After a few months of trial and error and some internet research, I discovered a whole world of class blogs that I had never envisaged.
I think one of the important benefits of a class blog is developing links with others so the children of County Durham get their collective heads up and see what other children around them world are doing. (Of course, they are doing this already via XBox Live etc.!) However, a class blog can also improve writing and boost self-esteem in a way XBox Live surely doesn't!
There are several ways our school has developed links with others around the world:
I joined Twitter with a sense of trepidation, having never done Facebook, thinking it was for being nosey about celebrities. I then started following a few educators, although still felt uncomfortable about its role seemingly as a publicising tool.
I realised though that Twitter could automatically tweet (ie publicise) your blog posts and slowly but surely other classes / teachers would actually be interested. They follow you, you follow back (only if you're interested) and a potential partner class is found.
It's the law of the market I suppose (if you overly self-publicise, people will stop following) and if others have similar interests to you, you will gain useful contacts. After all, some people follow 1000s, so will only click your link if it's of interest to them....
You can also see what other bloggers are up to (@deputymitchell, @theheadsoffice and @quadblogging are great places to start- see 3 and 4 below).
Twitter also introduced me to Flag Counters and other visitor counting tools.
I have written about using Oddizzi to develop class partners via their class pals system here and here. Apart from being an excellent Geography resource for primaries, initially, it is a quick and efficient easy to send emails from class to class, but some those relationships might develop into taking time to leave comments on each others blogs and even setting up email links, child to child, as it has with Wellford Academy in South Carolina.
Jenny and her incredibly helpful team have allowed our class to develop links with USA, Taiwan (we received a snail mail package at one point) and others.
I know for a fact our visitor from Nepal on the Flag Counters came via Oddizzi!
These 2 tools definitely added readers to our blog (and some comments), but the next 2 tools allow children to comment on each other's work.
I learnt of the 100 word challenge (run by Julia Skinner @theheadsoffice) via Twitter. Each week a challenge is posted on the website, such as a phrase to be included in the 100 words or a picture stimulus.
Initially nervous, my class began by doing the challenges without linking their posts to the website.
After a while, we joined the 'movement' meaning our posts received comments from the 100 WC team (a group of teachers and other adults) who leave supportive comments, but also from other children. This was a revelation and our children really responded to their comments (gallingly, more than to mine!)
In addition, children who find writing more difficult get to read quality examples produced by other children, comment positively on others and receive positive comments - a real spur to writing improvements.
And this leads us on to the ultimate way to develop a readership and close scrutiny of your blog.....
The brainchild of David Mitchell (@deputymitchell), essentially this movement links 4 school blogs (a Quad). The four schools then take turns to visit each others' blogs and leave comments.
Yet another way to develop international links, encourage writing and boost self-esteem for our children!
I haven't yet been successful in joining this, but with another round of Quads due soon, I hope to have our class linked up. I'll let you know how we get on......