“I’ve always loved writing, especially when someone reads it, which is what you are doing right now!!” ~Kayden, age 9
I have always known how great it feels to have others take the time to read what I’ve written, but I never fully understood the power of audience until I allowed my students to become online authors. In our classroom we are always talking about what makes our writing worth reading. From my attention-seeking buddies to my non-verbal friends, I have found publishing student writing online is an amazing way to encourage self-expression and worldwide connection. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways for students to use 2-in-1 devices to write locally and share globally.
This is my 4th year creating individual blogs for elementary students. Each year, I am floored by their level of motivation and creativity. Admittedly, I have actually had to limit blogging hours to 7am to 9pm, because students were voluntarily writing by the light of the moon! Sometimes I require certain topics, and other times, students choose their own. Over the course of a given year, I have been treated to student posts from the Possibilities of Saturdays to the Salinity Levels of the Southern Atlantic.
When blogging with students, keep the following in mind:
Protect Privacy: Never connect a name with a photo. Ditch last names. Never provide location information. As adults, we understand how to keep our identity intact. Students are often willing to trade privacy in exchange for attention. Help them to find the balance between securing safety and seeking followers.
Teacher as Moderator: Provide direct instruction to convey expectations surrounding posts and comments. Remind students all correspondence must filter through your system of checks and balances. In the beginning, students will require redirection and reteaching, but as their writing prowess develops, you will find your job as Moderator becomes easier and easier.
Dessert comes AFTER dinner: Students will immediately want to know how to change blog design, fonts and text color, as well as add images and embed videos. Remind students that content is king - without rich content, it does not matter how beautiful a blog looks. To be honest, I have never taught any of these skills. Some students learn on their own, and then student-led mini-lessons rip through the classroom like wildfire. Before I know it, all students know how to “fancify" their home on the web with virtually no help from me.
Brought to you by Brad Wilson and John Spencer, WriteAbout is a new social publishing platform designed for students to share creative responses to engaging images. Never underestimate the power of background knowledge when it comes to working with students. Children of all ages learn more about the world around them when they see and discuss interesting photographs. WriteAbout is chock-full of over 500 visual writing ideas, and users have the option of adding more!
Sign up for a free account and get your students started:
Protect Privacy: Students will be connecting with students and teachers worldwide on WriteAbout. Though teachers create closed groups, take the opportunity to teach students about protected participation in public groups, where identity is protected while participation remains public. Teachers can monitor and moderate student posts as they become online authors.
Groups Galore: Whether your students are into Minecraft, origami, animals or sports, there are many public groups where kids can connect and write about favorite topics. Teachers can also create public or private groups for students, as well! Students can comment on each others’ posts, and teachers can leave feedback for students by posting annotation, voice recordings or private comments.
Customize Content: Because students are motivated to participate on Write About, be sure to create content customized to fit your curriculum. You’ll be impressed by their reflections, and your lesson ideas can be shared with teachers Hither and Yon. Everyone benefits!
Though Twitter has millions of users, the majority of educators have still not made the leap. However, a classroom Twitter account is a great way for everyone to get their feet wet while learning all about navigating Twitter, composing Tweets and friending Tweeps! This is my third year Tweeting with my @ThirdGraders and @FourthGraders, and every year our Tweeting expertise grows a bit more!
To make Twitter more elementary-friendly, give these a try:
Protect Privacy: Assign students numbers or nicknames they can use to sign their Tweets. Our students either sign off with #TweetTogether if we co-author a Tweet, or they use student numbers to make their mark.
Tweet on a Sheet: For many reasons, I use paper Tweets to get students used to composing 140-character messages. First of all, I only have a few devices available in my classroom, so it allows students to create when inspiration hits them. Second of all, it helps younger students learn the importance of spelling and punctuation. Finally, it takes time for students of all ages to learn the art of being frugal with their 140-character allotment.
Inspirational Ideas: Work with your students to create a list of topics to Tweet about! I learned the hard way that most students will Tweet about the same topics unless they are given suggestions to do otherwise. You don’t want every Tweet to be about the science topic you are learning in class. Have students create a firestorm of ideas, and post the list somewhere in the classroom as a source of inspiration.
Having 2-in-1 devices in the classroom provides a perfect opportunity to have students become digital authors. Whether their actual audience boils down to just Grandma and a few classmates, or expands to include the global community and admired celebrities, students are excited about the possibilities and will rise to the challenge as authors.
Brought to you by Intel Education. For more great ideas for putting 2 in 1 devices to use with students, be sure to visit to visit intel.com/2in1Everyone, where you'll find strategies, suggestions and more! #IntelEdu2in1
Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy) is a 4th grade teacher at Mullen-Hall School in Falmouth, Massachusetts and also provides professional development to educators at local, regional and national venues. Her work in blended learning, student engagement and social media has been featured by EdWeek, NBC News’ Education Nation, ASCD, MTA and the NEA. Additionally, she serves on the Massachusetts ASCD Board of Directors, where she helps manage digital communications. Suzy is also a Discovery Education Network STAR, a SMART Exemplary Educator and a FableVision Ambassador. Her classroom blog, Fourth Graders, Dreaming Big is a comprehensive resource for families and educators alike.