I thought I’d give a couple of blogging snapshots of my sessions with the second graders and the high school guys.
I have to say that these second graders are really taking to the blogging. We have gotten a lot done in a short time. This week they blogged their thoughts about writing and drew some cute illustrations. They did this for homework and brought it to the lab to type. They ran out of time to answer all their comments. See their posts on Neville’s Bloggers.I only have this group a little under an hour and they haven’t yet mastered the typing skills but it is pretty impressive what they are getting done. I am orchestrating this project a little different. They don’t have individual blogs. It is all done on the class blog. I think a classroom teacher would be able to manage it. At first it takes a lot of time, just as anything else would as you are setting up the process. The students have had to learn a number of routines quickly. They save to the network drive on a folder entitled blogging inside Miss Neville’s folder. Right now they are typing their post on word, then we copy and paste onto the blog under Miss Neville’s sign in. Right now we are helping a lot with these mechanics but I don’t think it will be too long before the students will take over. They use these titles on their files; for instance, “Brittany’s Post on Writing”. Then when they save it on the hard drive. They are learning to click before their name and use a one word descriptor for the particular post. An example for this session is “writingBrittany”. This routine will help keep us sane, organized and will expedite the process. We even had parents enter the conversations on the commenting part. That was great. We even had younger brothers enter the conversations, too. I know this group is going to take some interesting turns and we will learn a lot. Miss Neville is enthusiastic and sees the potential.
My high school guys blogged about slavery this week. They had listened to the book, To Be a Slave, by Julius Lester. It really moved them. The writing is, well the word that comes to mind is excruciating, but they are coming along. They hang in there. Next session we are aiming to have them listen to actual slave narratives and then blog about it. Check it out at Getting Heard.
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester is a book that Mrs. Baros is reading to the Getting Heard group. It has had a profound effect on them. Getting those feelings written down and on their blogs is no easy feat for these students. They really struggle. Mrs. Baros talked about reflections in class and how you have to make a connection. It can be a connection to your experiences, to a book, or to your personal feelings. Then she worked at taking them to another level encouraging them to think about the past and its effect on today. She encouraged them to think about what happened in history and what effect it had on them now. What difference has it made? What’s the big picture? When they write they put down words but the thinking piece of the writing is a major struggle.
This got me thinking about the importance of providing time in our classrooms for reflection. This is something all our students need to be doing, as well as ourselves. What does our learning mean to us? We ask our students to reflect on what they have been learning but once students learn something they need time to explore that so that they can focus on it and try to make sense of it.I fear our classroom have become places where we go from skill to skill in order to cover material on which our students will be tested. We need more time for discussions where students are doing much of the talking. Then we need time for writing. Writing helps students connect the dots in their learning. Writing takes time but as they write they are putting pieces together and making connections. They have to have lots of practice with this. Far too many of our students cannot write, and unfortunately I’m not talking about just the at-risk students.
Running out of time for reflection seems to continue throughout our lives. We get too busy. I started thinking about workshops and conferences where the reflective piece is put at the end and in many instances time runs out or participants are filling it out hurriedly in order to go to the next session. That’s a shame because those reflective pieces become meaningless if they are done in a rush.
I don’t think we do a very good job of having our students make connections to their learning. I think we need to start much earlier with this connection process and make reflection a viable piece in our classrooms. Our classrooms have to become places where we honor giving our students time to reflect. As for me, I am going to keep on reflecting on reflecting. Mrs. Neville and I are going to try to see how the second graders fare in this area. She is asking them some good questions on Becoming Authors.
I’m dancing once again. This time it is in Ohio. It’s not the tango, rather this time it is ballet! Did you see that beautiful pirouette I made?
Seriously, Lani Ritter Hall is conducting a workshop at Ohio Connects! Bridging Learning, Technology and Achievement Conference. This is their state technology conference being held in Columbus, Ohio. Here’s a description of her workshop:
Blogging in the K-12 classroom: Real World, Standards-based Learning!
Return to your district with a blog ready for integration into your classroom learning experiences! Examine the educational uses of blogs at all grade levels. Create your own classroom blog. Create a Flickr account to store your classroom pictures and insert them into your blog. Participate in a Skype conversation with Anne Davis of Georgia State University on blogging in the classroom.
