I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Blogging Blunders

I've tried blogging in my 7th grade ELA class for two years now, each with a different tilt...

Quick overview of 2012-2013...

My goal: have students reflect on what we're doing throughout the year - mainly for Genius Hour

We set up our blogs through Kidblog.

Pros and Cons:
     + I was able to see new blog posts easily.
     + One class was on one page.
     -  Not all three classes were on one page.
           Resolution: I easily created a page on our class blog for this.


I assigned blog posts for reflections - for Dot Day, Cardboard Challenge, and Genius Hour posts.
These were graded blog posts, but students chose how I graded them (from Sylvia Tolisano's rubric).
I really didn't assign a ton of posts - I only give independent reading as homework, and I need to check out the laptop carts if I expect them to blog in class. I also saw this as just a substitute for a notebook - I was not assigning authentic blog post assignments... It was also hard to grade them using a blogging rubric, as those were not always the standards we cover in class. So... blogging really fell by the wayside for us. I needed to change things.

Quick overview of 2013-2014...

My goal: have AUTHENTIC blogging experiences, so they continue to blog

We set up blogs through Blogger this time, as they all have Google accounts through school.

Pros and Cons:
      + Students could design, adding background picture or gadgets, or... so many choices!
      - They took a lot of time to set up.
            Resolution: Took the time when the reruns of Big Bang Theory were on.
      - I did not set up the blogs so I could moderate
            Resolution: I found out I COULD, thanks to @alcp! I may do this next year.
      - Cannot check the blogs easily (like on Kidblog) to see if there are new ones. 
            Resolution: @TeachMrsFerrari taught me how through Feedly! <-- post from @langwitches
      - All blogs are not all in one place.
            Resolution: I made a page on our class blog for a list of their blogs.
      + It was fun making a ThingLink for each class like I saw another teacher do (It's been so long I forget who deserves the credit!), and the kids love it.


I did not assign blog posts (except for the first paper blog). This meant that those students who don't do anything extra never wrote any more blog posts. That was the major blunder. Another was that since there weren't that many blog posts written, there weren't that many to share, hardly any comments on them, and not many in-class role models to celebrate as a class.

With that in mind, we did experience some successes:
-May Joy's description of herself - I never asked students to write this, but she definitely got what I was hoping our purpose for the blogs would be!
-Annie's story was featured on the 100-Word Challenge Showcase!
-Christina wrote a review of Hate List before she was even finished with it.
     The author commented - and then REPLIED to Christina's question!
Click here for the full post.

- Colin used his blog to raise money. His most successful was his water campaign.
- Claire kept trying different things - her novel(s), Psychology Saturdays, Fan Fiction...
    Sadly, she hasn't kept this up over the summer...
- Annie tried many ideas this year... For one blog, she copied and pasted funny photos 
      & videos.
   She ran into a few people asking about the appropriateness of the "cheeky quotes" 
       widget she had, and what the purpose of her blog was... She was upset by this.
   She then began a new food blog and that, too, was copying other people's ideas.
   By the time our genius hour presentations came along, she had begun 
       this book review blog! Sadly, she has not kept this up over the summer...
   I love how she experimented with blogs (although I was worried for her, and realized 
       I did not give lessons on "how to blog") and finally found something that works for her.

Some statistics:

Nine of my 64 students blogged - inconsistently, but they did blog for a bit. 
Four of these created NEW blogs!
One of these is still blogging over the summer - Woot! Woot! It matters to that one... 
       Please take a moment to check it out and comment. I suppose it was my dream for ALL
       students to keep a blog over the summer! I'll keep dreaming...

Changes for 2014-2015...

My goal: model throughout the year how to blog authentically, while requiring certain posts and using ELA standards on which to grade them

We will continue to use Blogger. This is so they may continue with their blogs in 8th grade...

What I will do to prepare my students for blogging...

--Share this document with articles regarding using other people's ideas on your blog.
--Set up something like this post - good "How To" to start with.
--Discuss WHY people blog.
     Share Top Ten Things I've Learned About Blogging from a 5th grader.
     Share some of the reasons from Pernille Ripp's post What Does Student Blogging Exactly Do?
--Start with paper blogging from McTeach - BEST LESSON EVER.
--Teach how to (and why!) comment.
          Solid posts regarding leaving good comments:
               How to Be a Good Commenter from John Scalzi
               Commenting from @BalancEdTech
               Quality Commenting - student guest post from @langwitches
               Leaving Good Comments PDF from Solution Tree
--Teach students how to embed videos, add Clustr Maps, give credit where due, set comments settings to "anyone" and "never" for moderating (requests were going to email accounts that the students never check).
--Go to #comments4kids on Twitter, and comment on some together as a class. (Then 
     tweet out #ICommented from your class account when your class comments!)
--Find a class that is blogging already and comment on some of their posts TOGETHER 
     as a class.
--Purchase a world map for marking reader comment locations. (Purchase pins and 
     string, too.)
--I've thought about requiring students to comment, but I'll work that out with my partner 
     across the hall... Still not sure about this one.
--Include parents - we had our first blog posts (passion paragraphs) ready for Open House.
--Email parents or advertise on your class blog when there are when stellar posts.
--Require reflection blogs, using portions and variations of this rubric or this rubric (or both).
     Does anyone want to help me with this? I'd love to create a short rubric that fits the 
     CCSSs & allows for reflections, as well!
--Require some (how many??) independent reading blog posts, using these rubrics.
--This rubric can be our ultimate goal, but I won't grade them with it!
--At the end of the year, emphasize once again how blogging is usually used for authentic 
     purposes. Show them that it is okay to delete posts they no longer need on their blog, 
     in order to start fresh. What do they really feel a passion to blog about? Or not...??

