Getting parents and students involved with blogging

December 1st, 2008

In his last guest post Gresham Brown, a fourth-grade teacher in Greenville, South Carolina, talked about how to get started with classroom blogs. This time, he tackles the task of introducing parents to blogs and getting them involved in the classroom blogging process.

Classroom blogs are powerful tools that open up communication between students, parents, and teachers. This kind of communication and collaboration can have a huge impact on learning. But for classroom blogs to be effective, parents and students need to be equipped to use this incredible tool. Here are some strategies I’ve used to engage my students and their parents in the blogging process.

What is a blog anyway?
I’ve found that many of parents and students do not know what a blog is. So, I began the school year by explaining the differences between a blog and website. I used Open House and our class meeting time to showcase my class website and class blog, pointing out the differences between each one. Websites are organized by pages, are generally static, and do not allow for any type of back and forth communication. Blogs are organized by posts and tags, archived by months, and provide an avenue for discussion and collaboration.

How do we use this?
The next step was to demonstrate how to leave a comment under a post. At Open House, I used my computer and a projector to demonstrate to the parents how easy it is to leave a comment. I spoke to the parents about the power of conversation and how blogging provides us opportunities to hear and build on each other’s ideas. In order for all readers of the blog to understand the commenting feature, I recently created a short video tutorial that shows this process step by step. At the beginning of the school year, I took my entire class to the computer lab and taught them how to leave comments. I went through the same demonstration I gave to parents, but this time I gave each child an opportunity to respond. I created a post that asked kids to describe what they’ve enjoyed about school so far – a safe invitation that each child could respond to. The kids loved watching their comments appear and were amazed at how easy it was to “talk” to one another in this format. We studied posts from my previous year’s class and saw how they collaborated with each other through the blog’s commenting feature. After studying several examples, our class created criteria for appropriate blog comments; such as respond to the post, build on each other’s ideas, stay on topic, be positive, and use correct spelling and conventions. The students went home excited and equipped to be contributors to our classroom blog.

How do I keep them coming back?
This question presents the real challenge – How do I encourage parents and students to continue contributing to the blog? Here are some strategies that have worked for me:
1. Blog regularly. You’ll lose readers if you only post once every two weeks. Try to set aside a day a week to work on your blog. Parents will visit regularly if you post regularly.
2. Send email updates. Like many teachers, I created an email distribution list at the beginning of the school year. Whenever I want parents to read a particular post, I’ll send out an email with the blog’s link. It’s an easy way for parents to check the blog.
3. Give students a sneak peek. Each week, I show my students what’s new on the blog. Like all kids, they love seeing pictures of themselves! And like all kids, they want their friends and family to see the pictures, too. My students love to go home and ask their parents to view and respond to the blog.
4. Create posts that ask for a response. Present a challenging math problem and ask students and parents to share their thinking. Showcase a student’s writing and ask for feedback. Ask students and parents to post questions about your current unit of study in science or social studies.
5. Make it worthwhile. Parents love to know what’s going on in the classroom – your blog gives them an opportunity to take a “peek” inside. Post lots of pictures and videos of the incredible learning that is taking place. Use your blog to make your classroom “come alive” for your parents.
6. Respond. Make sure you take the time to respond to comments. Blogging is a conversation, so make sure you’re a part of the dialogue.

When parents and students begin reading and contributing to your blog, a conversation begins. Learning is no longer contained within the walls of your classroom; it is now part of the larger world.

Entry Filed under: Classroom practice

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jodi Mitts  |  January 5th, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Springfield School District 186 in Illinois is fortunate enough to have a very dedicated technology department. All teachers in our district have their own webpages. At Lincoln Magnet School, our teachers are expected to update their webpages daily. We have a section labeled “News”. This is where we write a short description of what was accomplished in class that day, homework assignments given, and a learning at home connection. This is a great way to communicate with students and parents. We also have a “Projects” section. This feature allows teachers to include direction sheets, planning guides, and rubrics for our students to use as they complete technology projects. My favorite aspect of our webpages is the “Blog” section. Weekly I try to ask my students a higher-level question that relates to our current topic of study. My students then have the opportunity to respond by sharing their thoughts and opinions. The students are excited that they can share their voice with anyone who visits our blog. I particularly enjoy the fact that my former students still check my webpage and respond to my blogs. This encourages my current students to do the same. I truly believe that the use of classroom webpages has changed our school for the better. I believe that parents and students would agree as well.

  • 2. Kate Janush  |  January 28th, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    I’m curious as to how much time a week it takes you to keep your blog updated.

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