Blogging in Guided Reading time

IMG_3337Children in Magpie Class use time within their Guided Reading time every morning to blog about their learning over the last week. They also use this time to leave comments on each other’s blog posts.

Children are really engaged and motivated at being able to write about what they want to write about and to share something interesting they’ve done or learnt recently.

Evidencing subject learning using blogs

A brainwave that we had this week is about using tags on our blogs to evidence learning in different subjects. Through a quick click, you can then find all blog posts across all class blogs relating to your subject. This should help with subject coordinator monitoring, evidencing, etc.

If you go to http://manorprimary.net/ you will now see a “Global Site Tags” box at the bottom on the right hand column. These show the 100 (the maximum) most popular tags across all class blogs. You’ll see that some classes are urged to tag more than others!

If you click on any of these tags it will show you all posts from all class blogs with that tag. A few of examples are

If each class blog aims for children to add something related to a particular foundation subject when it’s appropriate then we will begin to build up a really easily accessible bank of evidence to help us all.

The tags aren’t case-sensitive (pe is the same as PE) but they will distinguish between PE and P.E., etc. As such I’d suggest keeping things as simple as possible: Art, Computing, DT, English, French, Geography, Maths, Music, PE, PSHE, RE, Science.

Tags are really easy to add while you’re blogging and can be done by adults or children. On the right hand side when you’re writing a new post, you just type in tag name and click add. Once they become more common on that blog, they will appear beneath the box to click.

 

 

Using current affairs as a stimulus

Each week we get a stack of copies of First News newspapers delivered to school. One of the features in it is a weekly Poll on a different topic in the news.

Miss James, teacher of year 5 children in Magpie Class, has found that these discussion areas have really engaged her children. She said:

Some children in my class were reluctant to write for other prompts before. We’ve found that by using something real to them, which they can relate to, and has been in the news, that they see much more of a purpose to writing now.

When they come into school in the morning, we often hear children carrying on conversations about who said what on the blog debate and using it as a way to share their ideas and views on the world. It’s really inspiring to see this from children who previously weren’t that motivated about writing!

The blog debates so far are below. You can see that engagement (by numbers of comments) has increased steadily as more and more children are getting engaged.

 

Free images for your blog

The-Ultimate-Guide-to-e1415831158352[1]Some images can be protected which prevent their use elsewhere, or at least require attribution. We’ve been pointed in the direction of this helpful list of The Ultimate List of Free Stock Images for Your Blog Posts — No Attribution Required!

Thoughts on how to use images on your blog…

  • Simply as decoration! Like the image on the right, it doesn’t add any value to the post apart from making it look a bit nicer. An easy place to start (if the image is relevant to the content!), but not a good place to end…
  • Brainstorming vocabulary. Works best if there is an image which fits with the lesson already – use it as a a quick activity to get creative juices flowing. Start with some of our suggested online resource sites like Padlet or Lino to add post-it notes around the image. Useful to then pick up later in the lesson.
  • Write about my picture. Similar to the old image prompts – either as a standalone/cold activity, or having built up to it with some shared work. This is easily seen within fiction writing but can also lend itself to some great non-fiction writing including non-chronological reports, journalistic writing, etc. It could be that only some children or some groups have this as their task while others do a similar task in other ways.
  • Talk about my picture. A more supported idea from the one above. Could be useful for children who need to build their confidence about their writing. By using AudioBoom they can record up to 10 minutes (they won’t need anywhere near that much!) of them speaking about what they could say about the picture. This could be having planned some notes first, or could be a recording of a conversation in a pair or small group to capture all of their ideas. The AudioBoom recording then gets uploaded for you to embed in your blog.
  • Improve my writing. Editing skills are much-needed and finding different ways to approach this area is important. You can put up some of your writing which needs editing. This can be differentiated either by separate posts or within the same post – for example some focusing on capital letters and full stops, others looking to improve vocabulary choices, and others with a more intricate set of success criteria to apply. The children can copy and paste your writing into their comment box then improve it from there.
  • Real shared writing. We’re all used to doing shared/guided/group writing which is often led by a teacher with a flip chart taking ideas from the children to create a similar piece of work. Collaborating online through Google Docs is a way to encourage all children to be involved in the writing at the same time. More information is online here, here, here and other places.
  • There are bound to be other ways to use images that you discover. Comment and let us know!

