Class blogs and comments

There is lots of activity in the blogosphere and on Twitter  at the moment about class blogs. This article highlights some excellent sites and support available. I have become caught up with it all after tweeting with David Mitchell at Heathfield Primary School in bolton. The school has set up blogs for most classes and David regularly asks his PLN to support the children by commenting. Always happy to oblige, I add my five pennith to the others.
Now this may seem a strange thing to do. However, it has been a great experience for me. So much so that I now have 6 schools that I support in this way (one in Australia) – almost a cottage industry of commenting!
 The posts range from specific pieces of literacy, numeracy, art from the children to explanations from teachers, aimed at parents. At first I just commented on what I saw – always positive and hopefully well received. I then moved onto posing a question if possible to try and help the children engage with their audience.
As my ‘relationship’ with Year 6 at Heathfield  is well established now (apparently the children did wonder if it was David at first!) I have asked if he would like me to move more into the role of a critical friend with my comments. The class were asked what they thought about this and I have been given permission as they ‘can take it’! I’m looking forward to comments from them on my comments!
This all serves to show me that pupil engagement is key whatever the medium used. I’m sure by the end of the year many class blogs will have developed beyond recognition or they will have disappeared such is the evolutionary nature of technology. However, while they are here they provide a great platform for many children who would otherwise not engage with technology and are probably not keen on literacy either! I have asked teachers for some feedback on what the reaction is from the children when they read comments and it has all been positive. In many instances, it has spurred the children on to go further in that piece of work.
The next big push for schools is to get parents to engage and I know that is a little more patchy in its success. However, with children being so keen, I’m sure it won’t be long before parents are using class blogs beyond collecting information.

Do you have a class blog you would like me to comment on? Have your parents got their own blog? Are you desperate to start a class blog but do not know where to start?

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  • Alan

    As David Mitchell’s headteacher up to 2009, I am just now setting up our own school and class blogs, also in a school in Bolton. I’ve been impressed with the reports of how a wider audience has encouraged Y6 pupils to improve their writing, and resulted in a big improvement in writing results for Heathfield. Would be keen for you to visit our blogs once we get under way.

  • Thanks Julia for all your support of or class blog. The comments really do mean a lot to the pupils.

  • Cheesynz

    Interesting post
    I have had a class blog for sometime [year5/6 and we still struggle to get parents to comment, even when they are emailed each new post as it is posted. The children love commenting on theirs and other posts and we are now getting into the ‘fuller’ commenting process. We also have some teachers who comment also [YES we would love to have your comments too]. The class loved blogging so much for ‘the class’ that some have branched out and requested their own personal blogs and are frequently found blogging in their own time!
    I also use a maths blog to organise and direct them to specific games/tasks that fit with each strand/unit we are studying in math. the class love this so much they are using the tag cloud to revisit games/units in their own time – can’t be bad when they are practicing math for homework that has not been set!

  • Interesting post and student engagement is definitely key.
    I work as a Sixth Form College Art teacher and this term we are starting to use a blog to try and promote a sense of community within the department. So that students, parents and anyone else who is interested can see what the students are doing on all the different courses as with such a large number of students (nearly 300 on all Art and Design courses) there was a feeling that there needed to be a greater level of sharing. Hopefully the blog design itself will also become one of the student projects/competitions as the year goes on.
    We launch the blog with the students next week…though we have already had a number of eager contributors

    • Anonymous

      I’ve had a look Helen and it is really great to have a link with older learners. Perhaps they will be able to respond to comments! Great to see you here!

  • A really interesting blog post Julia!
    I agree, the next step for classroom blogs is pushing for greater parental engagement. I’m really aiming this year to get parents as engaged as possible with their childs education- which isn’t proving easy, mainly down to the structures/traditions of the school.
    But I do have a ‘degree’ of parental engagement on my website (a blog in disguise) – – since the start of term we have now had 431 comments, of which I would estimate between a quarter and third were from parents…
    On the website are things for the parents to do with their children (which attract some comments) as well as the music/art of the week (and now other things) which the children often look at and discuss at home with their parents. I think this gets the parents to the website, and once they are there they are more likely to look around and comment.
    We have placed a few examples of our work on the website (something I am developing this half term) and parents have made insightful and meaningful comments on these, and we share what we are going to be up to each week, again which attracts a fair few comments from parents. We have also had comments from wider family (older brothers/sisters, grand parents etc).
    But of course, I only have the engagement of portion of my classes parents on-line (about 15 out of 30 regularly make comments) and am currently on a drive to offer more ‘features’ on the website which parents and children want, and therefore attract them to the website in the first place!
    I blogged about parental engagement on-line here:-

    • Anonymous

      Considering you’ve only been going since September Tim, I think you’re doing really well. You certainly seem to have more parental engagement than most. Many thanks for finding the time to comment. I know how busy you are!

  • DianneSpencer

    This is a great blog post. Where would schools be without the wider support network? Thank you for suggesting that we move on now from the celebration phase of posting on blogs and *having a go* to acting as a critical friend and helping the children to develop their self evaluation skills. There is also a lot of personal development in this, the children understanding that their work is truly valued by the wider community but could still be improved. Some of our children are so fragile now and find it so hard to take *criticism* – lets help them to build resilience – its a life skill!

    • Anonymous

      glad you liked it Dianne. I think it will be interesting to see how we can extend this. I do need to have built a relationship first, which I have been able to do with your Yr6.

  • Certainly my class were most appreciative of your comments. Sadly we haven’t had any parental comments yet so without people like yourself the whole motivational real audience point of the blog would not have made the impact it has. Since starting the blog only a few weeks ago, the effort children are putting into their presentation and work has improved markedly. They are proud and actually see a point to trying their best- it’s no longer about just writing for me. Thank you for your role and we look forward to your next visits.

    • Anonymous

      Glad to help. I think parental engagement is a long way off despite most of them claiming to use the internet a lot. Perhaps the starting point should be getting them to buy something from the school via the web?!!

  • John
    Your post interested me as I have recently been writing about why so many people do not comment on blogs they read. It was suggested that some readers are just that, readers and some become producers later. Your concept of using comments for a particular purpose is interesting. I try to comment on many student blogs (particularly recently due to the Blogging challenge currently underway) as I see the importance of audience and feedback for all bloggers. I usually affirm something but also, as you say, ask questions.
    We are currently trying to encourage parents to comment on our school class blogs (see my blog roll on my blog if you are interested)
    Celia Coffa (Melbourne Australia)

    • Anonymous

      I have been over to yours to visit. I do think there is a great article /research project about why some comment & some don’t. Thank you for commenting!

  • I think this would be a great idea. So far we are at the blog writing stage and just moving into comments. We’re not ready to reply back to comments yet but hopefully this will happen by Christmas. It really is a gradual change and something that we intend to try.
    It’s hard to do this over a whole school, but it is slowly happening.
    Thank you for all of your comments on our blogs so far and we would welcome any kind of questions, comments or critical ideas!

  • I think this is a great idea and could provide the safeguarded aspect of allowing a greater feed into children’s work.

  • This is a really interesting blog post. I hope there will be lots more discussion around this. Alex’s school is special ed. I am keen to hear more about how this medium is specifically good in that context…
    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here:

    • Anonymous

      I comment on Alex’s blog & he has kindly recorded the children’s comments for me to hear!
      Thank you for the links! Let’s hope we get lots of interest!

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