Blogging in 1st Grade? Yes, please!

The time is finally here in Rm. 2o2 for writers to become bloggers and start their journey into safe and productive digital citizenship!  YAY!!  Are you excited to hear about it?  Let me tell you the beginning of the story (it’s kind of a long, developing one so I figured I’d at least get us started…).

Now, there are many things I like to do year after year, but because the kiddos are different, I don’t do them in the same exact way.  As we began to talk about blogging, I did begin similarly to my last first grade class, but of course with this class we had to include some literature, too, right? (more on that when I get to the part about comments!).

After we were clear about what a blog actually was and had some ideas about what we might want to write about, we got started with the writing part.  On paper.  I do have to admit for these kiddos this was less than ideal.  I have never heard so much grumbling in my life!!  They didn’t quite understand why they couldn’t jump right to the online part, but it wasn’t an option yet, so they took the paper instead of nothing. LOL

I was happy with how quickly most of them got into their topics, as well as how they were also thinking about how the aesthetics of a blog are also important–the title and pictures should correspond to the theme they are writing about.

On our 3rd day (it took us a couple of days to finish our first drafts of our blogs), we started talking about comments.  We discussed about how blogs are like conversations and how there are some general “rules” for how those should go.  We role played what it would be like for someone to talk to us and then just walk away when we were finished (Thanks Ella for your help with this part!).  We agreed this was not so kind and considerate to the speaker, and this was connected to what it would be like to read someone’s blog and then move on.  It’s about the conversation, after all.

Before we practiced this next step, though, we watched the BrainPopJr. video about internet safety, which highlights things that are ok and not ok to say online, as well as what to do if you think something is not right.  Next we read a book to continue the idea of being honest and kind.

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On a complete side note to this whole blog thing, we were excited to hear the story of Patricia McKissack and how she once attended our school! She was one of the first African-American students to attend our school after it was integrated in the 50s.  She’s a hero and is so brave, and is a local author who lives in our town!  Very cool!  Oh, and I remembered how I had had her sign my copy of this book when I had met her about 10 years ago.

The discussion around this book was an interesting one.  Like the little girl in the story, we thought that telling the truth was always the best thing.  This is still indeed true, but we learned from the events of the story that thinking about when, where and how to tell things is important to do.   Sometimes things are better to be saved for a private conversation with just one person, rather than being stated publicly (especially on a blog or other online space like Twitter).

After our honesty and kindness lesson, we got busy responding to our friend’s words.  This was exciting and I was impressed with how focused and quiet kiddos were while they did this work.

After this first round, we gathered together to share some of the notes we had gotten from other bloggers.  Some had questions, and we will deal with those in the second round–when we respond to the comments.  So far we are doing so great at this!

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Check out what our blogs look like!

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So..since it’s all about the conversation–we’d love you to join in!  What comments do you have for us? What questions do you have?  Maybe a suggestion?  We’d love to practice commenting with you!  Thanks for reading about the beginning of our blogging journey!!

Can’t wait to share the next step with you soon!

First Grade Bloggers!: Part 5–Teaching the BIG kids!

Alright….one more time…here are the links to the first four parts of the story.  And this one is probably the biggest and best: this part of the story is about how 20 super smart first grade bloggers taught their FIFTH GRADE BUDDIES about how to blog.  Yup–you heard me right: the little kids taught the BIG KIDS something.  Before I even tell you what happened, I feel like I should start with my some of my kiddos’ words about how it felt.  Wait—maybe that will tell the story better than anything else I could say. 🙂

Evan—“It felt spectacular. I felt good teaching a 5th and I’m only a 1st grader. It was hard. He kept on asking me questions and I wasn’t sure how to answer.”

Peyton—”It made me feel happy. It filled up my bucket to be a good teacher to a 5th grader.”

Lauren—“I felt happy because I got to see my buddy and there were words that were popping up that were funny.” (I think this is about the auto-correct feature on their iPads 🙂 ).

Ella Marie—“It felt awesome. I got to make blogs and I like blogs! I saw something new and I told my buddy about it.”

Sara—“I felt happy because we could make a blog together.”

Charlie—“I felt like I was the most important teacher in the world! I like that my buddies are funny!”

Diego—“I felt so happy because usually big kids but usually little kids were the teachers!” (Doesn’t this one just say it all?!)

Kylie—“I felt good because we got to experience new things that I didn’t know about, then I figured out I did know about it.”