Children taking responsibility for blogging

magpie41489[1]This morning I was talking to Miss James, teacher of the wonderful Year 5 Magpie Class, about how some of her children have been using their class blog.

She was explaining how some of her children have been really motivated by a few aspects of blogging…

 

Writing for an audience and for a purpose

Rather than only ever writing for the “audience of one“, Miss James has found that more and more of her children have thrown themselves into blogging because of writing for a real audience. This has made a difference to their attitudes towards learning, and particularly writing.

The children have been able to combine blogging to support their learning rather than being a separate activity. For example as a class they’ve been looking at the concept of ‘fame’, different famous people through time, and used their class blog to share their knowledge and thoughts with the world.

 

Attention to detail

with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility-spider-man[1]For one or two children, Miss James has used the blog as a tool to support them focusing on syntax details like capital letters, spelling and punctuation. These children have been responsible for checking blog posts and comments alongside Miss James before they approve them together. She can see how the additional responsibility of “checking” other people’s writing has helped them to take greater responsibility for these areas of details in their own writing.

After a bit more practice and support, we could well be looking at children taking “author” level responsibility for publishing their own posts and comments directly. Of course as Spiderman knows, with great power comes great responsibility!

Using Skype to break down classroom walls

skype[1]We have found Skype to be a brilliant way to break down classroom walls and help our children to experience more than they would normally be able to. There are many positive uses for Skype within learning, but a couple we have found brilliant have been…


 

Skype Classroom

Skype Classroom is a way to connect a group of children with an expert somewhere else in the world. We’ve used it to connect with two experts so far…

Sharks4Kids

As part of our Deadly60 topic, children in Foundation and Key Stage 1 took part in a Skype Classroom call with @Sharks4Kids from Florida

Crane Class blogged about the experience here.

Betty Birney

Seizing an offer from Betty Birney (author of The World According To Humphrey series of books) to host Skype Classrooms. She spoke with Heron Class about her experience of being an author, her inspirations for writing, and how the children could think about life as a writer.

 


Mystery Skype

Mystery Skype is like an online game of ‘Guess Who’! By asking closed ‘Yes/No’ questions of the other class, you need to work out where in the world they are. We arranged the connections through the Mystery Skype website and on Twitter, which was sometimes tricky to negotiate time zones!

We’ve run a number of Mystery Skype sessions with Kingfisher Class. The first of these we blogged about here. We’ve connected with classes in Australia, Mexico and Greece.

As a teacher, getting children to understand the context of geography is really difficult. Many of our children don’t go abroad and have no points of reference for where different things are in the world. Before doing these Mystery Skype sessions, our children would never have seen a real purpose in knowing the vocabulary of how to describe different features.

For example they would never had known what a hemisphere is, how to describe the positions relating to north/south/east/west, identifying different mountains and lakes, etc. The competitive racing element of Mystery Skype meant that they were hugely motivated to get to the answer before the other class!

Mr Lathia, Kingfisher Class Teacher

Commenting… as easy as 1, 2, 3

Today, the blogging expert David Mitchell has blogged on good comments which echo our own post from last month.

A copy of David’s blog post is below:


Open Hardware Summit 2010, Hall of Science, Queens, NY, USAI’ve been on a mission for 4 years now to bring blogging to as many teachers and pupils as possible. In fact, I’ve devoted my professional life to this. If I’m being really honest, I’ve devoted much of my personal life to this aim too. One of the ways in which I try to engage teachers is by inspiring them with real stories of transformational learning through writing for a genuine audience. There are a number of ways in which your pupils will know that they have an audience wider than just you. Firstly, you can use a revolving globe on your blog from Revolvermaps.com. This is a visual representation that instantly shows who’s visiting.. You can also have a flag counter from Flagcounter.com. This tracks the visitors and collects the flags of the nations that have visited your class blog. These two sites are probably the finest resources out there for a class bloggers – I’d even go as far as saying that they are essential if your class blog is to succeed!

