Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Find a way to help your elementary students connect digitally to various websites quickly and efficiently, when you share a cart of chrome books with other classes, therefore only having access to the technology during certain times of the day?
For me, there is no other choice than to accept integrating digital resources and means of expression in my third grade classroom. Digital writing increases student motivation and excitement for writing, and digital resources are a vital part of learning for all of us. But how do we do this? Time is of the essence in school, and asking third graders to type in long url addresses each and every time I want them to get to a site is, well, sort of a nightmare. (Picture yourself rushing around the room, frantically trying to help students who have missed a number in a string of digits when they attempted to copy a url address.)
Friends, there is a better way!
I first learned of the idea of a “class hub” in the summer of 2015, when I participated in #CyberPD. #CypberPD is a group of educators who discuss a professional book in an online community during the month of July. That summer, the book we studied was Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by Franki Sibberson and William Blass II. It was during this time that I read a blog post by Cathy Mere, entitled “DigLit Sunday: Have a Hub.” Merriam-Webster defines a “hub” as “a center of activity.” Cathy’s post made so much sense to me, yet it was still a big “Aha! Moment” as Oprah used to say. I could see how younger students would benefit greatly from a classroom hub: a website where common places they go online are easily accessible. Cathy described how a hub can centralize links, build connections, and inform parents. She recommended Weebly as a great website to use as a classroom hub, and based on her recommendation, I created my class website, our hub. As I explore different ways to use digital tools in the classroom, I’ve found a class website, or hub, to be absolutely necessary and indispensable to me as a teacher. As I grow as a third grade teacher, I see new ways to use this class hub to support my students as writers. Here are some ways a class hub can really help:
- Important Class Sites: On this page, I have a Symbaloo of resources, including Kidblog, where my class blogs. Students do not have to type in a long url- they are able to find my class site through links on the district webpage, which means they are clicking and not typing (this is very helpful for third graders!). Not only can they access Kidblog, they can access other sites for young writers, such as Sharing Our Notebooks and The Poem Farm by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and Write With Jess, videos for students about writing by Jess Keating. I am hoping to add more resources for student writers.
- Parent Resources: One section of the class hub is for parents and includes helpful resources. Melanie Meehan‘s recent post included a list of ideas for parents and caregivers to support children as writers. While it is helpful to have this list posted in schools as part of a writing bulletin board, having the list as part of your class hub makes it accessible and easy to find if you lose the paper copy.
- Flipping Writing Instruction: Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul describe the idea of “flipping” writing instruction in their book Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. This book is on my “to be read” list, but I understand the basic concept behind flipping your instruction. The idea is to create a video of one of your lessons, which students can watch on their own, in a small group, or at home with a parent. Creating these videos allows the teacher to almost be in two places at once. I recently created my first “flipped” writing video. I have a few students who struggle to find a topic to write about, despite all the lessons we’ve done about ways to find ideas for writing. I created a video lesson and posted it on my class hub. In this way, my students can easily access this video and go back to it any time. Parents can also watch the video for a better understanding of how students are supposed to find topics. During writing workshop last week, I asked 2 students to go to the back computer and I pulled up the video for them. Both students were expressing they didn’t know what to write about, so I asked them to watch the video and I would check back with them to see what ideas they could try. After watching the video, both students were ready with an idea and could return to writing. I am eager to make more videos to help support my student writers.
- Padlet: I love the versatility of Padlet, and often use it as a way for students to share their ideas digitally. But how do you share the link with your students when you do not have 1:1 devices at all times? For me, a class hub allows me to put the link to the Padlet on a page students can easily access. Writing on Padlet is another way to sneak in some more writing during the day, to encourage students to reflect and show their thinking in a low-stakes, yet motivating way. This Padlet shows what students thought of an assembly with author Trudy Ludwig who visited our school this month.
- Teacher as Writer: The class hub allows me to share some of my writing and beliefs with the students and the parents. In the About Mrs. Sokolowski section, I include links to my Two Writing Teachers posts, as well as a poem I wrote about what I believe about teaching and learning. Professional presentations are also linked here, and a video I created to help students get to know me before school started. By including this, I hopefully send a message to my students and their families that I believe in the importance of writing and I make writing a part of my life as a teacher.
So much of the digital writing I do with students depends upon a class hub we can start from, a place that houses all our important links and information. Creating a class hub was one of the best things I’ve done as a teacher. I am excited to keep adding to the site, making it a vibrant and essential place for my students and their families to visit. What are your thoughts and ideas around a class hub for student writers?