What else can I have on my blog?

This post is day 17 of 20 days to better blogging with children and considers the use of widgets on blogs.

A widget is a a chunk of code that adds content to a page.  Usually the content is not static.  For example, on the right hand side of this blog I have several widgets, some static and some not.  The Kidderlit and Clustr map are examples of widgets that are not static.  They change as new readers visit or as a new first line of a book is shared.  The link to Weboword and the Edublogs badge are examples of static widgets.

These are not trivia but are important parts of a blog.  They tell you a lot about what the writer is interested in and what they want you to know about their blog.

Some of my favourite widgets are:

Where in the world

  • ClustrMaps – this shows where your readers are from
  • Whos.amung.us – gives us a map of our readers like ClustrMaps but has flashing points for readers who are reading the blog at that time.  This widget will also give you some reader stats.
  • Feedjit will tell you where your readers are from when they click on your blog.

Time

  • A nice range of clocks here, although not all are suitable for young children
  • Showing the time in a variety of different ways is very popular.  Have a look at  ClockLink

Other Fun Items for Children

  • Kidderlit gives you the first line of children’s fiction.  Great for sentence level work and for wondering what genre and whether it hooks you in.
  • Voki is my favourite if they get through your filters

If you use Edublogs then Sue Waters explains clearly about widgets and how to put them onto your blog.

What are your favourite widgets?

What might you write about?

OK.  You’re thinking about blogging with children and wonder what they might write about.  Well, bloggers write about something that they are interested in and want to discuss with the wider world but I have already covered this.  So what sorts of projects could you do that mean that you could blog for a limited period of time.  I have been  collecting ideas from a wide range of sources for blogging projects:

  • School bags project for younger children.  This project was organised by the British Council and involves a link with another school.  Children tell each other about their school and themselves through photographs of their school bags and the contents.  What a great idea.
  • Following on from this idea, something similar would be an avatars project where children design and create an avatar and then share why they have made the choices that they have.  This was orignially undertaken as a Voice Thread project but would also work as a blogging project. (I can’t find any links to this project – if you know where it is please let me know so that I can attribute the idea)
  • I really like the idea of writing a story section by section on a blog with the readers making comments about what has been written and what is to be written.
  • Continuing this idea how about writing the same story from two different points of view, each point of view on its own blog.  Children could do this in pairs and would need very good planning and discussion to enable this to happen effectively.
  • Any writing that needs to be chronologically ordered lends itself to being a series of posts on a blog.  How about the journey of a river as a chronological report from source to mouth?  Hyperlinks in this text would really extend the experience for the reader.
  • Introducing the children to live blogging.  Unfortunately the links to this idea no longer exist (again if I am wrong let me know) but the idea is to have your class organised into an inner circle and an outer circle.  The inner circle discuss or debate an issue and the outer circle live blog the discussion on their own blogs.  Fantastic for sharing information found about a topic, problem-solving a classroom issue or discussing an issue the children are interested in.  Could this be done at a school council meeting?
  • Now this idea is just fantastic.  It was originally designed to be used with mobile phones, but if your school does not allow/encourage children to use mobile phones then it can be done equally well with a teacher blog and pupil blogs.  Film on the Fly. A text message is sent to interested people with a story prompt.  They then film a response on their mobile phones and uploaded it to YouTube or similar hosting site and send in a link.  If your class uses a microblogging site such as Edmodo they could be sent a prompt for a story and could then create the story in any media and host it on their blog, sending you a link.  Liz Kolb suggests running the same type of project only with photos instead of film.  Again, this could be done using blogs instead of mobile phones.
  • And this leads nicely into blog carnivals.  Here you send out a theme and bloggers write posts related to the theme and send you a link.  You then write a post that shares the links.  This project works best where you have established blogging links with other schools so that you have a ready audience to join in.  There are loads of carnivals about children’s literature which might be one idea, either to host  or to join in with but there will be many cross-curricular links that you could use for this idea.

This is day 20 of 20 days to better blogging with children. Do you have any time limited projects that could be used with blogging?

Photoblogging posts- how I spent my Easter weekend

Photoblogging is blogging with photos and sometimes but not always captions.  This is day 13 of 20 days to better blogging with children.

Dog Sitting

 

 

Photoblogs to explore (please check that all images are suitable for children before showing):

Have a go with children.

Tagging Texts

Tagging posts is such an important part of blogging so day 12 of 20 days to better blogging is all about tags.

