Papers. Papers. And more papers. Sometimes it can feel like teachers are drowning in papers. With the addition of technology that allows us to communicate digitally, we can significantly decrease our use of paper and single-handedly save the trees. Using digital communication is also going straight to the source. Not to mention, less of a chance students aren’t handing parents that super important paper you spent time typing and then will spend more time fielding phone calls from the parents who didn’t know. A class blog can save you from all of this!
A class blog can give you back time. Have you heard of the “asked and answered” technique for answering questions? Basically, you respond with “asked and answered” any time a student or child continues to ask you the same question. With a class blog, you can now direct students and parents to the place that contains all the answers. Here are 5 specific ways that you can use a class blog to save you time and many headaches.
Share syllabus or unit details
Most of the time we write type these up for students to keep track of their learning and assignments, but how many times have you needed to make extra copies for students who miss place them? All too often. Place these documents on a class blog and students, as well as parents, will have a place to find the information anytime they need it.
By using a class blog for this you will also have the opportunity to include links. Send students to their Google Classroom, an assessment site, articles you need them to read or any other website and document needed. By including this on the class blog you also allow parents access. As a middle school teacher, I find that the more I can include parents in what we are learning the more invested students are in the learning.
Classroom Procedures & Expectations
At the start of each new quarter, I find it necessary to remind middle school students of our classroom expectations. Sometimes a particular class begins to struggle with a specific expectation, like checking books out through our system. Typing it out and making it available to students and parents will give you a place to send students who may need to be reminded of the boundaries you’ve set for the class. Having it available to parents will allow you to inform them of all your expectations so that if their child crosses the line you can be sure the lines were explained.
If you have specific procedures in your classroom for things like book check-in and out, or a weekly assignment that students may need reminding about or may need a step-by-step for a while. This can also be very helpful when a new student joins your class. You can send them to the blog and you will be less likely to forget telling them an important piece of information.
Replace the Newsletter
Does your building send out a newsletter each month? Ours does. Inevitably I end up losing track of time and miss the submission deadline. Even when I do remember there is only so much room in the building newsletter to include what our class is up to for the month. With a class blog, I can write as much as I need to so that parents have all the details about our upcoming projects. A class blog newsletter also allows me to include photographs or videos of student work.
Highlight Student Work
One of my favorite ways to create community in our classroom is with my weekly precept awards. Each Monday I present a new precept and by Thursday students vote for the student who has lived out that precept. Sharing this with parents can help give the students more confidence and give parents insight about their kids at school.
Sharing student work or allowing students to write a post on behalf of the class can also be a great confidence booster. Give students ownership if you need their buy-in. You could even tap into their competitive nature and make posting a contest.
Inevitably every year a parent asks me how they can help their child be a better reader. This usually leads to me writing down some information and trying to think of all the best answers. Now I just email them a link to my blog post. I’ve also had parents ask about our online grade book system and what are the best books for their child to read that will keep them reading. All of these questions can now be answered with a detailed blog post. The best part is that I’m no longer providing solutions for one parent at a time. Now I can give solutions for parents who may not even think to ask. Adding it to the class blog gives me a place to send them and helps me to give specific detailed information.
The best part about the class blog is that once I’ve spent the time to write out each post I don’t have to spend the time the following year doing the same. I can go into the class blog and unpublish posts then republish them during the right time of the school year. For the posts that help provide parents solutions I usually keep those in one category so parents can always find them.
If you want to start your own class blog I have the perfect step-by-step free email course that will have you ready to blog in 5 days. Add your email below then check your inbox. Each day I will walk you through the setup process and make sure you know how to navigate the WordPress platform.
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After just one school year of weekly blogging in the classroom, I’m convinced that this is the best way to engage students in writing. Blogging has also been a fantastic way to build relationships with my students. The most beneficial classroom management tool for any teacher is having a positive relationship with their students. However, we all know that making time to cultivate these positive relationships with each and every student is time-consuming. That’s where blogging in the classroom can help! Consider how a student who writes a blog post about their favorite novel character gives you insight into their reading habits, interests, and their general outlook on life. Maybe they share a particularly difficult math concept the finally mastered. Perhaps they take photos of a recent piece of artwork and write about the process. Blogging is the perfect opportunity to assign writing for every grade level and every subject area.
As a blogger it’s customary to write with a conversational tone, making this an easy writing style for kids. My students were almost always more willing to write a blog post than to author an essay. But this activity is not just for English teachers, let me share why and how any educator can use blogging in the classroom.
Let’s start with a list of benefits (just in case you need to convince anyone blogging in the classroom is the right activity for you).
- Improved Literacy Skills: This is more of a byproduct of blogging. When you set specific expectations for what blogging looks like in your classroom and provide timely feedback to students their writing is going to improve. Of course, this could be said for any writing program. Blogging adds engagement for students through an authentic, global audience. When they are able to hear feedback from classmates, parents or anyone else who reads their public posts, students begin to write with a higher quality.
