What Are They?
The concept is very simple; every week, usually on Friday I post a new challenge for my students to blog about. This can be related to the academics in our classroom or thoughts on various education topics. I use this challenge for feedback, for ideas, and for them to become more involved in our classroom.
The students almost always have 9 days to finish the challenge; Friday to the following Sunday, so challenge postings do overlap active challenges. While this is considered homework or extra work, students are given opportunities to finish them in class and do not have to find the time at home if they do not want to.
What Is the Topic?
I try to keep the challenges short and to the point, such as, “Should education be fun?” and then wait for students to think and respond. We discuss perimeters for the posts at the beginning of the year and the students know to put their best foot forward, i.e. check spelling, capitalization as well as formatting.
I never grade their posts, since I do not grade in general, but use their writing to assess their growth as writers and also to figure out goals for them and give them feedback. Comments from me are sometimes private or public depending on the feedback given. Students love to read each others posts and we often end up discussing the week’s challenge in class because it made the students’ think. I also tweet out their posts and use the hashtag #comments4kids to get other classes to comment.
Students love the blogging challenges (mostly) and it keeps me on my toes as far as pushing their thinking. Students also get a chance to offer ideas for blogging challenges which I often use, thus providing another way for them to take ownership of our blogging.
Well, these are not the only things my students blog about but it is a main component. They often take to our blogs to create new challenges for others, to share stories, or vacations. They write to express themselves and they challenge me. I love how they take forum of blogging and make it their own, creating those global connections that we all strive to make.