However, there is a forgotten element of class blogging.. People talk about them, people ask for them and children love them, BUT too many teachers overlook the potential of COMMENTS as formative assessment. Too often they think the point of blogging is in publishing the story without realising that the important bit comes after. So why do comments have such potential?

 

  • Comments are public! Because of the public nature of comments, your pupils are more likely to apply suggestions made within a comment. In fact, they are more likely to reply and show that they have understood the request made within a comment.
  • Comments can be from anyone! You may think that you are the ‘be all and end all’ in your classroom. But I’m sorry to break this to you… you’re not! I recall a boy in my Year 6 class. He struggled to use capital letters and full stops in his writing. It seemed as if whenever he wrote, he could write and use punctuation at the same time! During the middle of the year, he wrote a blog post about Manchester United beating Bolton Wanderers and posted it on the class blog. He had tried really hard with some vocabulary but it didn’t have a single mark of punctuation within it. I still published the blog post. Within a number of hours, he had a comment from someone in Australia. It was a really encouraging comment about not getting too sad about the state of Bolton Wanderers, but the last line was crucial: ‘You might want to think about using full stops and capital letters. It would really help the reader!’

From that moment, this boy not only began to start using capital letters and full stops, he started using commas, speech marks, exclamation marks too! When I asked him about why he hadn’t listened to any of my feedback and had seemingly acted upon a visitor’s comment, he told me exactly what was on his mind.

‘You’re not real Mr. Mitchell – You’re just a teacher! You always tell me about my full stops. BUT Mr. Gilbert is real! He gave up his spare time to help me!’

Although I was disappointed to hear about how much impact I was having here, I took it! Our pupils know us very well. We spend too long spitting from the margins at them regurgitating the same old targets for them. So much so, our impact diminishes over time.

  • Comments can be replied to. Under a blog post, if this is taught well, you will see a stream of comments and replies showing a transparent look into the world of improving writing. Take a look at the “conversation” between Julia and Tegan on this blogpost: http://6d2012.highlawnprimary.net/2013/03/27/dear-lilly/

 

So, comments from other people can pack an amazing punch. But the answer to maximising the impact of that punch is right before your eyes… the pupils themselves!

Training your pupils to leave quality comments is the one thing that you can do to bring impact to your class blog on a daily basis. Comments from your pupils can be the bread and butter that happens each day. If you follow this framework, you’ll start to see some impact pretty quickly.

Every time your students leave a comment, encourage them to use the 1,2,3 of commenting:

  • One: Say something positive “I really like how you have tried to use some powerful verbs in your writing. It helps bring it to life.”
  • Two: Ask a question By asking a question, you are encouraging a reply and you are engaging the author. “Your writing makes me think that you may have read some Michael Morpurgo books. Which story inspired you to write this?
  • Three: Suggest an improvement “To make this even better, you could change the way you opened the final sentence. Can you think of an adverb that would work? Leave a comment with some ideas.”

In this blog post by a Year 4 class at Boughton Leigh Junior School in Rugby, you can see the beginnings of effective 1 2 3 commenting:

http://4tomlinson2014.bljsblogs.net/2015/02/11/chapter-2/#comments

Although in its infancy, you can see how this could develop over time so that by the time these children are in Year 6, they will be encouraging, questioning and suggesting effectively!

 

So, the secret is out… peer comments, easy as 1 2 3!

Blogging in school holidays

B443ETOne of the interesting things to look at is how much children blog during their own time. Taking their own time to contribute to the class blog is an indication that they’re motivated to write and want to share their thoughts and experiences with a wider audience!

During the Easter holiday, a number of children across the school chose to take time out of their sunny holidays to add their experiences to their class blogs. One child even blogged while on holiday in Malta!

A selection of children blogging during the Easter break…

More children left comments elsewhere on each other’s blogs, and even some teachers were keen to start back!

What should be on my blog?

