or 1 in the morning. J  I had already logged a few hours of sleep by then! The examples and anecdotes here refer to my languages classroom with “French as a Second Language” students.  Blogging is certainly doable in many subject areas.

What do I like the best about kidblog?  Not only can I access my students’ homework from any computer at any time, it is a forum that allows students who are shy to join in without having to do so in person.
When you begin with kidblog you first set up an account where you are the “administrator”.   “kidblog” is free of charge and this is what I use for my classes.  For each class that you decide to set up you need to go through and set up your “settings” and also choose a “theme”.  The “theme” is a background design as would be the case on a personal blog if you use one.  I have chosen a different theme for each class so that at a glance the students know whether they are on the correct blog page or not.

Create a new class – Use this button to input the names of your students.  I use just first names and if there are two “Sarahs” for example I use the first letter of their last names to distinguish between the two.  After your names are inputted the class list appears on the main blog page for the class.  If you missed 2 “Davids” you can go back in and “edit” the name via the control panel.  Click on “users” and your class list will be shown. You can edit the student name or remove a name all together.

Control panel – the control panel is the location from which you can make all the changes you need to make as “administrator” of the blogs you have set up.  – You can add students here, change passwords, delete users and so on. 

My classes – This is where all of your classes will “show up” on the screen so that you can choose which one you want to work with.

My blog – This blog will document all of the “new posts” that you have made to your students.  It’s a great way to keep track of how often you have posted and what the subjects were that you talked about.  From the students’ point of view, their individual blogs will show up for them to look at. 

New posts – Always choose new post when wanting to post something to your students.  In turn, I always ask my students to choose new post also when adding to the forum subject.  By doing so, the students can look at their progress throughout the school year and see what improvements they have made in their work especially if it is a skill based subject such as language arts and second/third language learning.  From the teacher’s standpoint also, you can see if a student has made the required entries or if they have missed any or have done no entries at all. (At a glance) eg. Five entries?  Student is engaged in learning.  One entry?  Assignments are being missed. 

Comments – This is where I allow my students to comment on each other’s entries.  Before we start we discuss “on-line etiquette” and “respect” for one another.  Some of the “keen” students will spend hours on-line commenting on each other’s work.  It encourages the students to use their language as well as seeing what others have to contribute to a discussion or an assignment. My students even the beginning level grade 8 students tried to make their comments in French.  When there were words they couldn’t find I encouraged them just to write the word in English.  I promote “franglais” when needed so that students are not using on-line translators which when used improperly take away from their abilities to improve their language skills. 

If you have a student who goes by a different name than what originally appeared on your September class list you are also able to edit that name without deleting any posts they may have already made.
I create my own passwords for the students as I create the kidblog pages before they arrive in September.  You can however collect passwords from them and input their choices or you can use the “kidblog generated” password that is displayed for you.  Use whichever you find most convenient for yourself.  Because the work done on the blogs for my classes are formative assessments and not summative assessments I do not worry about the passwords too much.  Students in my classes know that respect and on-line etiquette are crucial in my classroom and so far I haven’t had to deal with any issues. 

What kinds of activities do I do? 

1.      My opening activity which I give one week for is to have students become comfortable with using the    blog page.  “Tell me a little bit about yourself in 2-3 sentences in French.” Beginning level students are allowed to simply write words that they know that might describe themselves or people in their family.  – likes, dislikes, favorite foods, subjects, family, activities that they do, pets. 

2.      I love to put up “pictures” on the blog as an activity.  Students must write something about the picture or they might need to answer a question or two about the picture posted.  

3.      Sometimes the answers are just free responses to a question or to a picture that I have uploaded. 

4.      Sometimes the answers must use a particular “grammatical concept” that they have been working on in the class. (focus on one or two things so that the students will experience success) 

5.       Having students comment on someone else’s post is interesting.  I ask them to look for something “good” about the post and to comment on it. You can either assign each student a particular person’s to comment on or just “let it happen”.  I like to do a combination of the two over time.

6.        Put up a picture of an interesting “mask” and have students describe the mask.  Work on sentence structures during class time in order to get a better variety of answers. (-or you may get just a list of colors.)

7.        Complete the sentence with a minimum of 6 words.  “Hier, ma famille …..”

8.        « Regardez les deux photos. Laquelle est ta favorite et pourquoi ?»

9.        « Quel était ton histoire favorite des 3 que nous avons lues? »

10.      « Qui suis-je ? »  Décrivez quelqu’un dans la classe.  Ensuite, lisez la description faite d’un autre camarade et devinez.  – Use the « comment » tab within that person’s blog to make your guess.

11.       « Créez et écrivez un indice pour cacher les œufs de Pâques.  Le professeur va les cacher en employant les indices que vous avez écrits. » The class gets to help you create the clues for the Easter Egg hunt. 

12.       For the older grades who have a better handle on manipulating the French language.  “Ecrivez le début d’une histoire d’enfance dans une paragraphe de 50 mots.  Ensuite, regardez celle de votre partenaire et écrivez 2 questions.  Un autre étudiant doit répondre à ces 2 questions. »

13.       «Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire après l’école vendredi ? »

NOTE:  This is a fun and interactive way to get your students involved in their learning.  You must be firm about using the “language” that they know and not relying on translators.  It does not take away from language learning within the classroom.  I believe it enhances it.  Have fun! Lorraine J

(mrslryan – 2012)                      

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