Blog Back To School: Cynthia Alaniz
On the first day of school in classrooms everywhere, teachers explain procedures, calm anxious students, and create excitement for the upcoming year. We also answer many, many questions such as, Where do we line up? Do we have homework? And how do we check out books? But in my classroom students will also ask, What is a blog?
I began my foray into classroom blogging last year, so the lessons are new for me, too. After a full school year of independent study, reading tech tips, and maintaining a weblog, I am now more familiar with blogging and the lessons I now must incorporate into my usual beginning-of-the-year list. Blogging has had a great impact on my instruction. Because I have seen its power to generate excitement among nine-year-olds, I incorporate this Web 2.0 tool daily.
My classroom blog helps me build a classroom community. I use it to communicate with parents, and to promote literacy, develop writing skills, and enhance content knowledge. We recap our learning of the day, making it available to students who are absent, or those who need clarification. We respond to books, comment on topics, and share our learning. One Web tool has so many uses!
But as with any other tech tool, I must model its use. I first teach how to access our blog from a link on my school webpage. Once I show my students how to access the blog, I have them create bookmarks to it on our iPod Touches. (With the help of a QR code posted right outside my door, the blog is accessible to any parent, staff member, or guest with a smartphone.)
After showing students how to access, I introduce its features. Here I use terms such as post, comment, sidebar, and blog archive. For some, this will be the first experience with a blog. I show that a post can be various lengths, can incorporate links and pictures, and may have one author or several. Above all, a post must be interesting!
On the first day of school, we will write a post together, and I will compose in front of them, modeling my process and thinking. (As a writing teacher, I have ulterior motives. Blogging helps me nurture voice, create excitement about composing, and offer topic choice.) As we chronicle events, procedures, and science experiments, our blog becomes our own digital notebook---one that doesn’t tear, wrinkle, or stain. I will unashamedly and unabashedly use our blog to teach revision, idea, process, and organization.
Our blog will extend our shared physical space into a virtual one. Together, the students will write, edit, and maintain the blog as a shared, co-authored publication. Our learning goes beyond the calendar, beyond the clock, and beyond the four walls of our classroom.