Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cheap Thrills: Using Kidblog to Power Up Reading Responses

Getting kids to respond thoughtfully to higher-order thinking questions in book club discussions isn't all that hard. Sure, it takes some training, some modeling, but once you get them engaged in the conversations, the kids really take off. In fact, after a bit, you get in the way.

Writing the thoughts out in a well-constructed response? Yeah. Not so much.

Since I'm sending the kiddos off to middle school next year, and I know, having once been a middle school ELA teacher, how annoying it is when their responses are, at best, shallow, and, at worst, incomprehensible, I really want them to hone this skill. Unfortunately, as much as they love to talk about their reading, they acted like getting it down on paper was cruel and unusual punishment.

Then I found Kidblog.

The platform is extremely easy to use, for both the kids and for me. We had tried working with edublogs, but found it very cumbersome. There's a bit of a learning curve as the kids figure out how to navigate their dashboards, but most catch on quickly, and everyone else, wanting to show off their computing chops (and, thus, making the computer geek kids the coolest kids in the room) love to pitch in and help. Kidblog is also very secure, with nothing - no posts, no comments - being posted without my approval. We can invite people outside of our class to join and access our pages, but the world at large can be safely locked out. The basic package, all you really need, is free. Yup. Free. If you want to drop $25 a year, the kids can customize their pages

Suddenly, reading responses were their favorite thing to do! Score!

Here's a post one of my boys, a just-graduated-from-ESL student did this winter:

We use our blogs in content areas, too. Discussing ideas across our blogs is an easy way to make 'getting it' fun. Here, the kids wrote about William Lloyd Garrison:

Oh, and you'll notice that the kids have funny names.Another online safety measure I use is to assign them new names that we use for everything from blogs to IXL. These came from a blues name generator I found on Google. I think next year we'll go with the unicorn name generator. 

For the small amount of effort put into setting them up, the blogs have had a big payoff. As you can see, I sprang for the snazzy pages, but it really isn't necessary. 

One of my goals for setting up these blogs was to post badges that they earned in math to them. Edublogs promised that I'd be able to link in with Classbadges and it would be easy. It wasn't. Getting that sorted will be one of my goals for this summer.

Here's a nifty freebie I whipped up to help kids plan blog posts and comments along with a rubric for grading responses: Find it here!

As the year draws to a close, you might find a little time to play with the idea. If you're a bit of a technophobe, you can get help from the kids you already know and who already think you rock. Lets you save face next year, when you're in front of a new batch! 

Happy blogging,

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