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Strawberries, Fun, and Student Blogging

Andrea Smith

Growing as a teacher and learner requires honest feedback. Who else could be more honest than students? During winter break, I reflected on my teaching practices in order to set some goals for the new year. After reviewing my list, I realized what a positive influence my students' classroom blog had been on my life as a writing teacher. Scrolling through and rereading past entries, I was so proud of the work my students created and shared using our classroom blog at KidBlog. I knew how students enthusiastically used the site for writing both at school and home. Over the months parents let me know how much they enjoyed reading and sharing the entries with their children. Was the blogging experience powerful enough to continue and expand in my classroom community? What was my evidence? I figured my students were the best place to gather reasons to make blogging part of my professional growth.

I wondered if my students considered our blog to be as important as me. When we returned to school after break, I sat down on our first Monday and asked my kids a very simple question: Why should we blog? Our collective list of reasons looked like this:

  • You can share your writing with family members. 
  • We can write any time and any place. 
  • We can write when we are away from school.
  • If you take a trip and travel with your family, you can write anywhere-even when you go to other countries. You can share e-postcards right away with your classmates.
  • The blog makes it easy to plan, edit, and revise your writing. You also want to revise and edit since other people read your writing.
  • The blog is fun. 
  • It is fun to add photos, videos, and music to your writing. 
  • The blog is an easy way to post about what you are learning independently or in class.
  • The comment section of the blog lets you get real feedback from friends. It is also fun to think that Mrs. Smith reads and comments on our blogging when she's at home in her pajamas drinking her coffee.
  • The blog helps us collect our writing in one place. 
  • The blog lets us write in a paper-free way; we don't add to the landfills and our moms don't worry about where they are going to store all of our writing that we bring home. 

When I compiled the list of student comments to share with my principal, I couldn't decide if the attribute of "fun" should be at the top of the list or the bottom. In recent years, many professional conversations in formal school settings and meetings revolve around topics like measurable data to guide instruction, value added, and adequate yearly progress. Was "fun" a reason to include blogging as a routine and ritual in our learning community? Was "fun" a reason to pursue professional growth?

Student Views on Blogging and Fun

I shared the draft of my professional goals with my students on our Smartboard, reviewing the blogging page and I asked them: Do you think "fun" should be at the top, middle, or bottom of the list? Was "fun" strong evidence to support our reasons for blogging? As the chatter of kids filled our room, I was anxious to hear their opinions. When the sharing started, I had a mixed reaction. 

Some thought it should be first on the list, others thought "fun" should be somewhere in the middle, while a small group thought the word should be last. The bee-like buzz of disagreements hovered over our community circle.

Finally, someone stopped and made us think. Sydney, one of my quieter yet sage-like students, slowly waved her hand at me and said, "Mrs. Smith, you should put 'fun' at the top, middle, and bottom of the list." A quiet filled the room as Sydney continued. 

"Blogging is like strawberries -- delicious, healthy, fun to pick and eat. Your mom thinks that they are the best snack ever. Moms think kids don't realize that a delicious snack can also be good for us . . . we know it and love strawberries even if they are good for us."

Blogging is the same way. Kids love blogging for all the fun reasons and we also know that blogging helps us grow as writers. You and Mr. Zeoli love our blog because we grow as writers AND blogging helps us love to write. If you sprinkle "fun" throughout the list, it will show how important blogging is to us, and how it really helps us grow. 

Murmurs of approval, bobbing heads, and big smiles affirmed Sydney's idea. 

Strawberries. What a practical notion -- if something is delicious, nutritious, and brings joy into our day, why wouldn't we make it part of our lives? Why hesitate in adding "fun" to the list of valid educational reasons for blogging? I double dog dare all literacy coaches, department chairs, grade-level leaders, and principals to serve strawberries at their next meeting, taking time to ask teachers about the notion of learning and fun. My students reminded me that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive ideas. Strawberries served in a beautiful bowl, a great visual reminder of why we work with children each day. May your days be filled with great learning and fun.

If you want to explore the idea of blogging with your students, visit KidBlog.
 

 

Andrea Smith

For the past 30 years, Andrea Smith has learned with children in Texas, Colorado, and Indiana before finally landing in Ohio. Her third and fourth graders spark a new energy for teaching, and she is grateful to spend each school day with so many fascinating learners.