Lani has created an incredible workshop, Her presentation blog is Blogging Ballet. Go view the 6 Acts that she designed, then orchestrated and then presented! You will be able to participate online. It is amazing how we can have access to all these wonderful resources. Then having a tool such as Skype to be able to participate and join in on the fun. More bloggers go forth!
Last Friday I met again with Miss Neville’s second graders. They didn’t get to answer follow-up comments they had received because they were busy posting introductions. We wished we could do this for the whole day but unfortunately that couldn’t be. Miss Neville and I talked as they wrote. We decided that we’d use the class blog for them to post. We posted them under Miss Neville’s name and decided that we would label future posts from the students themselves in this manner:
Cameron’s Introduction (2nd part being whatever their post topic is) These students probably won’t be having individual blogs so we’re going to test-drive the management part of this. I think it will work fine. We’re working towards them being able to post, comment more in their classrooms during the week. We’re trying to come up with a plan that a classroom teacher can manage and oversee during the regular classroom time.
Gordon Brune and Bronwyn G. have commented on the kids’ introductions. Thanks so much! We hope we get more for them as we go along.
Kelly and I then brainstormed on our plan for next week. We decided to focus on the writing process and get them thinking about those aspects. Kelly had great ideas and was jotting them down as we talked. I suggested that that would be a great item for her to post. And post she did! Take a look! Isn’t it great? Now we’re emailing back and forth and tossing out thoughts and ideas and working out the kinks!
I’m trying to do a better job this time explaining the behind the scenes work with the teachers. Kelly Neville is working on her Instructional Technology degree at the University of Georgia. She is a quick learner and is not afraid of the technology. That helps a bunch! I love the school. It is full of warm and friendly people. It reminds me of J.H. House. I’m trying to give her the behind the scenes help, provide tips, share possibilities, and work with her in anyway she needs help.
Update: Thank you, Elizabeth Ditz! (I love the name of her blog and it is one of the most interesting blogs I read!)
Dear Mrs. Davis
AAAAHHHH!!! I am so excited to see my name in your blog. Thanks for putting me in it!! My writing must be really good. Yay!!!
This was the first comment I read today on my blog. It was from Chloe, a student in Gordon Brune’s fifth grade class in Mamaroneck, NY. To say that it made my day is an understatement. Chloe posted this comment 3 times so I think she was as excited as I am!
Yes, Chloe you writing is REALLY good but you are also one of the best commenters around! I always enjoy your posts and your comments to many other students.
Then my second comment was over at Podcast Playground. It came from Darren Kuropatwa. Darren is at the top of my list of bloggers who are truly making a difference with kids, so his comment put me over the top….
Anne, this is a BRILLIANT idea! It was fantastic to hear the kids describe, in their own words, how powerfully they’ve been impacted by having people from all over the world comment on their blogs. You’ve long said that one of the most powerful experiences student bloggers can have comes out of the comments left by others. The kids prove your point in their own eloquent words. Bravo! What a great podcast!
These comments make me soar! OK, I’ve just upped my “comment-a-day” goal a whole bunch! Have I mentioned lately how much I love being a part of this blogging community?
Tuesday I went to JHH to have the JHH bloggers podcast about comments. I am just learning the Audacity program. I put the individual student responses up so if you want to hear their thoughts check it out here at the Podcast Playground. I love how they spotlighted the people who are commenting to them! I can’t tell you how good it felt to be back at my former school working with these kids.
Beatriz da Costa, an assistant professor at the University of California and two of her students put this idea into action. A flock of pigeons are going to monitor the sky for pollution and will beam back their findings to a special pigeon blog. The pigeons will carry a GPS satellite tracking receiver, air pllution sensors and a basic mobile phone. The phone beams text messages back to a website. These pigeons will even have miniature cameras around their necks so aerial pictures can be posted. These pigeons are taking off at the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts annual symposium in August. The data collected will be displayed on the blog in the form of an interactive map.
Wow! What a great use of blogs! OK, what’s next? This is just going to keep getting better and better.