- Digital Citizenship: Blogs are now a part of nearly every brand with a website. Showing students what this concept looks like through a quality blogging program in your classroom will help them see the future job opportunities they could pursue. If you choose to include images with blog posts you’ll need to teach them about copyright laws. You are also showing them how to appropriately communicate online through posts and comments. This would hopefully transfer to their social media presence, as well. We have the opportunity to teach them how they can use their platforms for leadership opportunities rather than engaging in negative interactions.
- Authentic Writing Audience: We are always telling kids how important written communication will be for them and blogging is a great way to practice. The real world skills of writing for an actual audience, who is not a teacher giving them a grade, will help them see the fruits of their writing. Through comments, students can hear how people interpret their writing and how it helped them. There are several places teachers have joined together in sharing blogs and solicit comments. A special hashtag, #comments4kids, has been established and is frequently used by teachers who blog with students.
- Connect Home & School: Blogs are a great way to keep parents up to date on what their child is learning. Parents can tangibly see their child’s growth and progress that’s not an indistinct letter grade. Using the class blog to keep parents informed of the happening of each quarter or monthly learning can be helpful. We all know the school newsletter often goes from mailbox to trashcan. Whereas a blog might be more convenient for them to check from work or home and may provide more relevant, timely information for their child.
- Metacognition: A high level of thinking defined as “thinking about what you think.” Blogging takes on an editorial style of writing where students can share their opinions and thinking processes that took place on the way to establishing this opinion. Commenting on peer blog posts is another way to get kids thinking critically. They should learn how to make a connection and add something new to the topic in their comment. They will also need to learn the etiquette of disagreement.
These may have convinced you that blogging is a great idea, but it’s writing and you may not be a writing teacher. Let me share how every school subject could use blogging as a way to enhance their curriculum.
Students could write blog posts that share an in-class lab. They could write in a step by step format so that other classes could replicate this lab. As a teacher, you’ll need to assess their knowledge so you could ask them to write a reaction to the outcomes of their lab. This could be preparation for students competing in Science Fair.
Rather than asking students to read about an event or person in a textbook they could each find research and documents to share within a blog. They could then make connections to how that aspect of history has played a role in today’s society. Students could even think through alternate historical outcomes and how that could have affected their lives. Let them become local historians and collect stories from the community to document on a blog.
Students are always asking, “How am I going to use this one day?” Make this the focus of your blog and have students figure out how that math concept is used in the real world. Students could write tutorials as a way of providing homework help.
Sharing videos of student choirs would be a wonderful way to showcase student talent. Students in Music Theory type classes could write informational blog posts about famous musicians, styles, and instruments.
Physical Education and Health
Students can blog about the history of different sports. They could invent their own sport or activity and provide details for playing. If there is a major sporting event taking place, like the Olympics, students could profile an athlete or sport. Students could write posts that could help their peers find support when dealing with difficult situations, and include resources for finding professional help. There might be a need for writing step-by-step instructions or a top ten list that other students would find helpful.
This is another great way to showcase student talent and allow them to describe their process for creating the art. Students might write a profile for a famous artist, or better yet a local artist.
Blogging would be a great way for students to write about the countries where the language they are learning is spoken. They could even partner with a classroom in those countries and write collaboration pieces. For the truly advanced students, they could write posts in the foreign language.
For any subject and grade level writing is always a great way to ask students to perform a summative assessment. You could create a prompt that asks them to share what they learned. For example: Pretend your table partner was absent, explain to them what knowledge they missed today. There are a number of ways to ask students to write. Providing students with an authentic writing experience, even when it may be for assessment purposes, gives them motivation for more thorough writing.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Let me help! I’ve created a Blogging with Students course that will walk you through each step for setting up a class blog and student blogs. I give you lesson ideas, video tutorials, and a full curriculum to get you through the school year. Go to the course site here for more information. Drop your email to stay updated on all things blogging with students.
Want to give blogging a try for yourself first? Start with a class blog. Sign up for my free 5-day email course. Each day I will walk you through the process of setting up a powerful class blog that parents will love and students will appreciate. You will get to see firsthand what blogging can do for your classroom.
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Teach.Mom.Repeat has a whole new look! After one year of blogging, we have decided to take Teach.Mom.Repeat to the next level. In order to do this a rebrand was in order.
This isn’t normally a topic I write about, and I don’t have plans to start blogging about how to blog. However, I have found that blogging in the classroom is a total package writing curriculum. Which I why I’d like to share the blogging education I’ve gotten in this past year. I’ll share how a lot of these things are now part of my classroom blogging curriculum and the Blogging with Students course that launched in Septemeber 2017.
