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Student Blogs as a Brain-Based Strategy

I’ve had a wiki for my 2nd grade classes for a few years now.  So I couldn’t see the point in having students blog on top of that.  However, a comment by Angie Rumsey on an Edupln blog post had me reverse my thinking and start my students blogging!
The Comment
Her comment was after a post I wrote about Metacognitive Strategies for Reading Comprehension.  In her response she wrote,
In Third grade we teach them how to write a thinking stem.  It looks something like this:  
I am reading ... (name of story)... by (author ... In my story (tell me an event that is happening in your story) then they write a thinking stem - (I'm thinking... feeling,... seeing... noticing... or this reminds me of....)  After they write one stem - they write two more with the same formula.
It's a lot of work, but good for checking comprehension.  It also checks to see if they are being meta-cognitive. I do this about once a week - about....
Here are some rough ones kidblogs

The Epiphany
I visited her kidblog link to see the thinking stems.  That’s when the realization hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks; blogging IS brain-based!!  Here’s why. The thinking stem described by Angie is a metacognitive strategy in itself…add to that the novelty of a blog, the knowledge that their work will actually be published, and understanding they will actually have an audience, and you’ve got a recipe to get the full attention of the brain.  That will cause more neurons to fire.  The more neurons that are firing at one time make it much more likely for learning to occur.  I had to try it!
New Bloggers
I created an account at kidblog.org.  It was incredibly easy to sign up for the free account and get started.  The next day, I shared with my second graders that they were going to become bloggers.  They were buzzing with excitement!  We had already been learning the thinking strategies used in Angie’s thinking stem, so it was a perfect lead-in.  I pulled up Angie’s class blog list and we read and analyzed many of them.  Finally, it was time to get to work.
Students broke up into their reading groups for their ‘book club’ time.  Once finished, each student worked excitedly on his/her own thinking stem and then brought it to me for approval.  During our afternoon computer time, students eagerly entered their thinking stems onto their blogs.  Afterwards, the world’s newest bloggers walked proudly back to class.
Comments
That evening I put the message out to my twitter followers that my new bloggers would love comments.  The comments came pouring in.  (I recommend using the hashtag #comments4kids when requesting comments.)  I also emailed parents the link and many of them commented as well.  The next day students were thrilled to see the comments – even comments from other countries.  Now they can say they have an international audience! 
Did the blogging catch their imagination?  Yes!  Did they do a great job in anticipation of an audience?  Oh yes!  See for yourself at http://kidblog.org/MrsDahlsClass4.  I’m so proud of them I can’t stand it!!  
Finally
They are anxiously awaiting their next opportunity to blog.  I plan to make this a weekly activity to go along with many subjects.  I highly recommend student blogging.  This is guaranteed to generate interest, motivation for higher performance, and ensure learning.

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Comment by Diane Dahl on January 23, 2011 at 10:26am
Thank you Ann.  It's exciting to have so many resources at our fingertips, isn't it?
Comment by Ann Eastcott on January 23, 2011 at 3:21am
Great work Diane. I teach Year 9 at High School in New Zealand. I've been using wikis for a couple of years and am just progressing to blogs. You have given me some good ideas. Thanks!

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