You're off to great places today is your day,
Your mountain is waiting so get on your way.
The mountains will be high if you want to actively engage students in blogging. Imagine my challenge when I teach 6 sections of at least 30 kids each. Almost 150 different students. There's no way I can climb over this mountain without some help. Involving parents is a goal that I've had. First I had to figure out what I was doing and get my teaching feet under me so when they came to look at our blogs, they were an embarassing mess. I think I've turned that corner, so I'm ready for some more adult eyes.
I think one thing I had to realize is that blogging is really nothing more than a writing assignment at its core. I'd bet that most parents feel pretty comfortable helping their 6th graders learn to write better. Even if the technology and specifics of blogging are intimidating, the writing isn't. It's important to create communications that emphasize this to help parents and family members find a way to say "yes".
Here's what I've done so far.....
- sent a letter home inviting parents to join in
- talked to parents during conferences
- posted an invitation on the class webpage
- invited the school resource officier to audit observance of safety guidelines
First I sent out a letter to all parents as homework assignment. Students were to take their parents through several steps. Students were to show them the class blog and their blog (if they have one)---show them the different areas of the blog like where to find the titles of blog posts. I used screenshots to help both the student and parent navigate. Then I asked for guest bloggers. Unfortunately I didn't get any affirmative answers. I think it was just too foreign to them to say yes because I have parents who typically are more than willing to help with just about anything.
Next I talked to parents during Parent Teacher Conferences. I found some leads and now I need to follow up on those leads.
The last thing I've done is to post a plea on our class social studies page. Here's what I said.
2.19.11 Dear Parents....I'd love to find some adult helpers. Maybe you could consider volunteering some time to read their writing...or maybe they have a grandparent, aunt or uncle that would enjoy interacting with us. We have been working on our writing in social studies class. Students have created writing in social studies goals for themselves and I would love to find more readers of their writing. I think they get worn out with me responding to them all the time. I'd be especially thankful if you knew someone who is a writer or an editor or maybe does their own blogs. I know that some of you probably have a professional blog on your company's website...and you could share advice with students. The best part is that you can volunteer from wherever you have an Internet connection because our writing is on our blogs....you never have to leave home or work to help out.
Right now most of the writing is centered around ancient China. So if that's something you've been dying to learn about OR if you already know lots and would like to share it OR if you just enjoying reading student writing....you're exactly who I'm looking for!!!! The only thing I ask is that you have a positive, supportive attitude towards students. It's about finding authentic reasons to build their confidence...not just praise for doing the assignment. But everyone has something in their writing that is worthy of being noticed and complimented.
You can volunteer to do it once; you can do it once a week; or everyday. Whatever you can offer, I'll be more than glad to have your help. Just send me an email and I'll get in touch with more details. Thank you so much.
And while it's not parental involvement I've asked our SRO( school resource officier) who is a police officier with the local department, if he would consider being an auditor of our blogs. I thought, since he does lots of online safety training with students and their parents, he would be a natural to go through and look at the student pages. I asked him to focus on the About pages---seeing if anything pops out at him that shouldn't have been shared. Our kids love him and I think they'll be happy to see his name on their blog...and I think it will be good to reinforce all that he's taught them about safety. We'll see if they've applied what he's said.
I've gotten parent feedback and a couple of responses to this post on my class page. This week, in fact, I have one student's grandmother starting to follow one blog. She's offered to make one comment each week for that student. I sent her 4 blog options...students who have different needs but could use another adult voice giving them suggestions and encouragement. It will be fun to see who she picks and how it develops over the next month or so.
Ideas from other teachers I'm going to try
I really liked Mr. Carson's idea of having a student invite a parent to be a guest blogger on their blog or for the student to show someone how to blog and help them leave their first comment. What fun that would be. I will be following along to see if he gets any responses.
Next week I think I'll brainstorm with students about how they could get their parents involved. I'll bet they have more insights that I can use. And I'll ask them what they think about the guest blog idea and maybe we'll pick whatever they think will be the easiest way to do this.
It's a Win-Win Opportunity
Finding ways for parents and family member to become involved in blogging will be a win-win for everyone. Students enjoy a bigger and wider audience for their writing. Parents will enjoy being able to participate and feel included in what their child is learning. And I will enjoy sharing the burden of giving enough feedback to students.