My 4th, 5th and 6th graders started blogging at a site called A Really Different Place several months ago. Luckily, I had a student's dad offer to set up the blog site using Drupel, he also offered to serve it. My main objectives were safe and responsible social networking, understanding of copyright and intellectual property issues, and of course writing real and relevent content for a real audience. I looked at dozens of student blogs, mostly high school student sites. Aside, I had to have the CIPA representative in our district unblock about 100 blog sites that I was trying to look at!
I saw things I wanted to include in our site, all the while thinking "what are they going to write about?" I envisioned that I would post a topic once a week or so and they would respond. Each student has their own blog but I have administrative rights and can delete or edit all of their entries. I started by explaining the rules, got permission to use these rules from Bud the Teacher. We then discussed commenting and I used Vicki Davis' How to Comment Like a King or Queen. I had used Blackboard.com for several years for online curriculum and online book discussions, so I was pretty comfortable about some of the hurdles we would have to overcome. I stressed that this was "formal" writing and they were not to include IM and chat language. I told them they must write using appropriate conventions and Iwould make them edit spelling and puncuation mistakes. Drupel used a WYSIWYG called tinymce, which has spell check, thank goodness! I told them they were participating in a written "conversation" and I would delete any comments like "Cool" or "Neat"!!
My co-teacher and I posted our first several blog entries and included a link to some creative writing prompts in the links section of the site. I also dug up appropriate RSS feed (a challenge) and included a Word of the Day node. The rest is history, they jumped in with both feet. I give them time in class (I only have them one day a week) and told them to blog 2-3 days a week in their regular classrooms or at home.
All in all I'm really pleased. The quality of the writing for the most part is very good condering our youngest bloggers are 9 years old. We have had blog entries on black holes...global warming...and the theory of relativity. We've also had entries on "50 Things I Would Not Be Caught Dead Wearing"..."Firedrills"..."Talent Shows" and opinions about the Katie Holmes and Tom Crusie nuptials!!
Some of our "writers" wanted a place to write books and comment on each others book writing so we included a "Book" section to remove creative writing from the blog posts. We do have several poets who post poems on their blogs. We also have a book discussion section, which is still being developed.
The only disappointment is that some of my best bloggers don't take the time outside of class to participate, but they'll come around!! Several parents and teachers have joined in and that has been a great add-on. Let me know of your blogging successes and frustrations.
8 months ago