We’ve got blogging fever at Chase Street Elementary School!

One of our 3rd grade teachers, Mr. Brooks, has been keeping a class blog for a couple of years now, and it’s packed full of photos of his students learning, plus links to lots of great online resources:

click to visit!

Inspired by this (not to mention Mr. Plemmons’ fantastic blog about the goings-on at the Barrow Elementary School Library), I decided to start the blog you’re reading right now for our school library back in August.

Then, Coach Whaley decided she wanted to blog about PE classes at Chase, and I’ve had so much fun reading about and seeing pictures of what the kids have been learning in the gym.

click to visit!

And then, at the beginning of the school year, our 5th grade teachers asked me if I was interested in working with a group of students on a blog about all the great things our 5th graders will be learning and doing this year.

Needless to say, my answer was yes!

And, luckily enough, we figured out that Friday afternoons were a perfect time for the group to join me in the library.

Warning: This post is kind of long! My apologies.

I had originally meant to do weekly posts along the way, but as often happens in the land of blogging, my list of potential posts greatly exceeded the amount of time I’ve had for writing them! I promise, I’ll do a better job in the future of keeping the 5th grade blog updates short and sweet. 🙂

To go ahead and visit the 5th grade blog now, click here! Or, if you want the nitty gritty of how we got this project up and running–keep reading.

Blog Meeting #1: What makes a good class blog?

Four students–Zumer, Joseph, Camille, and Chandler–met with me on Friday 8/31 for our inaugural blogging session.

Of course, we couldn’t just jump right into blogging. First, we had some important things to discuss!

I asked the kids to brainstorm two lists: blog post ideas and blogging guidelines. They started by coming up with ideas on their own:

hard at work….

Then, each blogger took turns sharing their ideas with the group. We discussed the ideas together, and I typed them into one big, collaborative list in a Google Doc that we shared with the 5th grade teachers for feedback.

Here’s what those insightful kiddos came up with:

a fabulous list of guidelines for ANY school blog!

I was beyond impressed by the kids’ thoughtfulness and thoroughness, and so were their teachers–in fact, the teachers and I couldn’t think of anything else we needed to add.

Of course, we can always revisit these lists later if we need reminders or if we think of new ideas to add–but it’s clear to me that my 5th graders understand what kinds of things would make perfect topics for the blog, and they have a great grasp of how to make the blog respectful of both its subjects and its audience.

Blog Meeting #2: Getting started

For our second meeting on 9/7, we were excited to welcome a new member to the 5th grade blogging crew–Sofia!

Before the kids joined me that afternoon, I had gone ahead and set up a URL for the blog on WordPress, which made it easy for our 5th grade blog to be linked with the library and PE blogs–and easy for me to manage since I’m already familiar with the platform.

But, of course, we still had a lot of work to do to personalize the bare-bones beginning template.

First, I projected the theme selection menu on my SMARTBoard so the bloggers could all see the different options they had for blog designs and layouts. They quickly learned that some themes are free, but others cost money–and, sometimes, the ones that aren’t free are our favorites!

The kids narrowed down the choices to a few (free) favorites before selecting the Suburbia theme:

They loved how visual this theme was, and they also liked its multi-column layout. The decision to choose this one over other options was (fortunately) uncontested. 🙂

Next, the kids worked on customizing a color scheme for the blog to make it more personal to our school. The kids came up to the SMARTBoard and manipulated the color-picker wheels until they had found just the right shades of red and green to match our school mascot, the tree frog.

I LOVED listening to them think aloud during this stage–they debated how bright the green should be (“That’ll hurt people’s eyes!”) and what shade of red they should choose (“Too pink,” “Maybe a little darker?”). They chose settings not only based on their own preferences, but also with a clear regard for their audience.

Another thing we did at this session was choose a name and tagline for the blog. The tagline came easily–the students all liked the idea of saying “Welcome to 5th grade!” at the top of the blog so that readers would have a clear idea of what the blog was about.

Naming the blog, however, was another story!

The kids came up with literally dozens of ideas, and settling on just one of them was hard. Once the bloggers had (mostly) agreed on a title–Top Frogs–they still wanted feedback and suggestions from their classmates before the name became permanent. We decided to solicit other ideas from the rest of 5th grade the following week and see what they suggested.

In the end, as you can see, the Top Frogs title stuck:

click to visit!

Our last task that day was to come up with five interview questions for our meet-the-teacher posts so that students could start writing and be ready to post the following Friday!

Blog Meeting #3: The first posts!

During the week before our 9/14 meeting, the 5th graders got started interviewing the teachers on the 5th grade team. Because we have six teachers and only five bloggers, it took us a couple of weeks to get all of these done.

When the kids came to the library for our meeting, they learned how to log into WordPress, how to format their posts, and (the most exciting part) how to publish!

Here are links to their teacher interviews:

This topic was perfect for the students’ first posts for a couple of reasons.

First, introducing the 5th grade team of teachers was a great way to start off on a personal, engaging note, and the kids loved getting to interview their teachers!

Second, the posts were fun to write, but not too intimidating. We came up with the questions together, and the answers were of course supplied by the teachers–which was great scaffolding for the kids. They could focus on learning how to format and publish their posts without getting bogged down in also coming up with creative content.

And, let me tell you–the kids were so excited to see their first posts published on the blog for the whole world to see!

Blog Meeting #4: Wading a little deeper

Both of our 5th grade classes went on a field trip to the Sandy Creek Nature Center on Thursday, September 13th–so for their next blog posts, the kids’ assignment was to write about that:

These posts gave the kids a little bit of structure since they were all about the same shared experience, but within that structure the bloggers had a lot of freedom to use their own voices and writing styles–and if you read the posts, I think you can tell!

Not only did the students begin to explore their blogging voices in these posts, but they also learned how to upload a photo into a post. Each blogger chose a picture from Ms. Thompson’s photo album, then went through the steps to embed their photos into the body of the post before they clicked Publish.

Blog Meeting #5: Building independence

At our 9/28 meeting yesterday, Joseph and Sofia finished up our Meet the Teachers and Sandy Creek series. (See links above!)

The other three bloggers–Chandler, Camille, and Zumer–got a chance to write about their own topics. The only guideline I gave them was that they should write about something interesting they’d been doing in their classrooms.

Entirely independent of each other, all three chose to write about 5th grade’s historical fiction book groups.

Camille and Chandler focused more on the big picture, sharing how the groups were set up, which teachers were involved, what books everyone was reading, and their favorite parts of the book group experience.

Zumer decided to share more about the book he is reading in his book group, a novel called Red Cap by G. Clifton Wisler. And, since he finished with a little time to spare, he also learned how to embed an image file from a URL into a blog post so that he could include a picture of the book’s cover.

Yesterday was a milestone in our 5th grade blogging group–and not just because the kids had a little more freedom in their choice of topics.

They also experienced the excitement of reading and responding to comments!

Several Chase Street teachers and Chandler’s mom (Mrs. Pendley, the librarian at Gaines Elementary) had taken the time to comment on the students’ first couple of posts, and the kids were so thrilled to see that their blog had an audience!

They responded to as many comments as they had time for before the bell rang–and, in doing so, learned another key facet of blogging: engaging with your audience. 🙂

Finally, I adjourned our blogging meeting with next week’s assignment: pick your own topic based on our blogging guidelines.

As the dismissal bell rang, the kids left the library all aflutter with ideas for next week’s posts.

I’ve been so impressed by these kids so far, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with!