I also wanted to share all the new style pieces that went into Teach.Mom.Repeat’s new look through a giveaway. At the end of this post, you’ll find details for entering. But don’t just scroll to the bottom! If you want to see what will be included in the Blogging with Students course read about how I have given this blog a major overhaul.
When I first started this blog last summer I thought I had done my research. Wrong! There is so much more to blogging than choosing a platform, theme, and niche. Beware the posts that tell you it’s possible to start a blog in 10 minutes or less. It may be true that a blog can be up and running in 10 minutes, but it’s not accurate if you have actual blogging goals.
At first, I was really only looking for a creative outlet, but then I started to realize the cost involved in starting my new creative endeavor. Hosting, themes, logos, stock images, courses, fonts, email services, just to list a few. Once I invested some money I started to realize I’m going to need to monetize this blog to recoup my cost. To do this well it takes more money and a better-looking blog. Hence the rebrand.
How to Rebrand?
Start with your color scheme.
Once I had learned more of the ins and outs of WordPress I started to discover how I could manipulate my theme. All without the knowledge of code talk. Picking 3 to 4 colors that will unit your blog is important. This will drive the way you create featured images and other essential photographs, like a profile picture. Teaching kids to do the same with their blogs will help them get a taste of graphic design elements. It’s also a great way to bring art into the classroom.
Photographs that represent your style.
My next objective was to style myself for photographs. My mom introduced me to two locally owned businesses run by moms just like me, who sell handmade jewelry and clothing. Willow Elizabeth jewelry can be seen in my profile photo and other stock pictures scattered on the site. My favorite purple tee from Unsalted Boutique with the perfect TeacherMom saying, “Kind words cost nothing” can be seen in several featured images.
Luckily my husband is a professional photographer and agreed to take new photos of me. Professional photos are important. If you want readers to take you seriously a beautifully edited photo helps. Anyone who has seen a beautifully crafted Instagram account knows how important edited and color coordinated photographs are to a brand.
If you want to start a serious blog hire a photographer to take headshots of you for the profile picture. Make sure it represents what you blog about and your style. Have them also take a few shots that you can use for featured images and Pinterest images. I’ll come back to Pinterest later. When readers see your face they feel connected to you as a person.
Translating this into the classroom can get tricky with safety issues. That’s why I teach kids how to make their own cartoon avatars like Bitmoji. Most of them are already familiar with this concept and have their own to add so it’s a fast lesson.
Logos and headers and images
Changing my logo was actually my husband’s idea. He had created the first one for me, pretty quickly without much intentionality. We have a friend who works in the graphic design business and does beautiful hand lettering. As a gift to me, my husband commisioned her for a new logo. I love that she captured every aspect of what Teach.Mom.Repeat. represents. A nearly empty pencil jar for my classroom, a dinosaur for my son and a teddy bear for my daughter.
Having a logo with specific fonts help to unify the website. I discovered a fantastic website that allows me to use free templates to add featured images and Pinterest images. Canva is a design site that is so easy to use, I will also teach students to use it for their blogging image needs. There are also great ways to use Canva for teaching resources, like my text structure notes and graphic organizers. The printable teacher planner pages I designed using Canva and continue to create new color schemes.
Make money blogging
The more I educated myself on this blogging adventure the more I learned how it is possible to make this a new income. In the past, my husband and I have brought in extra income through coaching. However, it’s hard to dedicate time after school for practices and games when you have small children. I also tried direct sales, but again there is more time out of the house after school hours. Blogging allows me to use nap times and evenings giving me the freedom to be with my family more. It has also helped me to connect with so many other educators and moms around the world.
To truly make money with a blog there is a lot of preparation and goal setting that needs to take place. Teaching this to my students will help them see how online businesses are career opportunities. Along with all the other careers associated with blogging, for example, the tech people I have talked with when I need help fixing a problem. There are countless businesses that utilize blogging on their websites which means blogging doesn’t have to just be a self-made business.
Teaching students email etiquette will serve them later in their careers and possibly make them more marketable. Along with the lessons in design and using the WordPress platform, it all could benefit a student who needs to have some prior knowledge of these things to enter the ever-growing technology fields.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I’ll be launching a course for teachers to use blogging in their classrooms as a writing program. The intention is not just for the ELA classroom. I hope that the lessons on writing informational and argumentative formats will serve any subject area. While this course will be geared towards the upper elementary, middle and high school grades there are plans to collaborate with lower grade levels for a future course.
Once school starts I will be launching a Make Over Your Mornings email challenge. I know the first few weeks of school are always high adrenaline and I don’t have trouble waking to my alarm. But once the routine settles in I start to create bad habits like pressing the snooze button. If you want to join us in creating more productive morning routines, whatever that looks like for you, then sign up below.
There is also a fun series on Instant Pot recipes coming this winter. If you’ve been following me for a while now you know how much I love my new Instant Pot! There will, of course, be updates on all the blogging lessons and our new reading rotation schedule.
