Thinking Ahead to April and the Classroom SOLSC

I’ll ‘fess up. I was the one pushing for the Classroom SOLSC to make a move out of March. While I loved that my students and I were both blogging each day and taking on the challenge simultaneously, the March SOLSC is no joke. As a member of the Two Writing Teachers team, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work happening to make the challenge run seamlessly for the participants. In addition to that work and blogging myself for 31 day, the extra effort that went into launching the Classroom SOLSC (and keeping up with reading and responding to kids posts in my class and in other classes) was daunting. I know there was mixed feelings about the Classroom SOLSC making a move, but I hope that educators will give it a shot this year. As educators do, the Two Writing Teachers team will reflect and revisit where the best month is for the Classroom SOLSC.

In the meantime, February break is here for me and it is the perfect time to plan ahead for the April Classroom SOLSC. Last year, I reflected in this post on how the challenge went for my students and I recently reread it. These were my thoughts from last year (in orange italics) and my plan for improvement this year.

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.

This year:

Time is still a factor and I haven’t had a dedicated class period for blogging. I’ve encouraged students to blog after they settle in before our day officially starts and have also given time for the students to blog after special class events like a field trip or assembly. By doing more blogging with my students in March to prepare for April, I’m hoping they will be stronger bloggers and more in the habit of regularly writing on their blogs.

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.

This year:

I plan to talk with students about how publishing their blog posts is different from drafting in a notebook. There is a little more work they have to do to send their piece of writing out into the world for others to read and comment upon. We are beginning a personal narrative unit of writing and it’s the perfect time to make connections to our blog posts (which are often personal narratives). Blog posts should have a hook sentence and end with a powerful wrap-it-up sentence, just like other pieces of writing we have learned. A catchy title helps you draw in readers. Organizing your thoughts into paragraphs helps your reader understand your message. And, yes, making sure you have capital letters, punctuation, and checking your spelling makes your writing more polished. I created a checklist and plan to teach into each item as we prepare for April.

(Click the checklist for your own printable copy.)

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?

This year:

Ah….problem solved! Now that the Classroom SOLSC in moving to April, I can write some of my own March blog posts with an eye to sharing them with my students in April. In April, I will have more time to blog alongside my students here and there. I will have a wealth of posts to select from that I could re-publish on our class blog site. Please share in the comments if you are a teacher who blogs with your students- how active are you on their class blog page? Do you write your own posts often or mostly monitor/comment on student posts? 

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?

This year:

With more time to plan this year, I’d like to create a parent’s guide to the Classroom SOLSC. This will probably come in the form of a video (screencast). Maybe my students can make blogging cards (like business cards) to share with their friends and family prior to the challenge starting!  I am envisioning the card having a QR code and a link to our class blog page. I can send these to administrators in my school district to try to get more readers and comments for the students. 

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?

This year:

This is still a tricky one. With more time to prepare for the challenge, I plan to model a few review posts for students. I will show them how writers can review restaurants, books, movies, videos, toys, etc. While it isn’t a full unit on this type of writing, hopefully modeling reviews and showing them the different components of a review will help some of them give it a whirl!

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.

This year:

I think teaching personal narratives through blogging is such a natural connection and motivating for students! I plan to incorporate blogging into this unit this year! I want to help students transfer what they are learning about good writing to their blog writing.

Kids often write their blogs as if they are talking on a video….is that something to encourage or discourage?

This year:

Perhaps that problem will be solved by thinking about the sentence that hooks the reader and the craft of personal narrative writing. If students want their blog post to sound like they are greeting their viewers, I think that is okay. (Voice!)

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?

This year:

The blogging cards suggested above might help students to share their blogs with friends and family. I can share our class blog with more teachers and administrators in my school district. I would love to form partnerships with other classes who blog and will look to build more connections this year.

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Change isn’t always easy or comfortable and the move to April might feel different for educators who have been taking on the Classroom SOLSC for many years now. I am using this extra month to improve how I’ve led the Classroom SOLSC and to make it a more meaningful experience for students. I plan to use the March SOLSC to grow personally as a writer and also to reflect. How can the experience of blogging lead to lessons that will help students to grow as bloggers, too?

How are you preparing for the April Classroom SOLSC?