Sunday, February 27, 2011

Comments...A Conversation

Image: 'Conversation'

Edublog's Student Blogging Activity 3 is about teaching quality commenting to student bloggers.  What is a quality comment?  Why is it important to teach this skill?

Comments are the life of a blog and a connection to the world.  Without comments, a blog is nothing more than a journal.  With comments, a blog becomes a conversation.  The quality of the comments determines the quality of the conversation.  Comments should explain a connection made to the writer's thoughts, add new information about the topic, and/or ask a question to continue to the conversation.

Writing comments is like any other genre of writing; it must be taught to students through modeling and guided practice.  Ms. Edwards' from What Else has a great motto about commenting that sums up the importance of quality commenting:  "A blog comment is your footprint...a path back to you...prepare your path wisely."

As part of the instruction process, I created my very first glog "Writing Quality Comments." 

How do you teach quality commenting to your students?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Six Words - Student Edition

It's finally here.  Snow delayed the creation but nothing could stop the creativity of the wonderful students I have the privilege to interact with on a daily basis.  Throughout our elementary building, students wrote six words stories (after their teachers modeled the process...see their stories here).  Some grades wrote stories about themselves and some wrote stories based on a picture.  They were FABULOUS!  I created a video with samples from each grade level (kindergarten through 7th grade).  ENJOY!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A New Journey Begins

I was sad to finish the last Edublogs blogging challenge, but it prepared me for this challenge, which will hopefully get me ready to blog with my students.  I now have two blogs:  Thinking Out Loud is my personal blog and Blogging to Learn will be my class blog.

I want to use my class blog to introduce blogging to the teachers I work with.  I want to figure out the ins and outs of blogging with students before I introduce it to the staff.  I can't ask my teachers to try something that I haven't tried.  I have chosen to work with one of the 6th grade classes once (more likely twice) a week.  I purchased a Pro account with Edublogs because the ads are taken out and (hopefully) adding student blogs is easy.  I set the class blog up with bare minimum, which will change as I work with the class and they decide what the class blog with look like.

The journey continues with the help of a challenge...
At the moment, I am struggling with what to have my students blog about.  Right now, I am thinking about having them share the work they are producing in their classes.  Today, I observed a writing class creating persuasive paragraphs.  The students had to convince the students in the class that their group's candy was better.  Each group had a different candy - Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Starburst, and Snickers.  I am thinking that they could blog their persuasive paragraph and pair it with a Glog for a visual.

I have been visiting other class blogs and want to highlight some of the aspects I will share with my class:
  • Huzzah! 
    • "Please notice our successes, not our mistakes. Our blog is a invitation to see what we are up to. Some of our work will be polished, and some will be in draft form. Please honour our attempts."
      • I like the focus on attempts.  I don't believe everything written should be in polished form because some things are only thoughts.  Also, students are at varying levels of command of blogging and all that it entails.  Attempts should be celebrated.
    • Commenting Guidelines
      • I plan to bring my students here to share their guidelines as we develop our own.
  • Mr. Salsich's Class
    • Blog Guidelines and How to Comment
      • Another place for mentor examples of blogging and commenting guidelines
    • Format of blog posts
      • He does a great job of embedding media and providing questions at the end of the blog posts to give visitors ideas for comments.

I am going to continue to visit class blogs to find great "mentor text" examples to share with my students.  I am hoping this challenge will also provide great class blogs to visit.

Image Attribution:
Image: 'Compass'

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Believe, I Care...Do You?

Listening to the video the first time, I thought of how I sometimes feel about my students: students don't care, don't want to read, and are only worried about what's on the outside. Then as the message is read backwards, I remember that there is more to my students than I sometimes give them credit for. By finding the right book, the right moment to have a conversation, the right place to show that I care for them, I can see the real person hidden beneath the indifference. As a teacher, I have to keep trying to find the core of that student. Sometimes I am the only one who believes that my student does have something wonderful to contribute to society. If I don't care, who will? If I don't believe, who will?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Avatars

In the process of creating a series of lesson plans designed to help students create a blog, I began looking for different avatar creators to give my students a range of options to express themselves.  In the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge, I wrote about two avatar creators:  Lego and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  See my post here.

I found each of the following options easy to use.  I used a screen-shot to save the avatars (except for Clay Yourself).

Clay Yourself

Become a M&M


Build Your Wild Self


M&M, Clay Yourself, and Grabbabeast introduced on the The Whiteboard Blog.  @ncarroll24 tweeted Build Your Wild Self and Manga.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The End of a Challenge...the Beginning of a Blog

Image: 'Virtuality in the Clouds'

As the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge wraps up, I am sad to see the challenges end but excited about what I have learned and how my blog will continue to grow and be improved based on what I have learned.

