Starting a Class Blog + Freebies
Blogging has made it big in the world of education. Here’s a start-up guide for setting up your own class blog plus two free student blogging posters.
Choosing a Platform
There are many free blog hosts out there on the Web, and based on my experience most of them are equally good. WordPress and Blogger are among the biggest names. Both offer free blogging and a variety of templates and widgets to “dress up” your blog. If you already have a Google account, then getting started on Blogger is a piece of cake (it’s a Google application). I like both of these for personal and professional blogging, but I use a different platform for my own class blog.
Edublogs hosts my class blog. Like WordPress and Blogger, it offers free blogging but also has optional upgrades for special features that may benefit your classroom. One thing I like about Edublogs is that you can keep it secure from the public. If you want your class blog and student posts to remain private, you can apply that option. The interface makes it really easy for students to comment and post, and I like that the platform generally has an education theme.
Edmodo also has an education theme. Students enjoy it for its clear resemblance to Facebook. If your blog is going to serve as more of a classroom website, this might be a good option for you.
Like any new technology you introduce in your classroom, students need to be taught how to properly use blogs. Blogging is easy for students. It doesn’t take long before they are good at it.
Clear classroom expectations need to be set beforehand, and I like to have students take part in this. As a class, we create a list of blogging expectations, and I help my students with some of the “big hitters” I know we can’t miss.
Create a poster of these expectations, and review them with your students the first few times you blog in class.
Teach your students how to demonstrate “digital citizenship,” and make sure to review your students’ posts and check for bullying and other inappropriate commentary. Tell students that they are responsible for anything they post. If your blog is public, remind students that their posts can be seen by anyone.
The best thing about starting a class blog is that it can serve many purposes in your classroom. Many teachers use blogs as an extension of learning.
Linking photos, videos, articles, and other online sources connected to your classroom content can help students make connections to their own lives. This is how I started blogging in my classroom. The blog provided an extension to our daily curriculum, and my students were practicing higher-level thinking skills.
My students have enjoyed using our class blog. It is a forum for them to communicate with one another and form opinions. One blog activity has allowed my students to read, write, question, and develop key 21st century skills, all while being highly engaged.
Model good commenting
If students are new to blogs, they will likely need you to model high-quality blog commenting. I like to share other blogs with my students and go through examples of good and bad commenting.
I also provide my middle school students with blogging sentence starters. This provides scaffolding by starting out their first sentence and opening up the door for a higher-quality and more detailed response.
Blogs can also serve as an assessment tool. If your students have access to a laptop, netbook, iPad, or even an iPod touch, your blog can immediately become an individual response system.
At the end of class, give students an “exit ticket” question and have them answer by leaving a blog comment. When all students have responded, project the thread on the board and reflect on high-quality responses with your class.
Because blogs are easy to construct and modify, they also make for excellent classroom “websites” with links to important documents, homework calendars, and forums for parent communication. Check out my article on classroom wikis for more ideas regarding this topic.
Starting a class blog is quick and easy. To see what other tech-savvy educators are doing out there, visit Scholastic’s list of the top 20 teacher blogs. More resources are listed below.