The first week of the new school year is in the books, and I have to say that every year has gotten better and more comfortable for me asa teacher. With this comfort comes great responsibility (hello, I sound like Uncle Ben there).
The responsibility is that you do not become stale as an educator. Once your curriculum is in place, you feel secure in your classroom management skills, it’s time to start adding in some “out of the box” strategies and lessons. For me, that is going back to something I did two years ago in a Creative Writing course and during my first attempt at a Project Genius Hour: classroom blogging.
I had my students create their own WordPress accounts and design a personalized blog.
In Creative Writing, they used it for their weekly postings about a given writing prompt or subject that we had been talking about in class; for Genius Hour, they posted their progress in researching their topics and other specific prompts that had to do with the process of being given 20% of the school week to focus on a subject matter that meant something more to them than just another grade. If you want to know more about Project Genius Hour or 20% Time Projects, please see the following link:
My Own Genius Hour and follow @JoyKirr on Twitter.
I have decided to go back to classroom blogging for several reasons:
- It gives students a voice and an outlet to be expressive
- It’s important to address the ever-growing technological aspects of classroom writing
- It gives students ownership over their writing
- #GoGreen and save a few thousand sheets of paper
- It creates an online archive/portfolio of their writing
- Simplicity in checking their work
Let me address the simplicity point. Some may say that if I have students email me an attachment or link to a GoogleDoc, won’t it be easier for me to have all the essays/poems/narratives/etc all in one place because I can save them to a folder on a flash drive or my desktop? True. You can do that. However, there is an even simpler way to do this and that is through the use of a fantastic (and free) website: Feedly.
I started using this website that allows users to collect all the websites for blogs they read all in one dashboard. You are able to sort the different blogs into categories and the most currently published blogs are added and highlighted for your benefit. It saves so much time as opposed to visiting each one or receiving an email that notifies you of a new post.
So how does Feedly help in classroom blogging:
- Once each student has created and shared their blog’s website address with you, you then create categories based on class period. When a new blog entry has been published, it will be indicated for you in both the side bar and on the “All” view.
- It comes with a time and date stamp. You will know exactly when a student has published his or her required blog and if it’s done on time.
- It’s all organized for you! You don’t have to hunt and scavenger through the internet to 125 different URLs; they’re all listed in one amazing dashboard.
- In addition to all the blog entries being in one place, so are all the students’ entries. Because it’s done on WordPress and Feedly, you don’t have to spend wasted time searching through old emails or worry that the document got deleted.
- I often would forget to bring my flash drives home, so there would go a whole night/weekend of grading. With Feedly, it’s all online and I can access it everywhere.
Question of the Day: If you use blogging in your classroom, what other helpful tips do you have for supporting your students or making life easier for the teacher who must grade and manage them?