What a fantastic term in terms of learning! I thought my learning curve was amazing last year and this term alone has beaten it. already Even better, it wasn’t just me. The whole primary staff and children have begun a digital learning journey which I hope they find as exciting as I have. There is so much in fact that I have split the blog into a couple of blog posts so as not to have one huge rambling post which bores the pants of the reader! It may still bore you but will be shorter now.
Year 1 and 2 began blogging early in the term. I had wanted to start blogging for a few years but various factors had stopped me. There had previously been a fear of the obvious e-safety issues, and a worry that the parents wouldn’t approve.
However, a new Head with an appreciation of digital learning and an actual desire for innovation inspired me to do it. I set up a blog for year 2 and added a couple of posts to show the parents at our introduction evening what sort of thing we would be doing and found that the parents loved the idea. We sent out a letter for parents to give permission for work and photos on the blog and a list of safety rules which we would be following and which we asked parents to adhere to as well.
Year 1 quickly followed suit. Our impetus was to start the 5 sentence challenge which needed a blog to showcase the children’s work, but we also wanted to show some of the other great activities which go on in the classrooms which is not always seen. One of the parents commented that it was so exciting to see what the children had been doing and to share their enthusiasm.
The blog and the 5 sentence challenge proved so successful that by the end of the term, I had been asked to give an INSET on setting up a blog and joining the 100 Word Challenge for the junior classes.
The 5 Sentence Challenge/100 Word Challenge deserves a paragraph of its own here. Run by Julia Skinner, @TheHeadsOffice on Twitter, every other week, a picture or phrase is put on the 5SC or the 100WC blog to inspire the children to write 5 sentences/100 words. You link the children’s work on your blog to the original stimulus and find you get comments from all over Britain if not further afield. The comments are always encouraging but also point out where the writing could be improved. Comments are so exciting for the children and their teachers. I can still see the face of the year 1 teacher coming in to tell me that her class had had comments!
These comments can be used as targets for the next piece of writing.. Remember to try and put in ALL the full stops this week to make it easier for your readers. Can you add a descriptive word this week as was suggested?
The children improved so rapidly that we were amazed, not just in writing the 5 sentences which some couldn’t manage in the first week, but in stretching themselves and exploring how to improve their sentences. This extended into all their other work and their English writing levels went up one or two mini levels in one term.
The differentiation in the 5SC is intrinsic, for the children who couldn’t write 5 sentences, we put a group together to make 5. Come on write a sentence for your group to put in the blog, it is only 1 sentence . Later we found ourselves saying, you can do it, it is only 5 sentences (as every child could do it by December). For the more able and prolific writers, you tell them that they can only write 5 sentences, but they have to make them as interesting and grammatically correct as they can. I used David Didau’s idea of slow writing here, adapted for my year 2 class. In these 5 sentences, see if you can include… These connectives or/and 4 adjectives…. Start each of your sentences in different ways…And we found even the year 1 children whose target was to complete 5 sentences were including some of these ideas.
We did this as an extra literacy lesson, every other week, on a Friday afternoon, before our ‘activities’ sessions. You could also set it for homework, which I did as a optional extra at Christmas when we broke up earlier than some of the other schools in the country.
What did I learn through blogging with the children?
How to set up a blog, add writing, photos and videos. Ok I cheated a bit by setting up a personal blog and practising in the holidays.
How to add little exciting extras to make the blog more interesting and individual.
How to include different ways of presenting pictures and video clips – exploring photostory, movie maker, imovie, Animoto, photo peach.
That the children loved being able to access their work at home and share with family and a wider audience abroad.
That viewers to the blog came from all over the world.
That a blog is a really visual way of showing improvement over time.
That blogging really does improve the children’s writing.
That I wanted more access to computers for the children. Half an hour a week was not enough!
What did the children learn from blogging?
That they could get a much wider audience for their work, including people they know and people they don’t.
So safety was as important as sharing.
That their work was deemed important and interesting.
That they could change their work slightly to make it even better and editing on the computer is easier than on paper.
That blogging made sharing their work immediate. A grandparent in India could see what you had written and tell you what they thought in the same day.
That they enjoyed writing!
If you haven’t done it yet, try it. It will inspire them and totally change the way your class write.
We are taking part in quadblogging in January!