March is a marathon! Educators who take on the Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) commit to 31 days of blogging, reading, and commenting on other blog posts. Educators who take on the Classroom SOLSC add a whole other layer to the challenge: Not only are they blogging and commenting themselves, they also set their students up to blog for 31 days, facilitate and encourage student blogging, and help connect their students to other classroom blogs. This was my third year in the Classroom SOLSC and it is hard work yet rewarding!
This year, our Spring Break began on March 29th, so the students finished out the challenge on their own. School resumes today, April 6th and my students and I will celebrate the end of the challenge together. At the start of the challenge, I shared a digital newsletter with parents to explain what it was all about. I also explained my badge reward system to parents here so they knew at the start of the challenge how students could earn a certificate and prizes.
Every student had a packet to keep track of the type of blog post written (review, poem, post of gratitude, object inspiration, or slice of life story) and the blogs they commented on that day. Each Tuesday, I would collect the packets and mark down the badges students earned. Now that the challenge has ended, I printed out the badge sheets for students who earned at least one badge. Here is an example for a student who earned all the badges:
Students who earned 5 badges will get a Certificate of Participation.
Students with 7 more more badges will be able to pick a prize from the basket I put together. The prizes include markers, journals, and new books.
I plan to ask the students to reflect on the Classroom SOLSC experience. If they blogged more this month, how did that go? Was it easy to find topics? Were the comments motivating? What was the best part of the experience? If they did not blog more and did not take part in the challenge, how come? I gave students some time in school to blog but also included paper in their packet in case technology was an issue at home. One of my students who blogged every day did it via paper. Everyone had the opportunity to participate and be part of the challenge, but many chose not to try to earn badges. I wonder why and will be interested to know their responses.
Here are some of my personal questions and reflections on blogging with students this March:
- We went into the challenge this year blogging less than we had in previous years. In previous years, I dedicated one period a week to blogging. This year, our third grade schedule changed with two period of Innovation Lab every week and Math Inquiry Lab every other week. There was less time dedicated to blogging. The challenge definitely brought new life and enthusiasm back to blogging.
- I still battle with myself over student conventions. Some students are not punctuating at all when blogging. I debate what to do because I want them to have ownership over their blogs and I don’t want it to feel like a school assignment. I don’t know why kids stop punctuating sentences sometimes when blogging and what the best way is to address this.
- Should I be more of a presence on our class blog page? In March, I’m writing my own posts on my personal blog, I’m taking on responsibilities for the Two Writing Teachers during the challenge, I’m reading and commenting on educator and student blog posts….it’s also my daughter’s birthday in March and report cards. I physically don’t think I can do more in March. Maybe in February I could draft some posts and then publish them in March so kids see me on the blog more. Do other teachers post often on their class blog?
- Only a couple of parents left comments on the blogs. Should I host a meeting to explain the challenge and get parents involved? Make a screencast to explain how to comment?
- One of my badges was for writing a review. Kids had no idea what this even was! I would love to teach a unit on writing reviews. But where do I fit this into my curriculum when that’s not a unit of study I’m required to teach and I can barely find the time to teach the required units?
- Is there a way to better marry my personal narrative writing unit with blogging? Students didn’t often use what we learned about personal narratives when writing their Slice of Life stories.
- Kids often write their blogs as if they are talking on a video….is that something to encourage or discourage?
- How can I encourage my students to have a wider authentic audience when the challenge ends? Should I reach out to other classes in the Classroom SOLSC to try for a longer-lasting partnership?
If you participated in the Classroom SOLSC this year, what are your biggest reflections and takeaways? If you did not participate this year, might you consider blogging with your students next year? (If not….why not?)