Emily—”It felt good because I felt like a teacher and also it felt good to teach a 5th grader!! Little kids usually get taught by bigger ones.” (Again–what an authentic audience!)

Thomas—“I was really excited because it was my first time writing with a 5th grader. It opened up my grit.”

Amelia—“I felt really happy because I didn’t know how to spell a word, and my LB helped me. It filled up my bucket!”

The assessment we used to tell us we did a SUPER JOB of explaining blogs to our buddies?  Their questions to their teacher as they left our room: “Dr. Grayson, can we have our own blogs, too?”  What more could we ask for??  🙂

First Grade Bloggers!: Part 4–GOING LIVE!

Yep, there were three parts before this one that gave more details of this exciting journey into the blogosphere!  (Part 1  Part 2  Part 3)

After we had done days and days of prerequisite work (including teaching our friends in Rm. 203 about how to comment on blogs and having them join us for a day of practice), we were ready to give it a try (plus, we had to be ready for when we’d teach our 5th grade buddies all we knew about blogging–more on that later!).  Needless to say, the excitement in the room was CRAZY!!

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These pics are from our share session with our neighbors, but they really could show what it looked like as we started our blogs, too.  I mean, I guess there’s no real way to show the process of writing a new blog except maybe to share the blogs with you!  As you read our new Kid Blogs, imagine the big smiles on our faces as we made them!  Being a blogger is SERIOUS BUSINESS when you’re 6!  Check it out! 

First Grade Bloggers!: Part 3

If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of our blogging journey yet, you can check them out here and here. 🙂

After we had a chance to try out commenting for ourselves on our friends’ paper blogs, it was time to get down to the REAL business of REAL commenting on REAL blogs with REAL people!  This was one of those places where I added in some extra lessons to the version of Blogging 101 I have done with 5th graders.  I just felt like my little bloggers needed more opportunities to practice before they graduated to their own blogspace.

With many things we are learning and practicing for the first time, turn-and-talk or partner conversations are a good way to work through concepts with a friend.  This allows for each to teach and learn (based on what they know), and also to help ensure that everyone is on the same (or at least a similar) page before we move on to doing things independently.

As we gathered for Writers’ Workshop, I had kiddos sit with their elbow partners and explained that I was going to give them a “blog” to read and that they were then supposed to turn-and-talk with their partner about how they would respond to that “post.”  I made sure to write examples that they could relate to, and encouraged them to remember to include what they had learned about how to leave a good comment:  respond to the writing, say more to give details or reasons, and to ask a question to keep the conversation going.  Together with their partners, everyone had a chance to role-play with at least 5 or 6 of these scenarios:

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I tried to write posts that seemed real and relevant to first graders (like ones that they might read on others’ blogs and that they would eventually write on their own!), as well as ones that had examples of the parts of a blog post that we would talk about soon after this.

As a check-in to assess how kiddos had been doing, and to give those that might need more support some ideas, we went through each “post” and shared out some examples of responses.  Together we “graded” the responses by giving thumbs-up if all of the components were there.  Like I said before, this was a new step to my blogging process, but I’m really pleased with how it went and how excited they were about learning it!

The next day I gave them their first go at trying these newly acquired skills on someone else’s blogs.  Together with their partner (the same one as the previous day), they read blog posts and commented.  This day also add a separated but related lesson of its own: QR codes!  Since I knew that this would be a quick and easy way to get websites and other links to my kiddos, but since I also knew they hadn’t heard of them before, I introduced the concept as the way to get to the blogs we would be visiting.  Yep, a two-birds-one-stone situation. 🙂  They learned how to use the QR reader, how to find the site they were looking for and then also how to manipulate the interface of KidBlog.org itself (which would soon come into play as they saw their own KidBlog site!).

They had a great time and did a great job practicing their new commenting skills.  The downside?  The only links I could find to 1st Grade KidBlogs (at the time) were archived ones from classes that were not able to respond to the comments we left. 😦  Oh well, we got to practice on our end anyway, right?  🙂

Where in the World (Are You)? #wewanttofillupourmap

I have posted a picture much like this for the last several years:

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In the past, it’s been a much bigger map on a different wall (that wall is now our word wall so we had to use a different space), but it serves the same purpose: showing kids all of the connections they’re making on their blogs, Twitter and our class blogs.  It’s an amazing feeling to have people you don’t even know read your words and find them interesting enough to talk about.  And somehow this seems even more important and amazing for younger learners.

