Twenty one third graders gathered near my rocking chair as I announced our writing challenge. We’d been blogging together as a class since September, mostly on Tuesdays where we would blog about a “slice of life.” I excitedly explained we would have the chance to blog every single day in March and earn badges for our writing. The badges earned would translate to Class Dojo points (1 point per badge), a certificate (if 5 badges were earned), and they would be eligible for prizes if they earned 10 more more badges. I gave them a packet that had all the badges listed and included a place to write down the name of their blog posts, check off the type of post it was, and the names of other blogs in which they commented. This was the system I came up with to organize the awarding of badges. I would collect the packets each Thursday and check off what badges students earned, then digitally place them on a document I created for each student.
I created a Smore newsletter for the parents, announcing the challenge and giving them information on how they could comment on posts. And then we were off…
Anytime you try something new, there will be lessons learned. The Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) was an ambitious endeavor for my third graders, but a very worthwhile one. As I reflect on the experience, I consider the successes, the difficulties and ways to improve upon what I started this year.
- Almost all of the students blogged more than they normally do, during a regular month.
- 15/21 students earned at least 5 badges.
- 5 students earned 10 more more badges and received prizes. Prizes included inspirational journals, books, Lego pens, a stuffed animal Love Monster, and stickers.
- Several students blogged over the weekend and over spring break.
- I learned more about the students by reading their posts, strengthening our relationship and our classroom community.
- The students felt a lot of pride about completing the challenge.
- I was surprised by the effort put forth by some students. One student in particular was an English language learner and received both math and reading support- a student you might typically describe as “struggling.” This student blogged almost every day and took great pride in writing longer posts. She shared her love of animals and would blog on the weekends about the swimming class she was taking. She told one of her support teachers about being a “blogger” and clearly identified herself in this way.
- Students were excited and motivated to earn badges.
- I created a blog page on my class website to share student posts each day, but found it very time consuming to link each student’s post to his/her name each day. I saw other teachers had students post their blogs in the comment section of their class blog page, but since I had to approve all the Kidblog posts before they became public, I wasn’t sure how to do this more efficiently.
- Students would have enjoyed getting their badges in real time and seeing them on a piece of paper. I wanted to avoid all the cutting and pasting of badges so I kept it all digitally and then printed out badge sheets at the end. Looking back on this, I think it would have been better to give the students the badge as they earned it.
- Several students lost track of their blogging packet or stopped writing in it.
- Only a few parents commented on blog posts and only now and then.
- Some students spent a lot of time selecting images and less time on the writing.
My class reflected on our experience with the blogging challenge and students told me what they enjoyed, what they disliked, and ideas for next year. Here are a few of my ideas for improving upon what I started this year:
- Possibly hold a parent meeting before the Classroom SOLSC begins to explain the challenge and show parents how to join Kidblog and comment. I was also thinking of creating a screencast or a video, showing step by step how to join Kidblog as a guest and then comment on a post. I could share this video with parents and keep it on our class webpage as a reference.
- Spotlight more student blog posts as mentor texts for students to show how to write longer, how to find topics, and how to ask a question of your readers that might lead to more comments.
- Discuss with students how to use their time wisely when blogging and how images can enhance a post but shouldn’t take up the bulk of the blogging time.
- Design a system where students can get a badge as soon as they earn it.
- Add more levels of badges and more categories (my students’ suggestions!)
- Create more opportunities for students to discover ideas or topics. For students who are stuck for ideas, have a jar full of different writing prompts on colorful paper. Keep a running list of topic ideas for classmates who feel they’ve run out of things to say.
Challenges are just that- they are challenging! Blogging with third graders for thirty one days was not easy, but it led to excitement, growth, and helped some of my students really see themselves as writers. The class across the hall from us recently started blogging, so I asked my students to offer them some advice now that they are seasoned bloggers.
Deb Frazier wrote a fantastic post about her first graders’ experience with the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge and her collaboration with Michelle Haseltine’s 6th graders. If you participated in the Classroom SOLSC, please share your experience and any lessons you learned along the way in the comments!