Often it’s difficult to know how to strike a balance of different content on a class blog. How much of it should be showing off what we’re doing through photos, videos, etc.? How much of it should be the children writing? How much should I encourage them to comment on each other’s posts?

There are no magic answers to these questions, and the balance of each will feel different in each class because of the teacher’s interests and what the children find most engaging to stimulate their writing. The graph below might give some thoughts about how things could progress as children move through the school – but it’s far from being a definitive answer!


 

What on the blog

How does blogging change through school?

We’ve talked a few times about who blogs in a school at different age groups. How much should the children be doing for themselves and how much should be adult-led? How much should be directed and how much should be independent?

There’s no fixed or easy answer to any of these questions, but it might be helpful to think of it on a sliding scale where the amount that children and adults contribute to the blog run opposite to each other.

In younger classes, children will need lots of modelling by adults to understand it with occasional opportunities to contribute. Moving through the middle of the school you can see a balance where both adults and children contribute. By the time children leave primary school they should be comfortable and confident enough to blog independently and for their contributions to be purposeful!

The indicative graph below might help to visualise how this journey might look…


 

Who blogs

 

 

Staff Inset Day

Live Writing using CoverItLive

Live Blog Live Writing Inset
 

Guides to being a Tweeting Teacher

twitter-classroom[1]There are a few useful guides on how to make good use of Twitter as a teacher which might be useful…

There are different opinions about whether to set up a “professional Twitter account” separate to a “personal Twitter account”, or whether to have one account for both. As a school we don’t have a set policy on this and different people make different decisions.

Whether you have one account or two accounts, it’s important to remember what your persona on Twitter is. For example, on a class Twitter account remember you are tweeting as a collective with the voice of the class; whereas on an individual (professional/personal/combined) account you are tweeting as an individual with your own voice. Confusing the two is too common and can get confusing for you, as well as your followers!

Planning to blog

shutterstock_131767742[1]Blogging can happen in lots of different ways depending on what works best for your children. The emphasis is to improve children’s attitudes towards learning and their attainment in writing.

There will be a sliding scale of adult-pupil balance moving through the school. For example in the Early Years, blogging will be adult-led with input from children. By Year 6 the children will be leading their blogging with adult support.

An example of how we could plan blogging into a weekly timetable is available here: How can I plan for blogging to improve my class

Blogging does not mean 30 children sat in front of computers typing something up something ‘in best’! It should be a helpful tool to use in the learning process, for example:

  • Intervention group of reluctant writers to use technology & a global audience as a hook
  • Research group task to find information and paraphrase into their own words what they have learned
  • Younger children write for older children to leave them constructive feedback to improve (see 1-2-3 comments)
  • Writing a draft version on the blog for other children to comment on for improvements (see 1-2-3 comments)
  • Blog a version of a specific text genre (e.g. journalistic, non-chronological report, poem, etc.) then tweet to experts in the field (e.g. Newsround journalists, encyclopedia authors, poets, etc.) for their comments

Great online resource sites

online-resources-icon[1]A few popular resources to embed on your blogs…

Update – November 2015

Other suggested resources are here with help guides, courtesy of Brian Harkins via DeputyMitchell.

1-2-3 Comments

comment_structure[1]Bringing an audience to your class blog can be a hard task! There are however many ways to help make this a little easier that we have or will be discussing. Knowing that people are visiting their class blog is one of the biggest motivating factors for your pupils. A small percentage of these visitors to your class blog will decide to leave your class or an individual a comment. When this happens, spend time celebrating it! A skill certainly worth teaching at the beginning of their blogging journey is the skill of leaving a great comment. There’s quite a lot out there to support you, but here’s a great blog post by Mrs Yollis and her class on this very subject:

Miss Yollis’ Blog Post on Quality Comments

There are three key elements of a quality comment:

1. Saying something positive – By opening with a positive you are engaging the author
2. Ask a question – This will probably result in a reply
3. Suggest an improvement – Not rocket science but using language like “This could be even better if…”

If the pupils follow these simple steps, they will begin to give and receive quality comments that not only make them feel epic, but will also move them forward in their learning.

