Kids Blog About Books
Mwuuuuuuaaaaaahhahaha!* Apparently, this is the message that 4th and 5th graders want to proclaim from the mountain tops if given half a chance. Well, at least some.
When I first stated blogging with my students two years ago (Aught 5 y’all), I didn’t know how best to go about it. In my role as Media Specialist, each class period I spent with students was split down the middle – half of the time we were reading and learning about books in the library, the other half we were working on computer skills in the lab. I knew I wanted to use a blog to find out more about how students interacted with books – their likes, dislikes, and opinions – but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.
After setting up the site, I flew by the seat of my pants. The experience ended up being a valuable one. I talked to classes about writing for an audience and voicing their opinions. Students dug the fact that their work could be read by the world, and I liked the opportunity to get some honest responses from kids about books. Many students just loved the freedom of writing for the sake of expression, without having to abide by all of the typical rules. Some of the comments were thoughtful, others were more evil scientist-ish cries of freedom (see above).
I used the blog mainly as a discussion forum, starting out with some basic questions. What is your favorite genre? Who are your favorite characters? What is your all-time favorite series? The feedback I received was honest and valuable. If a class loved fantasy, you best believe my next read aloud would be “Harry Spiderwick and the Artemis Eragons”. If a class loved Judy Moody, I introduced them to my friend Clementine Amberbrown Ramonavitch. Worked like a charm? Yep.
After getting some practice with the basics, I looked for ways to up the ante. What I loved most was using the blog as a tool for students to do some critical thinking about a book. What do you think will happen next? How will the story end? Questions like these garnered some great responses, that I made sure to share with the rest of the class. Even those who initially liked to respond on the blog just so they could use IM language (to talk w/ their BFFs) started getting in on the action and posting some quality work.
So the experiment was a success in my book. Blogging with students allowed me to better understand and serve young readers. Now I have just one more thing to say: Yaaaaaaaahoooooooooooooooo!
*Excerpt from an actual blog post comment
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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