Monthly Archives: August 2011

Catching the Blog Bug.

A few weeks ago my VCE English unit 2 class and I took the leap and created a class blog.  I have a pretty amazing group of ten students (I am the envy of many teachers in my school – not only for the small size of my class but also for their personality and performance). It was a new experience for all of us, although at least two of us are bloggers already. I had read a few class blogs from other schools but didn’t really quite know how to make it work.

Anyway . . . we had established a Friday routine of ‘cake day’. Each week I provide the tea, coffee, milo and milk and one of them brings a cake to our double.

In second semester we expanded this to a round table discussion of current affairs designed to hone our debating skills and expand our knowledge of persuasive language. This seemed the ideal food for a class blog. We spent a lesson discussing the format for our blog and how we would ensure that everyone would/could be involved. So our cake roster now includes added responsibilities . . .  on your week you bring cake, stimulus material for discussion (media article, cartoon, interesting question) and you write the blog post based on the round table discussion.

We got our first two posts up and tweeted. We started to get a hit or two on our clustermap. Then I got sick! I missed the Friday session.

However, the students drove the session themselves and even posted the blog. I was so proud and impressed that they had done this without me. Then I missed the following session.

But, in the meantime a couple of colleagues from my PLN had followed the tweet and left comments on the blog. My students took it upon themselves to reply . . .  some of them actually doing it at home (I hadn’t even set it as homework!!). One of the colleagues encouraged her students to comment and before long our classes were sharing ideas and debating the issue of homework.

I missed last week’s session also. They still had their discussion and the post is still being written . . . although we are almost ready for our next cake day!

Initially I gave the students ‘author’ roles – they could post and approve but it turned out they couldn’t edit. One student pointed out that she was used to the auto-correct in Word and had developed the habit of not using capital letters at the start of sentences. In Word, of course, this doesn’t matter. But once she had posted her comments on our blog and noticed the lack of auto-correct she couldn’t go back to edit. If I ‘unapproved’ a post/comment and requested the student edit, they couldn’t.  The solution . . .  I have upgraded the students who have taken the responsibility for posting to ‘editors’. The students who are active on our blog now have more power/responsibility.

Do I have 100% participation? No! I am still encouraging (nagging) one student to get their blog post written (overdue by three weeks now) and a couple of students have not made any contributions yet. However, it is making those who are contributing clearer in their thinking and writing. I am especially happy with one of my ‘quiet’ classroom students who has suddenly found a medium to express her very valid opinions.

Along the way we are discussing and exploring issues relating to digital citizenship . . . copyright (we created our own banner but followed rules for crediting the art work), access to information, information and identity protection. That old ‘authentic learning’ chestnut in action again!

If you are thinking about taking the plunge into class blogging, I urge you to jump!

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Smelling the Roses!

I have been teaching my current homegroup for one year and three weeks. I joined them in semester two last year as their English teacher and this year I requested them as my Homegroup, which also makes me their English and Humanities teacher! They had a rough trot last year: they lost their first, beloved, homegroup teacher at the end of their first term of high school. This was followed by a series of teacher changes across a number of subjects, resulting in a very unsettled start to their high school career. By the time I came to meet them they were fast developing the tags ‘worst’ and ‘most difficult’.

This year school life has been more stable for them. Firstly, we have nine sessions together across the week. Secondly, the year 8 homegroup teacher team has been stable and work very well to support each other which gives all the students in the year level a sense of security.

It’s been a year of hard slog establishing class expectations, negotiating boundaries, creating a culture for learning in our classroom and building a relationship of trust and respect between us. For the first time in my teaching career I even implemented a seating plan in an effort to establish a better working environment. Afternoons have been a particularly difficult time of the day especially when facing the double sessions secondary timetables seem to throw up on a regular basis. My solution has been to ignore the categories on the timetable … my homegroup and I have nine sessions together and we mix up the activities we do … I just have to keep my eyes on the balls we are juggling to make sure we complete the curriculum requirements for English and Humanities while running projects for SparkL and Live4life.

Last week, on Thursday afternoon towards the end of period 5 I happened to be sitting at the ‘teacher’ desk. I had a student working opposite me … not because of bad behaviour, she had asked if she could sit there so she wouldn’t be distracted (this was my first smile for the lesson). I leant back in my chair, folded my arms and surveyed the room. For the first time in one year and two weeks every student in the room was actively engaged in a learning task. Some were building castles or making shields as part of our medieval studies, some were writing poems and other tasks related to our study of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, some were researching mental health for Live4life. There were no put-downs, name calling, refusals, arguments or missiles being thrown. There was a buzz of discussion, smiles and happy faces, questions being asked and problems being nutted out.

“You look bored, Miss,” my desk-buddy said.

“No,” I replied, taking a deep breath and smiling. “I am just enjoying my class.”