Credit: David Mitchell

Reminder: How to embed something in your blog

embed_hero_icon_220_128[1]Embedding is the best way of keeping visitors on your site (without them having to click to go somewhere else), and it gives your blog a really vibrant feel to have lots of different things going on!

Many of the online resources we use (YouTube, PhotoPeach, Padlet, etc.) have easy ’embed’ functions within them to make this quite a quick process. Once you’ve done it on one site, it’s not too bad to find your way round another one.

Finding the ’embed’ link on a resource site

  • The link will usually either be simply called “embed”, “embed within your blog” or is sometimes in the “share” options such as below a YouTube video.
  • You will be given some HTML code which will probably start something like “<iframe=….”
  • Select all of this code (make sure it’s all blue without missing anything at the beginning/end), right click and select copy

Embedding the resource into your blog

  • Within a post on your blog, change from “Visual” to “Text” towards the top-right of your writing window
  • Right click where you want the resource and select paste
  • (If you click “Visual” again it will just show you a grey box – don’t panic! When you publish/preview this it will display properly.)

That’s it!

School & Class Twitter Accounts

high-school-tweet[1]Often useful to see who else is out there to follow, link up with and start conversations between your classes. A couple of lists on Twitter from Dughall (an educational consultant) are at:

A quick search for “class” within the people section of Twitter also gives you a longer, less well managed list but I’m sure you could pick up some others from here:

 

Other Class & School Blogs

cblogs_logo_crop380w[1]It’s often useful to look around at what other schools and classes have been doing to find inspiration. A few to get you going are below…

 

Whole School Blog Sites
Oxford Road Community Primary Blogs in Reading
Lowerplace Blogs in Rochdale
Hopwood Primary Blogs in Heywood
St. Joseph’s Blogs in Derby
Claremont Primary Blogs in Blackpool

Russell Scott Primary Blogs in Manchester
Mersey Primary Academy Blogs in Hull
Leamore Primary Blogs in Walsall
Boughton Leigh Junior School in Rugby
Hillmorton Primary School in Rugby

St Maries Primary School in Rugby
St Matthew’s Primary in Rugby
Long Lawford Primary School in Rugby

Class Blogs
EYFS Blog at Russell Scott Primary in Manchester
EYFS Blog at St. Joseph’s in Derby
Nursery Blog at Moorside Primary in Salford
Nursery Blog at Eastfields School in Northamptonshire
Mrs Warner’s EYFS Blog 

Cherise Duxbury’s Year 6 Blog at St. Mary’s Primary in Bolton
Mr. Webb’s Class Blog from New Zealand
Merrydale Primary Blog in Leicester
UKS2 Blog Pewithall Junior School in Liverpool
Hall Park Primary School Blog in Lytham

Miss Niamh’s Class Blog in Australia
@GazNeedle’s Year 2 Class Blog
Grange Primary Blog in Liverpool
Owls Class Blog (Year 5)
Class 6T Blog at Tanfleids in Durham

Riders Primary School 100 Word Challenge Blog in Hampshire
Class 5 Blog at Southbourne Primary School in London
A Year 5 Class Blog in Cardiff
Year 4 Vale Class Blog in West Sussex
Clover Class Blog at Westwood School in Wiltshire

Lotus Class Blog at Westwood School in Wiltshire
Orchid Class Blog at Westwood School in Wiltshire
Room2adventures blog – A class of Year 4 children from New Zealand
Mr Sale’s Class Blog in Blackpool
Bidston Avenue Year 4 Blogs Mr Banks Class

Bidston Avenue Year 4 Blogs Mrs Birch Class
Class Blogs at St. Mary’s Primary in Essex near London
A new class blog from Mr. Baker’s Class
Mr Addison’s Class Blog in Hampshire.
Halswell Year 4 class blog in Christchurch New Zealand

Year 5 at St. Joseph’s School – Mr. Connor’s Class blog
Year 4 at Springston School in New Zealand
All Manor Primary Class Blogs – of course!

Credit: David Mitchell