Final thoughts:

I exposed these seventh graders to blogging last year - it was really the first time they'd 
     set up a blog and been let loose with it. They currently do not blog in 6th or 8th grade,
     so I feel it is my duty to at the very least expose them to the idea of blogging and
     leaving a positive digital footprint. I know now that I need to model and require 
     some blogs from students. Model, model, model, and practice, practice, practice... 
     These will be my main changes for this upcoming year. How do YOU approach 
     blogging with your middle school students??

how to make animated gif

I know I will have many more blunders...


  1. Hello Joy. First of all, thanks for this post. It is exactly what I have either gone through, am dealing with right now, or it helps to answer a lot of questions as I move forward. Greatly appreciated!

    You have been blogging with students longer than I have, as I just started last year. Also, your students are older than mine (3rd graders). So some of the issues that I have are a little different than yours.

    Having said that, lots of similarities as well. I switched to Blogger this year (used Edublogs last year), and prefer it. That is for my main teacher blog which I would use to highlight what we are doing in class and have the kids comment on whatever skill or concept I wanted to put up there. As far as individual blogs, I am still debating if I'm going to link to a Kidblog for my students or have them use individual Blogger accounts through Google. My students are quite a bit younger than yours, so Kidblog would make it easy, but I do like the idea of letting them continue blogging on Blogger when the year is over. Also I worry about moderation. I know I can moderate comments on Blogger but I'm not sure if I can moderate their posts before they put them up.

    I am most definitely going to start out teaching commenting skills much the same as you are. We will start by commenting as a whole class on other class blogs and go over what makes up a quality comment. I am going to have my younger students use a friendly letter format and we start out with 2 C's and a Q to help them as they post. The 2 C's and a Q stand for Compliment, Connection, Question.

    I have seen some other teachers do a Family Blogging Month, so I am going to try that as well to get some more parent participation. Last year I had a few parents who were really good about commenting but I'd like to get more involved. Also I am going to participate again in some blogging activities such as The Global Blogging Challenge and Quadblogging. Those gave my students some audiences across the world and it led to some collaboration with classes in the UK and New Zealand.

    I'd used #comments4kids last year but I was not aware of the #ICommented hashtag. Thank you!

    I am passionate about blogging with my students as it was an incredible experience last year. I can't wait to get going on it this year as I've learned a lot so I am hoping for an even more amazing experience this year. We are also doing our own version of Genius Hour (I'm going to call it Wonder Workshop for my younger ones), so putting the two together, should be quite a year!

    Thanks again for a very helpful post!


  2. Hi Joy,
    I have been blogging with my middle schools for two years now. I teach the same students for grades 6,7, and 8; the 6th graders learn about blogging via our class blog, Hey, Kids! http://bdonofrio.edublogs.org If they have been responsible bloggers, they earn their own blog after Christmas. They then continue on with this blog for grades 7 & 8. My students overall, I can honestly only think of one exception from all three grades, LOVE blogging. We blog every Monday in our computer lab, and I do often assign homework on the blog.
    Here are a few ways I use blogs in no particular order:
    1. I write a post about what we have done in class and ask the kids to leave a comment. Because this is published writing, they are aware anyone in the world can see it. I often pull up their comments on the projector and we discuss what makes a quality comment. Of course, we discuss quality comments at the beginning of the school year. Linda Yollis is the master here. She has an incredible 3rd grade blog and has won numerous awards. I tell my kids if 3rd graders can write quality comments, they can certainly do the same in middle school.
    2. Sometimes I print their comment without their names and then hand them back randomly to be assessed by students. Have they met the criteria for a quality comment? After we are done, we hang them on the board in three categories: quality, non-quality, and somewhere in the middle. It's neat to see greater numbers in the quality column as the year progresses.
    3. I print their comments and return to the owner. I indicate where improvements need to be made, but I don't correct. Each child corrects his own and turns it in again.
    4. We read other blogs and discuss quality comments/quality writing.
    5. We participate in the Edublogs Student Challenge every spring. For this, the kids write their own posts.
    6. We visit lots of other blogs and comment, often for homework credit. Again, the kids print up their comments and hand them in to me so I can see that they did this.
    7. Each week we have a new blogging task: inserting videos, creating a photo video on PhotoPeach, putting on a ClustrMap, etc.
    8. We do a Family Blogging Month in February with various weekly prizes for most comments on a post, farthest commentator, etc.
    9. We use a map in class with red push pins to mark our visitors. We also have a thermometer to count our visitors.
    10. We have Blogging Party when we reach a goal: one visitor from every continent; visitors from 100 different countries; 10,000 visitors, etc. The party is usually a movie that coincides with something we are reading, food (of course), and blankets and pillows on the floor of my classroom.
    11. Our most exciting comment is from Graham Salisbury (the author of Under the Blood Red Sun) and the producer of the movie based on this book. We had read the novel and written a number of posts about it. My favorite post was a web quest involving lots of background information on the novel. The movie producer, Dana Haskins, sent us bookmarks from the movie and asked for our opinion on a difference in the script from the movie! She called our class "honorary consultants". The movie is coming out in November of this year, and we will all go to see it.
    12. I let the kids know that blogging is a legitimate profession, and that a lot of writers make substantial livings from blogging. We also talked about Malala last year, and how she began a movement for schooling for girls in Afghanistan through her blog. It's powerful motivation!
    13. We met a class through blogging and Skyped with them at the end of the year. We also Skyped with the curators at the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of our Birthday Party for Shakespeare.
    14. Blogs I love: Mrs. Rombach Reads, Huzzah!, Mrs. Krebs Class, Making Waves in 6th Grade.
    I hope some of this is helpful to you.
    Good luck as you continue your blogging journey this year. We would love to blog with your class!