Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge

A to Z Blogging Challenge

As part of my writing work with my students this year we have been talking about writing for an audience. Students need to write with purpose, and one of those purposes can be that it will end up in their blog where other people have an opportunity to read and comment on their work. Though I have not done nearly as much blogging with my students as other teachers in the school, I thought it was important for my students to have an opportunity to participate in blogging, and experience what it is like to have a truly global audience.

Here enters the A to Z Blogging Challenge. The website explains, “You would start beginning April First with a topic themed on something with the letter A, then on April second another topic with the letter B as the theme, and so on until you finish on April thirtieth with the theme based on the letter Z.  It doesn't even have to be a word--it can be a proper noun, the letter used as a symbol, or the letter itself.  The theme of the day is the letter scheduled for that day.”

I translated this idea to my classroom with 24 students. Each student took a letter of the alphabet and wrote a blog post about something 5th graders care about that begins with the letter. My principal and I picked up the remaining letter (X and Y). They had a wide variety of topics, and a wide array of ideas about how to talk about the topic. I did not set specific guidelines as to how the students had to write their post, nor did I ever tie a grade to this assignment. The sole purpose was to get students excited about writing, and help them see themselves as writers worthy of reading (even by complete strangers).
I started a classroom blog “Ideas from Mrs. Iwanski’s Classroom” where I posted the daily blogs. Having one classroom website allowed me to officially register our blog through the challenge, and gave people a consistent site to come back to, instead of jumping from one student’s blog to the next. I tried to remember to tweet the link out each day with a snapshot of what the topic was in hopes that we could gather some views and comments.

All of the blog posts were due to me by April 1, and I scheduled them through Blogger so that I didn’t have to remember to post a new one each day. We went on during writing each day and read the comments from the day before, checked how many views we were up to, and (most exciting) checked which countries had stopped by our blog. Though our number of views won’t rival some of the blogs that have been around a while, our blog has gotten more than 1000 views in its first month of existence, and has been currently seen by people in 10 different countries. This activity has helped my students to see themselves as global writers who have something worth sharing.

Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for our students, and I think that it is important that students are allowed, encouraged, and required to use it as part of their writing life. Whether it is individual student blogs, or a class blog being used to highlight students work, helping our students see themselves as writers worthy of reading outside the confines of the classroom or school is an experience that all students should have.

Please check out the amazing blogs of teacher and students from Merton School.

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