So many sites on the read/write web use tagging and I consider it to be an essential skill for the 21st Century.  One wonderful way to start children off thinking about tagging is to use an activity described by Beth Kanter on her blog.  Ask the children to think of three words that describe things that they are really interested in.  Write these on cards and then hold them up.  Walk round and find someone that has a tag that interests you and talk to them about it.  This helps to show that tagging is about connecting with people, sites, images or events who have the same interests as you.  They also help to organise information and to retrieve information.

Tagging is about keywords and this requires children to be able to summarise what they want to tag.  If too many or too few tags are used, neither is helpful.  You could start with tagging images that you have taken on school trips or of events happening in school.  The question is what key words would people use if they wanted to connect with this image?  How many can you come up with?  What about choosing a special tag that is only for that event.  This is the # tag equivalent on twitter and is the way we find blog posts and photos of events on flickr.

People are still too stiff and rigid with their tagging technique. Loosen up. You don’t have to find the “right category” to put something into, that is part of the tyranny and inflexibility of a classification scheme that we’re trying to get away from. Don’t tell me what it is, the “truth” of it as it were. Tell my why it matters.

Unfortunately the source for this quote is no longer available but it comes from whump.com

Have a series of small cards available in the classroom and each day designate an object to tag with whatever words the children feel appropriate.

By allowing children to generate tags for objects we are tapping into the internal representations of knowledge that they use to associate with that object.  We can also work in the reverse.  What image do you think goes with the tags: – knit, tag, tagged, crocheted, knitting, streetart, guerilla art, urban, graffiti and public art?  And here is the image that had these tags.

Next time you read a blog with children go first of all to the tags and use them to get an overview of what the blog is all about. Discuss why some words are bigger than others or are emboldened.  This train of thought may take you down the route of Wordle.

Your challenge is to introduce children to the art of tagging and for them to start tagging their posts.

Image teaching tagging by angshah

Hyperlinked texts – the cat’s cradle of writing

Day 11 of 20 days to better blogging is thinking about how we write hyperlinked texts and how we can share this with children.  Budtheteacher has been thinking about hyperlinked writing  and has, over time, created a series of posts about it. In fact, what did you do about the hyperlinks in the previous sentences?

I have read several papers about hyperlinked writing being a new genre but I am not sure about that.  A set of instuctions is a set of instructions whether it has hyperlinks or not.  At the present time I am more inclined to think that it is a new way of writing already known genre, but I am open to being persuaded that I am wrong.

For me, hyperlinks introduce me to the blogs and articles that have been part of the idea formation for the post.  They give me a trail that shows how thoughts have come together and they provide extra information.  In fact they give a text depth and a richness that I miss when reading online and hyperlinks are not used.

So, the question is should we be teaching primary school children how to write hyperlinked texts?  I am sure I am hearing an overwhelming YES.  Below are some ideas to support teaching about hyperlinking:

  • when planning a post, create a mind-map that draws in the resources that you have used
  • give all children the same piece of text and ask them to add hyperlinks where they think they would be important.  These can then be shared and the differences explored in relation to the experience for the reader
  • when reading blog posts, try to draw up a list that categorises why people have hyperlinked.  What are the conventions of hyperlinking?
  • read hyperlinked posts in shared reading and discuss whether to click on the hyperlink or not and what you are expecting if you do.  What happens then?  Do you return to the text or follow other lines of enquiry?

Your challenge today is to explore hyperlinking with children and to model writing a post that includes hyperlinks.

Image Cat’s Cradle by Steve C

Creating a community of readers

Part of the emjoyment for me of being a blogger is starting a discussion or train of thought that others will join in with and help extend your thinking. In order for this to happen, blogs need readers so day 10 of 20 days to better blogging with children is about establishing a community of readers who join in the discussions that children are starting when blogging.

In fact schools are a ready community of readers.  There are the pupils in the class, pupils in other classes and other adults that work in the school.  The only thing that needs to happen here is for time to be built in to allow for reading and commenting.  Many schools have taken guided reading out of the literacy lesson.  Whilst the teacher is working with a group the rest of the class are ususally engaged with reading activities.  Perhaps reading and commenting on blogs by pupils in the school could be one of these activities.

But what about a wider community?  Could parents have access to the blogs and also be commenting?  And what about making links with other schools?  There are several places where you can look to find schools to link with.  The Edublogs site has edublog supporters promoted on the front page and it might be possible to find a school to link with here.  The British Council’s Global Gateway is another way to find schools to link with.

How far does your reading community stretch?

Post it with children

Day 9 of 20 days to better blogging with children has arrived and it is now time for them to start posting.  You will have written a couple of posts and should be ready to start with children.  This means time for shared writing where we show children how we write a post and link to other sites.

