Exploring Blogs during Silent Reading [Activity]

I don't have a ton of time to write tonight, but I wanted to fill you in on something I'm planning on rolling out on my academic team in the next few months. 

We do a daily sustained silent reading period—-30 minutes that rotates from classroom to classroom depending on the day—and we love it.  Our kids fall into a comfortable routine over the course of the year and develop a reading-for-pleasure vibe that is just plain cool.

Having fallen madly in love with my feed reader several years ago—who COULDN'T get behind a digital tool that automatically checks my favorite websites for new content every day and brings updates to one homepage for me—I decided to put together a collection of interesting feeds for my kids to explore:

http://www.netvibes.com/wferriter

Poke around a bit and you'll see sites being written BY and FOR kids

There are blogs sharing book reviews and interesting current events.  There are blogs being written by the authors that my kids have fallen in love with, blogs about math and science, and blogs that focus on parts of the world that I want students to know more about.

My plan is to turn handfuls of kids loose on this collection during silent reading sessions.  They'll use our classroom computers and any other Internet connected device that I can rustle up.  I'll probably only have room for 3-5 kids to read blogs each day, but that's a start anyway. 

The only rule that I'll set is that if a student is reading online, he's got to leave at least one comment on content that he's reading.  The way I see it, I want to encourage kids to interact—both with the ideas and individuals that they're exploring. 

That's the real beauty of blogs after all:  It's not just reading.  It's reading together.  It's pushing back.  It's challenging and being challenged all at once. 

To help guide their developing commenting habits, I'm going to print off the following handout and leave it next to every computer on our team:

Download Handout_Blog_Comments

It's chock-a-block full of helpful tips and sets of commenting dos and don'ts.  It's got sentence starters and sample comments.  I figure that if I want kids to be productive contributers to comment sections, I've got to show 'em what productive comments look like, right?

So whaddya' think? 

Should teachers be encouraging kids to read blogs during SSR time?  Is there inherent value in seeing that content is being created by others—and that new digital tools can enable users to have conversations around text?

Anyone else using blogs during their SSR periods?

Anyone got a blog that I should add to my collection of student feeds?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

 

12 thoughts on “Exploring Blogs during Silent Reading [Activity]

  1. Charlie

    Hey Bill,
    As others have mentioned, this is a great idea. Interestingly, prior to reading this post,when I introduced blogging to my 6th graders, a student asked if they’d be allowed to read blogs during silent reading times. Your post has provided me with a mechanism for making it happen. I plan on introducing it to the kids later this week or next.
    Question, I know you have the kids comment on at least one of the blogs they’ve read. Do you have a procedure for checking/reading the comments? Do the kids turn something into you detailing the blog and post they responded to?
    Thanks for the knowledge.
    Charlie
    @PJ_Vermont

  2. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Rob,
    First, thanks for sharing your daughter with us! Shes a pretty remarkable kid that we all enjoy and admire already.
    And thanks a ton for your kind words on the work that were doing. Honestly, I dont know that Ive ever worked with a group of teachers who care as much as our teachers do this year. We wont always get everything right, but we certainly try, thats for sure.
    Glad you like the RSS collection weve set up for the kids here. Now, Ive got to find some time to introduce it to them in a meaningful way! If only there was more time in the day….
    Anyway…glad that you stopped by.
    Bill

  3. Rob McCormick

    Bill – as a parent of one of your 2011-12 Gnomes and a huge fan of RSS I want you to know how impressed I am with all that you Mike, Michael and Chambliss are accomplishing. I look forward to your updates and I hope you and your family enjoy a bit of October! – Rob

  4. Pat

    I think this is a great idea! It makes reading relevant to real life! May I use your handout for my university class next summer? I teach teachers who are getting their master’s degree in special ed and I require them to blog and read blogs. I think your guidelines would really help them too!

  5. Philip

    I love this idea. I’m planning to spend some time later this fall teaching my 6th graders how to use Google Reader to manage RSS feeds (we already use google apps). I love this idea of allowing blog reading for SSR. Maybe I’ll try that, too. Keep us posted on how the kids respond to the blogs. You’ve piqued my interest here.

  6. Becca

    We’ve started a Middle School Reads program this year. For 27 minutes every Wednesday, the entire MS drops everything and reads. We have a variety of “specialty” rooms – Paired Reading, Graphica, Super-Silent, and an Online Reading room. You’ve given me some great ideas for how I can give that room more life, more purpose. I’m addicted to my netvibes feedreader. Looking forward to working on this idea of curating blogs and other online material for them to start with in that room.

  7. Beth

    What a very cool idea. We also have a SSR period every day. I’m going to poke around for some blogs for kids as well, and set up a reader page as well. Thanks for all your innovative ideas!

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