As some of you may know,
I started a new classroom blog with my students that is designed to
raise awareness in tweens and teens about the amount of sugar found in
the foods that they are eating.
It's called #SUGARKILLS. Check it out:
far, the project has been a remarkable success. We've literally posted
a new bit every school day for the past month -- and my students are
straight jazzed about the notion that THEY have the power to make a
difference in the world.
Then check out this quote from a recent interview that we completed for Middleweb:
A couple weeks ago, Mrs. Swanson left us a comment
about how her dad has diabetes and our blog is really helping him. It
makes us feel great to know that we’ve made a difference in someone’s
if Mrs. Swanson’s father made the decision to say “no” to one candy
bar, because of us? Then he would keep making healthier choices, and
that could eventually save his life! We would have made a huge
We’ve also discovered that other teachers are actually sharing our work
with their students, which makes us feel like we really matter to other
people. How many 12 year old students can say that they are changing
people’s lives around the world?
The fact that we can is amazing!
So how can YOU get a great student-driven blog up and running in YOUR classroom?
Here are three of my favorite tips.
Tip 1: Create ONE Topic-Focused Blog
lesson that I learned early in my work with blogs is that they are far
more vibrant -- and attract far more attention -- when they are updated
regularly. The challenge for student bloggers, then, is generating
enough content to bring readers back for more.
The solution in my
classroom is to always START classroom blogging projects with ONE
classroom blog that EVERY student can make contributions to. Doing so
takes the pressure of generating content off of individual students
simply because there are dozens of potential writers who are adding
content at any given time.
I also tend to create blogs that are
focused on a specific theme or topic rather than general blogs that
contain content across several domains and/or interest areas. By
focusing my blogs on a specific theme connected to a cause that my kids
are passionate about, I can tap into the desire of students to "do work
Tip 2: Train Student Editors to Lead Your Blogging Project
going to be honest with you: Student blogging projects take a TON of
time and energy and effort. Posts need to be written and revised and
edited. Images need to be found and cropped and inserted. Schedules
for creating new content need to be created and maintained and
Sounds exhausting, doesn't it?
Here's the good news: YOU don't need to be the one that does all of the drafting and coaching and revising and posting!
work to train a small handful of student editors. Give them the
username and password to your classroom blog and turn them loose.
You'll find that they are JUST as capable as you are -- and probably
Our #sugarkills team currently has two fully
trained student editors -- Andy and Daniel -- and four other kids who
are "editors in training." They handle the VAST majority of the nitty
gritty details of generating content for our blog.
student editors makes classroom blogging projects WAY more manageable
for classroom teachers. More importantly, training student editors
reminds students that THEY can be powerful WITHOUT needing the help of
Tip 3: Recruit Readers and Commenters to Your Blog
any blogger, the ultimate reward is crafting a piece that actually gets
READ. Every page view and comment left on a classroom blog is proof
positive to your students that they DO have an audience and that they
ARE being heard.
Just as importantly to classroom teachers, every
page view and comment is an opportunity for a student blogger to have
their thinking challenged -- and the tension that results whenever
thinking is challenged ALWAYS leads to new learning as students are
forced to refine and revise and polish their positions on the topics
that they care about.
The challenge, however, is that classroom
blogs won't AUTOMATICALLY generate enough attention to receive page
views and comments automatically. The simple truth is that in a digital
world where there are thousands of new blogs created every hour, "being
heard" isn't nearly as easy as "getting published."
this challenge, I always recruits volunteer readers and commenters when
my students are working on a blogging project.
Most of the time
these volunteers are parents or PTA members who want to help at school
but can't find the time to get away from work during the day. I ask
them to monitor the blog for a month at a time and to leave two or three
comments a week that are designed to challenge students.
times, I turn to my own professional friends and family members --
pointing them to specific posts that I want to generate traffic for.
Doing so generates momentum, ensuring that students feel the reward that
comes along with having an audience.
If you are interested in
establishing relationships with other classrooms that are blogging,
spend some time poking around the growing collection of blogs at the Comments4Kids website. And if you are trying to generate traffic for individual blog entries, consider sharing a link to the post in Twitter using the #comments4kids hashtag.
of this make sense to you? More importantly, do YOU have any tips for
teachers interested in starting classroom blogging projects?
Related Radical Reads:
Introducing Our Newest Cause: #SUGARKILLS
Technology Gives Kids Power
Are Kids REALLY Motivated by Technology?