So, what to write about?  How about an event or experience the children have recently had, something that has excited them, something they feel strongly about.  Bloggers write about what interests them and use it to share ideas and also to develop their ideas.  In a sense this is writing to learn.  Many thanks to Paul Nichols  for sharing the article on twitter.

Model writing the post, how to make links and how you refer to the person behind the link.  Talk about what decisions you are making, about what to include and what to leave out.  Explain why you think some things work and others don’t.  Discuss what you hope the reader will get out of your post. And most of all share the excitement of publishing to the world!

Make sure that you have let a couple of people know that you have written a post and get them to comment on it.  The children will be excited and want to read what is written and together you can compose a reply that will keep the discussion going.  Try writing several posts with the children.

Image Post-it-face by flowers and machinery

Engaging with comments

 The title of this image is comments hell!  Day 8 of 20 days to better blogging is all about showing children how to engage with commenting on blogs in a way that goes beyond comment hell.  These are the comment equivalents of closed questions.  It is almost impossible to follow on and keep the converstaion going.

Commenting is one of the most important parts of blogging – be it as a reader or writer.  They are about continuing discussion which the blogger or another commenter has started. 

This process needs modelling with children so that they understand some of the processes that we go through when deciding what to write.  I think there are several types of comment and very often they will be determined by the post. 

  • Quite often a post will end with a question.  If readers respond you get an extended post.
  • Sometimes it will end in a manner that works with the rest of the post
  • sometimes it is just a social occasion – see the number of comments on each post here!  You do have to learn to speak the language first.

Your task today is to find a blog that the children are interested in and, together with them, compose and submit a comment. 

 

Image by P!0

What are they interested in?


funny pictures
moar funny pictures
This task is Day 7 of 20 days to better blogging with children.  We read blogs that cover areas that interest us  and so should children.  So, what are your children interested in?

I asked this question of a group of Yr 2 and Yr6 children that I was working with as part of a writing project, they were mostly boys, and received the following replies:

  • lego – this took me to a whole new world and would lend itself to photoblogging.  There are at least 10 other lego blogs!  Why am I surprised?  They would be astonished that anyone would want to read about literacy and ICT.  How about using the BrickiWiki to find a blog?  No, no.  I must stop now but how about using lego to comment on current affairs – or build a baseball stadium?
  • cars – this depends on what aspect of cars the children are interested in.  Even I am interested in paint scratches that repair themselves.  What about makes of car or photoblogging?
  • books – there are so many that it is almost impossible to choose.  These are just to start you off.
  • speedway racing – I did struggle here
  • people around the world – this is hard one to search for but I did find some that would be suitable.  I think I would need to delve a little deeper here about what interests this child.
  • cats (I didn’t cheat here honest!) – apparently cats even write their own blogs.  I have heard they twitter too.  There is no shortage here, but this is my all time favourite.  Lolcats galore.

These blogs would all support the teaching of reading  very well looking at how we respond to them as readers, how they are organised and how they convey their message.  Remember, in shared reading the children don’t have to be able to read the text themselves.  You model the reading and what you are thinking.

Posts need checking for appropriateness unless they are specifically written for children.  It may be that on the whole a blog is suitable but may have one or two postings that would not be.  They should be used in shared or guided time and you need to have checked them previously. 

So, what are your class interested in?  Let us know what blogs you find in these areas.  We could create lists to help other teachers.

Home page and rest of tasks – 20 days to better blogging with children

Post It!

Day 6 of 20 days to better blogging with children is about writing your own post.  You have been reading blogs, commenting on them and have now set up your own blog.

Time to write your first post.  You will probably have noticed that on the whole people do not write very long posts.  They also write about things they are thinking about.  You could write about what you and your class are going to do on their blogs.  You could write about how you are going to use the blogs or a welcome post for the children.  Write about whatever you want.  As Seth Godin says

It is a difficult habit to develop but an even harder one to stop.

I always use the preview button before finalising.  It shows whether the formating is what you are expecting and I quite often find typos. Hit the publish button and you are up and running.  If your blog is available publicly and you would like someone to read it and leave you a comment, leave a comment with your url in on this post.

  • Day 1 Become a Reader of Blogs
  • Day 2 Keep Track of Your Blogs
  • Day 3 Joining in the discussion
  • Day 4 Staying Safe
  • Day 5 Finding your blog
  • Day 6 Post It!
  • Day 7 What are you interested in?
  •  Picture by http://www.flickr.com/photos/zach_manchester/