Blogging has opened up a whole new world.  I have been introduced to fabulous bloggers who have interesting and relevant things to share.  Here is a list of some of the reflections on the challenges that have really spoken to me about making connections:
  • Kevin's Meandering Mind "Dear Reader, We Write the Book of our Times"
    • Writing a poem to your readers is a very unique way to connect, especially with the author reading the poem to you. I love Kevin's concept of "writing the book of our times" together through reading each others blogs and commenting to add to the story.  Without the reader and the reader making a connection through commenting, the story is incomplete.
  • Russell's Classroom Blog Board "My blog - teaching tool or voice to the world?"
    •  Russell questioned what the purpose of his blog was to be in the future after participating in the Teacher Challenge and if there was a reason to build an audience.  Then he shared what he learned and how he connected to a wider world: role models provided by other bloggers, positive feedback gained in comments, and the countless things he learned from other bloggers.  Without that connection, where would his blog have been?  I truly believe that a blog grows because of the feedback given by its readers.  I hope my readers continue to provide that vital service.
  • Britt Gow's Technoscience "Building your Personal Learning Network, not just your readership"
    •  Britt's post made me think about what I wanted from my blog in regards to PLN.  I believe that by building a readership, I build my PLN.  My readers are the perfect people to network with and learn from.  They provide a different viewpoint, another way to use what I am writing about, and stories about how it did or didn't work in their classrooms/schools/lives.  Without my readers, I wouldn't grow personally or professionally.

Content Learned
Not only have I met new people, I have learned more than I could have dreamed.  As a beginning blogger, I knew virtually nothing about the ins and outs of blogging.  My blog was just a place to put resources but now it is growing into a place to share and reflect on how I (or the teachers I work with) use those resources.  I wish that I could share what I have learned from this challenge as well as the following bloggers did:
I end the Teacher Challenge with a word cloud (created a Tagxedo) of all the posts I tagged #ksyb.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Power of Six Words

In January, our Book of the Month strategy was 6 Word Stories.  I was first introduced to 6 Word Stories when I found this video from SMITHmag (does have a few memoirs that are adult-oriented) on VIMEO.  If you want to show a video to a class, here is one geared towards teenagers:  Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure.  Then I later found our book of the month on Chets Creek Elementary Wiki (in Florida, USA) and they used 6 Word Stories as their strategy (January 2010) that month also.

The assignment I gave to the teachers had them create a six word story about themselves, which I then incorporated into a video using Animoto, which is a great tool I learned about in the Kick Start Your Blogging Teacher Challenge Activity 6.  Secondly, teachers were to have students create stories/memoirs.  In the younger grades, they had the option to give students a picture and then create a story from that picture.  Stories are not due until the end of this week (Feb. 11).  Then I am going to create another video that features the student work.  Kindergarten and first grade already have their work posted in the hallway and it is fabulous.  I have seen fourth and fifth graders working on the picture that they want to put with their memoirs.  I observed a class of seventh graders creating their memoirs...WOW! is all I can say.  I will post student video soon.

To use or not use...Widgets

Before Activity 7 (Kick Start Your Blogging), I had played around with the sidebar and widgets.  Let's take a "widget walk" through my blog...kinda like a "picture walk" before a read aloud.

The tour begins with my Voki.  The first time I created my Voki I used a computer generated voice. However, in an effort to show more of a personality, I went back and recorded the message using my own voice.  I hope it encourages visitors to leave comments.  I am definitely guilty of reading and moving on.  One of my blogging goals this year is to leave meaningful comments on the blogs that I follow.  I want to join in the conversation.

Next stop:  Subscribe.  Based on the recommendations of in Activity 7, I added a Feedburner subscribe widget.  Following the directions from Sue Waters, it was easily accomplished.  I also added Subscribe by Email option for those that don't use a Reader.  (My favorite Reader is Google Reader because I can get all the posts from my favorite blogs and Twitter in one place.)

As the tour progresses, Labels is in sight.  Labels:Blogger:Tags:Edublogs.  I really like Labels because it lets me see what I am writing most about.  It is also easy to find all the posts on subject in one click.  Sometimes I feel that I have the memory of a goldfish, so I can remember what I wrote.  Labels makes it easy to find.

Everyone, please look below and you will see "Blog Archives."  The stand out here is that I can see that I wrote more posts in January 2011 than I wrote in the whole year of 2010 and only two less than the entire year of 2009.  I have come a long way through the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge.

Next stop is "Human Calendar."  As I read comments for Activity 7, I noticed many people didn't have much use for a Calendar widget.  Human Calender is on my sidebar purely for my entertainment.  I can never remember the date and now I can see it in an interesting fashion.  I can't remember the blog where I first saw the human calendar.  If you use the human calender, please, leave a comment and tell me why you decided to use it.

We are closing in on the end of our tour (three widgets left) with a stop at My Blog Roll.  This is the place that I like showcase the wonderfully informative blogs that I have found and like to read.  If you have a recommendation, please leave a comment.

Next is Followers.  I am fortunate to have two and it really warms my heart to know that someone out there cares enough to read what I am thinking.

Last stop on our journey is ClustrMaps.  I found this widget through Activity 7 and have seen it on many blogs.  Again it is gratifying to know that people all over the world are stopping by.  It makes the world not seem like such a big place.  Thanks to all those who visit.

What widgets to do find useful on your blog?


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