Limbo Land is when you are roaming between having set up your class blog the best you can (hopefully using the guidance of @kathleen_morris here) but you are not ready for it to reach its full potential due to permission forms and paperwork! I just thought I would offer some things I have done in the past few weeks whilst in Limbo Land… please add to the list.
Nobody likes it, but permission forms are required for students to use blogging platforms to share their work, post pictures, etc. Writing a clear permission form is key so parents know what they are signing up for. Are they signing up for work being shared? pictures? An explanation of what blogging is also accompanies my permission forms, which @kathmorris kindly shared with me and I expanded and changed upon to suit my school and students. This should include the benefits of blogging and a basic introduction to blogging. Information sessions are another important part to getting blogging up and running. Blog-uage is another language for a lot of people, so explaining in person what a blog is, the purpose, and how their child’s learning will improve from it is vital. Checklists to ensure all students have blog permission forms back in are extremely important especially if dealing with a large volume of students ( for example a specialist area where the whole school might have to respond).
Obviously we can not build up a safe online space, if the our social/emotional space in the classroom is not also safe. This means building a community of learners that feel safe and secure to share and collaborate with each other. We are a TRIBES school, so inclusion activities are our highest priority at the moment. We begin each day with community circles. These past few weeks we have worked on the Tribes agreements, Ideal classroom activities, T-shirt outlines where students draw dictated areas about their personalities and life in certain areas on a paper t-shirt, I like my neighbor who, and appreciation pictures. This week also saw us build a strengths wall in the classroom where each student has chosen a strength card to suit them and then we will move to some goal setting for strengths they wish to develop…. which brings me to….
* Goal setting!
What do I want to achieve out of my blog? So until I have all permission forms back, I am working on my goal for this term 1 2012. My goal this term and probably term 2 is on writing really GREAT comments. I blogged with these students last year on our Spanish blog. It was a great start to blogging for us all. My goal for 2011 blog was to reach out the the families so they could continue their Spanish learning at home, and just to get them excited about blogging.
I feel that went really well, and that goal was achieved. BUT I felt sometimes that the comments had area for improvement!
With only an hour a week with the students, I did not have the time to go into commenting in detail, so I am delighted that this year I can do that.
I will of course be using guidelines such as this to help students learn how to write a really GREAT comment, but until the blog is up and running THIS is not an authentic writing task. So, I had to come up with something more creative. Enter the mailbox:
At the start of the year, I wrote a letter to all my students. I told them about myself, and my family. As a writing tasks, all students wrote me a letter in return telling me anything that they thought I should know about them. It was a wonderfully insightful activity! After they wrote the letter, I felt that so much of themselves went into the task and I could not leave them unanswered. I also thought, what a great opportunity to model that letters/comments deserve a response. Therefore, I responded to each and every letter and placed this letter box out as a means of opening the lines of communication, having students practice writing to me, practice responding to letters. I also opened with Dear and From, and even after week one they were also doing the same in the notes I received in my post box. At the moment, I am not sharing students’ notes/letters with the class or modelling responses, but more modelling the fact that if someone puts the time and effort into writing a letter, a response is best etiquette! I am also modelling the structure that I hope to see in their commenting.
We have been visiting other blogs at every opportunity, just to show students what other classes are doing and getting them excited about working with other classes. I have also spent this time introducing myself to other teachers via Twitter and on their blogs in an attempt to develop some blogging buddies and global collaboration partners. The power of Twitter amazes me (so if you are not there, get there!), within a day I had more classes to collaborate with than I had the means to do. We have already set up a Flat Stanley project which will begin this coming week.