Over the past few weeks, I have been on the road. Today I am going to be in Columbus, Indiana to make a presentation! Because of this busy schedule, I have asked several of my UDL students to make guest posts. Jeff Swisher is one of my former students. Jeff is a young teacher who is passionate about incorporating technology into his classroom. He really has some great ideas! Take it away Jeff!
One of the great challenges I have always faced in teaching is finding enough time to have my students reflect on what they have read. I can never get through as many guided reading groups as a plan to in a day because my students are so eager to share their thoughts on our current book. While that is a great problem to have, it does slow down our progress through books. So how can I allow students to reflect in a structured environment, and still get through guided reading groups at a faster pace?
The best solution I have found so far is Kidblog. Kidblog is a website that allows you to easily create a class blog. The blog is completely password secured, with the teacher having complete control of who can access your class page. Student accounts are simple to start, and are easy to access. The teacher even has the option of approving any student comments before they are posted to the actual bog for everyone to see. You can even choose from a variety of themes to personalize your classroom blog to your own style.
I use my class blog to have students practice reflection and interpretation skills when reading. By creating a new thread for each chapter or section, I can post questions for my students to answer. Students can access these questions when they are done reading, and can answer them at their own pace by commenting on my questions. Students can see each other's comments, and then respond to what their classmates have written. In this way, I can read with my guided reading groups, and then send them to their seats to discuss their reactions online. I can also assign reading for homework, and still have my students interact with each other. While I still have face-to-face discussions with my students several times a week, this does provide me with the flexibility to squeeze in an extra reading group when I need to.
There are two additional advantages to using Kidblog. First, I can look back at student posts at any time to evaluate the quality and accuracy of their reflections and see the progression over time. I can also see where I need to spend extra time improving student comprehension skills without having to rely on my memory of many conversions through the day. The second major advantage of Kidblog is that my students LOVE using it. I was overwhelmed by how eager my class was to get on and post comments on the blog. My class even begged me to continue posting questions all summer on the series of book we had used for our read aloud time throughout the year. While I can attribute some of that desire to wanting the finish the rest of the series (we read the first seven of thirteen books in A Series of Unfortunate Events), the students were very specific in wanting to have questions to answer all summer long. While it has taken some time to keep up with the kids' pace of reading the remaining books, having kids be excited about reading and reflecting all summer is well worth it.
My name is Jeff Swisher, and I am a teacher at Monroe Elementary in the Cumberland Valley School District. I have been teaching for three years, and have bounced between 4th and 5th grade. I will be teaching 4th grade again this year. My wife Bethany and I are excited to welcome our first child into our growing family this November.