We have been hard at work on our paper blog as we prepare to unveil the actual blog experience this Friday. One of the essential things I do (and tweak) every year is the using paper blogs to get my 5th graders to think about how to comment, and more specifically how to start a conversation with their comments. While the idea is not mine, I borrowed it from McTeach, it has developed over the years into something I love doing and find essential as we prepare to blog and converse with the world.
The whole idea is very simple.
Creating the blogs:
Show students samples of previous years’ paper blogs to give them a visual of what to expect. I accidentally kept one class set a year so I have a great variety of blogs that I lay out on tables so they can see and read them. Otherwise, I take pictures of them year and after year and have those ready as well if needed.
There are a few rules here: It should showcase something the students are passionate about, it should include their name, and every paper blog should have a border. I also ask students to write their “post” in pencil first so that I may check their spelling. We want to emphasize spelling in their blog posts from the start.
Students are encouraged to be creative with their title, their layout, and what they write. We discuss what would make a great introductory post and how they can let their readers know what their blogs will be about. I have students choose all sorts of things they are passionate about: The Badgers, various sports, books, ribs, their family, dogs etc.
I tend to give them several class periods to work on these since it is a nice break in the hectic schedule of beginning of school and it allows me to see what pace students work at.
When blogs are done:
When most of the blogs are done, we get to the main point of the lesson: Commenting – this is why I do all of this.
Students are each given a pad of post-its and lay their paper blog out on their table. Then armed with post-its they walk around and read each others’ blogs. On a post-it they are asked to leave a comment and sign their name. This is in order to teach them that comments should never be anonymous, they need to stand behind their words.
We have discussed what makes a great comment in previous lessons so I only ask them to remind me.
I give the students 15 to 20 minutes to walk around and comment.
After the walk-around
Once time is up students return to their blogs. If they have comments with questions on them, they answer the question and pass the post-it back to the person who wrote it. This symbolizes the conversation that could take place.
I then ask for a student volunteer who helps me act out the conversations we will have based on post-its I have grabbed from the blogs.
I want the students to understand the difference between a “dead end” comment and a “highway” comment. Dead end ones end the conversations and may include the standard “I like your post” comments. Highway comments include comments that ask questions, share experiences, and link back to their own blog (here by leaving a name). Because we act these out, the students quickly get what makes for a better comment
We wrap up the whole experience by creating another reminder poster of what makes a great comment and students either bring their blogs home or I showcase them in the hallway.
Here are some key points which have really sparked my interest. On the first two days (article 1):
Morning Routine – we discuss expectations; what type of morning do the kids want? How do we get started for the day? We come to an agreement on how it will run best.
Rules discussion – I don’t set the rules, the kids do. So how do we want our room to function, how do we want it to sound, to look like? What will we do to maintain it. That conversation starts on the first day.
Name your table. The students will come up with a table name and then create a banner for it. This will happen monthly as the students change tables.
Wordle about me – I have parents hand in 5 secret adjectives to describe their child and then we add 5 of our own and it make a really great Wordle about the kids which we hang up – the students get so surprised over the adjectives their parents use.
Connect the students – this is a great activity that only requires paper and sharpies. The kids all write their name on the border of the paper and then one person makes a statement like “I play soccer.” Anyone else who plays soccer gets to connect their name to theirs and then the next person states something and so on. In the end you have a huge spiderweb of how connected we are in the classroom which I display even though it is super messy but it kind of looks like art.
Random Pictures of Mrs. Ripp – I will be sharing a slideshow of random pictures from my life to see if the kids can guess what they mean to me. The following the kids will bring in their random pictures.
Flag pennent – a way for my kids to show their personality and decorate their cubbies
Make Animoto classroom vision – the kids figure out our vision for the room and put in into Animoto. It really gets them thinking and helps them take ownership of the room, here is last year’s.
Time Capsule – we measure height and write down our favorites and dislikes. The kids always crack up at the end of the year about what they wrote.
Read Dear Future Mrs. Ripp Student letters aloud. Every year my students write a letter to the new kids sharing information about this classroom and how to get the best out of it. This year some of those students are still with me so I am going to share their letters with the whole class when they work on projects.
Pencil cups – I have tables this year so no more name tags on desks. Students will instead have a decorated pencil cup with their name on it. They work on this while I read aloud.
Name sticks – I randomly pull sticks when we discuss and use them for group work.
Lunch/bathroom/leaving room magnets, – sign in, sign out
Intro to Blogging – we start to talk about blogging on the second day of school because it is a huge part of our classroom. And then we start to discuss safety.
Paper blog lesson – this is a great lesson shared by @McTeach and one that I love to do with my kids.
Discuss classroom jobs – I have helpers every week and this year I added new jobs like Googler and Mapper. The Goggler will google questions we have submitted on a list and the mapper will keep track of where we connect with.
Some admin items I had not considered when beginning the new year in the classroom (article 2). I particularly like the idea to use numbers/characters instead of names on the boring stuff:
Create skeleton sub plans. These sub plans have all of our times and subjects on them as well as any pertinent information. That way when I need a sub in the room all I do is plug in the specific information and presto – sub plans are done. Here is an example. These also come in handy in case you wake up super sick, which I have tried, at least you can email this to the school secretary.
Write a Dear Substitute Letter. I have students with special needs in my room as well as kids that need extra care. At the beginning of the year I write a brief letter to my subs explaining a little bit about my kids and their needs, without breaking confidentiality of ourse, then I have it to give to each new sub. Here is an example letter.
Use Numbers instead of Names (on the boring stuff). My students are all assigned numbers for things like their take home envelopes, their book boxes, and files that keep on them. That way I don’t have to print out new name stickers year after year, they simply get a number assigned to this more boring stuff.