So I need your help!  When you read our blog, talk to us on Twitter , or comment on our Kid Blogs, could you please tell us where you’re from so we can add you to our map?  We’re excited to start seeing the connections that can be made!

First Grade Bloggers!–Part 2

I started our blogging story yesterday, with how I introduced the whole idea to my first graders.  Like I mentioned, they’re pros already!!

After we made our paper blogs, we were ready to talk about comments, and how the whole point of a blog in the first place is the conversation it starts.  We talked generally about how to comment, and then studied this document, another great resource I got from @mcteach.  It’s called the “Art and Aspirations of a Commenter,” and while I had to paraphrase much of it for 6-7yos, the idea still applies:

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.54.11 PMWe discussed what the parts of a comment were supposed to be, and then tried it on each others’ blogs.  Much like we do when we have a gallery walk in math or a writing celebration in writing, everyone laid out their blogs and kids read and wrote: one comment on each post-it, then post-its on paper posts.  Check out this amazing video to show how quiet and focused everyone was during this time.  Seriously.   Believe me.  It’s good stuff.

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So after that experience, our paper blogs looked like this:

These kids are picking up this whole blogging thing so fast and furiously!  Can’t wait to share the next step!  🙂

First Grade Bloggers!–Part 1

As with past years, I was SUPER EXCITED to get my kids blogging!  This year was no different, well except that my bloggers are only 6 and 7 years old, and they don’t have iPads yet, and most of them didn’t even know what a blog was when they started in Rm. 202.  Ok, so yeah…really different.  But my excitement to bring this experience to my students was no different–I just knew I’d have to figure out how to make it work for first graders.  I think I’ve figured it out, and thought I’d share my steps here.  Many are the same as in years past, but I’ve added in a few that are specific to younger learners.  Here we go!

As with years, past, I thought about starting our conversation with the question “What is a blog?”  Like I already mentioned, the background knowledge of my students was much less than previous (older) students.  I had to go all the way back to the beginning and be really explicit with what in the world I was talking about.  Luckily, we’ve been reading this blog since the beginning of the year, so that was a place to start.  But, because of my experience with blogging and the connections you can make from all over the world, I started there instead: Wouldn’t it be cool if people from ALL OVER THE WORLD could read what you write?  Wouldn’t it be cool if you could TALK to people you didn’t know from far away places?  This was the hook they needed.  Just the mention of all the people I know from other countries got my kiddos all giddy and ready to go.  So “go” we did!

This time around I needed a more visual way of explaining exactly what a blog is and how it is used, and so BrainPop Jr. came to the rescue with a video all about blogs (I should add that it’s actually my 2nd grader who told me this video existed.  He’s a big fan and watches lots of Brain Pop while he’s in the classroom waiting for me–which is alot!.  He said he knew there was a blogging video and I should try it with my kiddos.  Teacher in the making?  Thanks, Riley!).  It was great in how it told what a blog was, what the parts of a blog are, as well as about comments and some safety tips about what to do/not do online.   And since it’s short and familiar, it kept everyone’s attention.  Win-win. 🙂

After we watched the video, we looked at some other examples of blogs.  I shared many of the ones that I read, and we talked about what we noticed about how they’re laid out, what the theme is, what kinds of things are written on them, etc. (In case you’re wondering, here’s my list: Make It-Love It, I Heart Organizing, The Candy Blog (this one is actually not one I read, but my hubby does and I knew the kiddos would love it!), and Life with Lily (And Daisy and Caleb!).  I should have also included Weelicious (which was once a blog and is now more like a traditional website) and Im4Students (my teammates’ blog!), but I forgot until after we were done. 😦  You’ll have to be sure to check them out or use them when you teach about blogs!

It’s a wonder how they waited through all of that explanation and waited for me to explain their next steps, because, like I said, that were EXCITED to get started!  And speaking of next steps, the next part was for them to create their own blogs.  But on paper first (this is a technique I learned long ago as I started blogging and was learning from other teachers like Karen McMillan (@mcteach) and Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) who shared their resources online for others to use!).

One last thing before we got started: I showed them some examples from past years, and we created a chart to show what should be in our posts.

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I was SUPER IMPRESSED with how quickly they took to it!  They understood what to do, and did it effectively.  Here are some pics while we were working:

Come back soon for Part 2–comments!