Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

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  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)

How To Get Good Grades

Success in school is often measured by the grades you get. For some of us, getting good grades is more than difficult–it seems like no matter how we try, we can’t follow through. With this list on getting good grades (that applies to all levels), maybe we can change that and get on the path to good grades…


Five steps to getting good grades

I. Get Organized

If you’re anything like any of us at HGU, we sometimes get caught up in the organization and forget to move past the step. We sometimes find ourselves lost in endless check-lists and to-dos that never get done. Don’t get us wrong, organization is important (hence why it’s on the list), but don’t get lost in it!

  • Get a planner. Most phones have calendars, and smartphones have apps you can download for daily checklists. (See our top smartphone apps post here). At the beginning of every semester, get your syllabus and go through your calendar/planner and mark all the due dates, tests, and projects. You can even color code if you’re feeling crazy.
  • Organize your workspace. This helps avoid losing things, and it helps our minds feel in order if our space is in order. Don’t believe us? Try it out!
  • Schedule time for study. Decide how much time you need to devote to each class and pick specific times at which you will buckle down and study.

II. Learn the Information

They key to getting good grades is learning the information. This seems obvious, but so many people try to get by with cramming and learning just enough to get through each test. That method is more stressful and less predictable. Sure and steady is the way to go! As a similar warning from the organization section, don’t let your desire for perfect flash cards take you so long that you don’t actually get to study them.

  • Figure out your learning style. Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Hands-on? A combination? Figure it out, then apply those methods to your study and your in-class note-taking.
  • Read the texts. Everyone hates this, everyone tries to avoid this and most people don’t make it past this point on the list. Why? Because college reading is hard, we totally understand. That’s why we made a post with tips for college reading. If you’re not in college yet, this is still incredibly helpful and it can’t hurt to prepare.
  • Take good notes. Notes are critical to good grades, because the things that are taught in class are what you’re going to be tested on. Like we said at the first bullet of this section, your learning style demands you take notes in a certain way. If you’re an auditory learner, don’t spend the class time with your head in a notebook; instead, listen and during breaks or lulls, take a moment to write/type the things you remember from class. Write in the margins of your books. Place sticky-notes in important places. Clearly mark them.
  • Study your notes. If study guides aren’t provided by your teacher, find out what will be on the test and make your own. Review your class notes during specific study times that you’ve set apart for the day or week, even if the next test isn’t for weeks. This helps cement the information and you’ll find yourself actually learning!
  • Get friends involved. Friends or classmates are great for helping you learn the material. Ask them to quiz you. It’s important to say your answers aloud. This forces you to form your thoughts into sentences and makes concepts turn into more concrete statements.
  • Participate in class. There’s a reason participation is usually part of your grade. Those that participate in discussions, activities, and study groups are more likely to understand the information from multiple perspectives. Also, this is a great skill to practice for situations outside of school. Being able to discuss respectfully and maturely are great qualities.
  • Ask for help. If you don’t understand, ask. Teachers are there to help you. It’s literally what they get paid for. Ask the questions. If you’re not comfortable doing it in class, ask for a meeting, but sometimes you asking a question in class will help other students who might also have that same question. A lot of schools offer free tutors to students, so check out those options at your learning institutions and take advantage of them.

III. Do. your. homework. Seriously. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The hardest part for most people is doing the assignments or readings that feel like busy work. Well, whether you like them or not, agree with them or don’t, if you want to get good grades, you have to do them. It’s important to realize we’re not entitled to good grades. You have to work for them, and like most things in life, that sometimes means doing things you think are stupid, dumb, or of no use. Good grades get you to good colleges which give you more opportunities–and then you can make the rules!

  • Do assignments ASAP. Starting assignments right after they’re assigned will help you remember and apply what you learned in class. Even if the assignment isn’t due for two weeks, do it right away. Nip that procrastination flower right in the bud.
  • Do extra credit. Yes, it is more work that isn’t required, so why would you do it? Here’s a great life lesson: people are separated in life by whether or not they choose to go the extra steps by doing more than is required of them. Boom.
  • Make homework a top priority. There’s a story of a man who has a to-do list. He prioritizes activities for the day by assigning them a number. 1’s have to get done ASAP. 3’s should be done today, but are optional. He finds he would rather start with the 3’s because they seem more fun. Don’t fall into that trap. Make priorities and stick to them. True discipline is doing the dirty work before indulgence.
  • Have study parties. If you really just need your friend-fix, invite a few friends over to work on homework. The only stipulation is that everyone must bring assignments to work on, or else conversations will spring up and no one will get anything done. Great excuse to order a pizza, too.
  • Don’t plagiarize. Just don’t. Do your own work. You might be able to fake it for a while, but no one can fake knowing things for very long–not to mention getting caught could put an end to your college career. Some schools won’t accept students who have been disciplined for plagiarism.

IV. Prepare for your Tests

  • Stop cramming. As was mentioned before, cramming is stressful and will likely make you frustrated. Some students take pride in staying up all night before a test to cram all the information they can. Wouldn’t you rather be the one who has learned the information over a long period of time, and the day before the test is simply a review of the most important information? Wouldn’t you rather approach a test calmly and with confidence? Confidence comes from a solid foundation built over time, not scrambled together all at once.
  • Get sleep. Being well-rested, eating a good breakfast, and being relaxed are great tips for life in general–especially for tests. If you have to choose between staying up to study and sleep, pick sleep. It’s much better to go to bed early and wake up early. You’ll feel better.

V. Make Good Decisions

If you want good grades, you have to make decisions of a Grade-A person. You have to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t handle.

  • Choose the right classes. This doesn’t mean choose the easiest classes, but maybe don’t schedule your whole semester with the hardest teachers. Balance out your schedule with the hard, impressive classes AND the simpler ones. Don’t take 25 credits in one semester. Heck, don’t even take 18 unless you want to hate yourself! (Or have your grades suffer). Know your limits. Be honest with yourself.
  • ATTEND YOUR CLASSES. Does it matter how well you choose your classes if you don’t go? No. So go. Even if you don’t feel like it. With some teachers, just showing up to class is enough to earn extra points–not to mention the stress it will be to try and catch up.
  • Keep track of your grades. See how you do on tests and learn from it. Ask teachers for clarification if you don’t understand.
  • Manage your time. Be wise, young grasshopper. It’s important to be well-rounded and have a well-rounded schedule. Don’t spend 100% of your time on any one thing, or you will go insane.
  • Haters gonna hate. People might look down on you for prioritizing your studies. Who cares, do whatever feels best for you.

In conclusion, there will always be sacrifices. You may have to sacrifice a night out for a night in to finish a paper; however, if you find yourself sacrificing a social life in general, maybe you’ve given yourself too big of a workload. It’s all about balance! Have confidence in yourself! You can do it!

 

Featured Image: Stefano Montagner

Sourcehttp://www.wikihow.com/Get-Good-Grades

4 Perfect Happy Graduation Songs

With each rising generation of high school graduates comes new songs that define the high school experience. While nostalgia is a definitely a prevalent reason to have graduation ceremonies, it’s also about celebrating the future! For those of you agreeing that graduation songs should be a celebration, not a mourning, here are a few suggestions:

1. Hall of Fame by The Script

2. Firework by Katy Perry

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3P9fyJEu6E

3. Here’s To Never Growing Up by Avril Lavigne

4. Brave by Sara Bareilles

Featured Image: Leeds College of Music