This morning I met with the Getting Heard group. They posted their thoughts about what they had been learning in U.S. history. They’re talking mostly about slavery. This group changes each time I meet with them. Students are in and out of the group for an assortment of reasons. It is ever-changing and ever-surprising. We’ve got a long way to go in public education before we meet the needs of many of our at-risk students. I’m glad I have the opportunity to work with this group and their dedicated teacher. It reminds me how many educators we have out there who work hard to make a difference in these kids’ lives. My hat is off to each and every one of them. This is a year for observing and learning for me. I know I have much to learn in this area.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of returning to my former elementary school. That’s J.H. House, of course. Hillary Meeler and I had discussed my coming out to do a podcast with the students.It was a podcast about the commenting feature on blogs. First they posted their thoughts, then we talked about them, and then tried a “group” podcast. Getting the girls to speak up was quite a task! This was our first try though so it may be a little rough around the edges but the content is good. Some of the commenters these elementary bloggers recognized were Bronwyn G from Australia (here, here, and here)., Jane from South Korea, Chloe from Mamaroneck, New York, Graciela from Conyers, GA, Mr. Gordon Brune from Mamaroneck, New York, Mrs. Dugas from Conyers, GA, Maria from Conyers, GA
Regarding comments, they blogged about……….
- laughter and comedy
- being on top of the world
- getting good hints
- helping them feel more confident
- not giving up
- learning good tips on what they could do to make comments and voice come alive
- commenting being the best part of blogging
- learning that people elsewhere personally knew people involved in world-wide tragedies
- realizing what other people really think
- having their knowledge of something they are very interested in extended
I’ve posted the unedited version over at Podcast Playground.
Wow! What a great day – blogging in two schools. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Friday was my second session with the second graders. They are really blowing my mind. I provided links on the class blog back to the comments they had gotten in response to the comments they had written the week before. It takes them a while to type in these URL’s. They are commenting away! After a quick review they got right down to it, many finishing several comments. I found out that one of the students has her own blog. Her 12 year old sister made the blog for her. When she was making her comment she included the url for her blog. Miss Neville and I talked to her and explained why it would not be a good idea to include the link to her personal blog. Mrs. Neville has written to the parents about the blogs but there has not been time to talk about it. I wouldn’t want to give out her blog link unless her parents gave an OK. Now she said her mom worked with her on the blog. That’s great but this just underscores what we have all been talking about. It is absolutely imperative that we enter their world and talk about issues. There’s probably lots of kids around that have blogs but no guidance. Kids are inclined to just write everything. They just haven’t thought about it. I think they would respond well to guidance there. I know all the elementary kids I have worked with always add so much to the conversations. Both student and teacher learn so much. Take a look at their comments – the more I work with kids on blogs the more avenues I see for learning and expanding their thinking and writing through comments. Here we go again with the possiblities!
I’m traveling back to Miss Neville’s class in the morning. I was getting ready to post on the class blog and got sidetracked by comments. What blogger can resist reading comments? On the class blog the JHH fifth grade bloggers are welcoming these kids to the world of blogging. It is powerful. What I love is that they are firing away with questions- questions addressed to the group! I always encourage my groups to end up a blog post with a thought provoking question. Encourage the conversations. I saw good questions from this group. Angel asks “Why do you want to blog with your kids and why?” He gets right to the point. Great questions all around from this sharp little group.Once again I was sidetracked as I started reading their posts. I had to make a few comments.
I’ve blogged before about comments. They make such a difference It’s the connector for our students. It also provides so many teachable moments. It provides “thinkable” moments for them. Some of our best classroom discussions emerge from comments. We share together. We talk about ones that make us soar, ones that make us pause and rethink and we just enjoy sharing those delightful morsels of learning that occur. You can construct lessons around them You get a chance to foster higher level thinking on the blogs. They read a comment. Then they may read a comment that comments on the comment. They get lots of short quick practices with writing that is directed to them and therein it is highly relevant. Then they have to construct a combined meaning that comes about from thinking about what has been written to them in response to what they wrote. It’s such a good way to begin the process of teaching reflective thinking. I like to see the progress the students make. They start off with statements such as “I like this blog.” We get to expand their thinking and they begin to take note of the the delight of language and then reasons for writing become more apparent. They have ownership. I have been so fortunate to have crossed paths with so many wonderful people who take the time to comment on my student blogs as well as my own. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. You are the ones making a difference for our emerging writers/bloggers.
One of my goals was to be sure to write a comment a day. Many days I do more. I’m going to keep that goal and try to keep that goal to the forefront.