Thank you for sticking with me and joining me on this blogging journey. If you’d like to continue to hear more AND be entered into our style giveaway sign up to receive emails below.
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Blogging in the classroom is a total writing program for any teacher. Even if you aren’t the writing teacher, you can still use blogging in the classroom with your students. Most teachers have a website attached to their district’s website. It’s mostly a place for students and parents to find important information about grades, assignments and future events. However, a class blog can provide all that and more. Want to create your own beautiful class blog? Sign up here to receive a FREE 5-day email course.
As an ELA teacher, I had tried the many different routes for writing about reading. Reading logs and journals are some of the more popular options, but these are incredibly time-consuming to grade. Reading logs quickly became the bane of my existence as a language arts teacher. We think that asking parents to sign reading logs students will have integrity with this assignment. That also assumes parents will uphold the integrity of the assignment, but really it becomes a thorn in everyone’s side.
Journals force students to be more accountable for their reading and require them to consistently write. However, that’s a whole lot of reading and grading for teachers. Not to mention the lugging home of a crate filled with journals. I even tried grading in a rotation so that everyone only received a weekly grade. This did not take into account the number of absences that would happen regularly. Needless to say, it was overwhelming each week and I needed to find a new solution.
Consider the opportunity for students to actively use the writing process weekly. A process that every standardized test is asking them to do. In a short time frame, students are asked to read the prompt, plan a multiple paragraph response, type that response, revise, edit and submit. Blogging will do the same. Each week I post 3-4 different prompts on the same topic in our Google Classroom page. These prompts are reflective of the lessons planned for the week. We might be writing about the characters from novels to prep for a lesson on how the setting affects characters. When it’s a holiday or school-wide theme week I might ask students to write in reference to those events.
Blog posts are informational and opinion writing. When teaching students how to write essays in these genres, having the background and practice with blogging helps. Subheadings are encouraged with blog writing which helps students who have trouble with multiple paragraphs. When sharing your opinion in a blog post you can’t get away with giving that opinion and no evidence for why. Those are two writing skills the majority of students struggle to do well.
Obviously, you can’t blog without typing and word processing skills. Both are essential now for state testing. I have seen a number of my students not finish the essay portion of their state test because they couldn’t type fast enough. Blogging in the classroom weekly gives them practice typing. I don’t mean pecking at a keyboard, I mean they must use two hands and practice the correct way.
Now let’s add in the technical know-how for creating images to feature in their blog posts, linking within a text, and how to write a thoughtful comment on classmates’ posts. Each of these provides computer skills that can be transferred to other subjects. Creating digital images can help students learn the basics of visual appeal that can be added to any type of digital project. Linking within a text is a skill EVERYONE should know how to do. I find it super funny that kids think they have to cut and paste the entire website into the document as their link. I try to teach them that any text can have a link, which makes the document look a whole lot prettier.
The writing of comments can become a type of writing for your class. Think about all the applications to anti-cyberbullying you could include with these lessons. Talking with students about their digital footprint and what they are posting to social media accounts. It helps when they are hearing it from multiple adults. Writing comments can also help students learn the art of elaboration. It’s not enough for them to comment, “Great post.” They need to learn how to compliment and show they read the post or ask a pointed question because they are genuinely interested.
Plus, when using Edublogs, students will learn the basics for navigating the WordPress platform. Considering WordPress runs 30% of the entire Internet, and that number is growing, this gives students future career knowledge. In my opinion, this makes blogging in the classroom the total package writing curriculum.
Let’s talk about keeping in touch and informing parents. With Edublogs you will set up a class blog that you can use for classroom communication with parents. It will look like a real blog with pages and widgets that you customize for your needs. Keep parents (and administrators) informed on units, assignments, needs, and all your foundational teacher information in one place. Simply send a link in an email and parents have all the information they need. Available to them at all hours of the day every day of the year. Fewer emails from parents asking questions you’ve already answered? Maybe.
Plus, parents will be able to follow their child’s writing progress and make comments to support their child. Now students aren’t just writing for a teacher-only audience. They now have a global audience. There is a hashtag specifically created for teachers to solicit comments, #comments4kids. If you have a student who needs some encouragement throw out the link to their blog post with the #comments4kids and they will get replies.
How do I make this happen in my classroom?
If all of this sounds like the total package writing program to you then you’re going to want to take my Blogging with Students course. Here you will find lesson plans and videos that you can use in the classroom to write quality blogs with your students.
If you would like to see what my classroom site looks like visit our Colorful Classroom. Not sure you want to blog with students, but the idea of a class blog is appealing? Try my FREE 5-day email course. Learn how to create a beautiful class blog that can help you connect with parents and keep student resources in one place.
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Tell me what questions you have about blogging with your students.
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