Student Blogging Activity 1 (Beginner): Setting Up Your Class Blog

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Welcome to our second Teacher Challenge!

Our “30 days to get your Students Blogging” Challenge is all about guiding you through the process of blogging with your students.

This challenge is open to anyone and everyone – and you don’t need to be a user of Edublogs at all or have participated in the first challenge.

Wherever you’re at — we’ll step you through the weekly tasks to increase your skills while providing mentors who’ll support your learning.

But most importantly ‘don’t stress, have fun’ — work through it at your own pace and remember to ask for help any time you need assistance!

In this first activity you will:

  1. Learn why a class blog is a good starting point for blogging with students
  2. Create a brand new class blog if you don’t already have one!
  3. Optimize your theme and appearance.
  4. Visit the Discussion Question for activity one to reflect on your experiences with getting started with class blogging.
  5. Complete the extension activity (if you have time).

Please feel free to skip Step 1: Sign up for a blog and Step 2: Optimize your theme and appearance if you have already set up your blog prior to this first activity.

Instead we suggest you start by completing the extension activity and then leave a comment on this post with a link to your post so we can read it.

Step 1: Why Have A Class Blog

A class blog is always a good starting point if you want to blog with your students.

It gives you to time to increase your skills while gradually introducing your students to blogging and educating them on appropriate online behaviour.

Start initially with you being responsible for writing posts, and the students responding in comments. As students demonstrate both keenness and responsibility give them their ‘blogging license’ where they earn the right to write posts on the class blog and/or get their own student blog.

Ultimately even if each student has their own blog it is always a good idea to have a class blog.

Blogging isn’t just about writing posts; it’s about sharing your learning and reflecting on what you have learnt.

Important parts of the blogging process include encouraging students to:

  1. Read each others posts
  2. Interact and comment on each others posts  by challenging each others thoughts and views
  3. Write posts in response to each others posts

The class blog is the central hub that connects your student blogs together; making it easier to share their learning, interact with each other and a global audience.

Step 2: Sign up for your class blog

Your first step if you don’t currently have your own blog, or you would like to use a new blog for this challenge, is to sign up for a blog.

You can use any blogging platform you would like including Edublogs, WordPress, Blogger and TypePad however when we write detailed instructions they will refer to Edublogs.  You will be able to adapt this information to the blogging platform you are using.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a blog platform.

Here’s some things to consider before creating your blog:

#1 Username and Display Name

Your username is what you use to sign into your blog dashboard and is displayed on posts and comments you write. While you can’t change your username, most blog platforms do allow you to change how your name is displayed.

In most cases it’s better to choose a username that makes it easier for others to relate to you as a real person. For example, compare spwat3 with suewaters — which is easier to relate to?

On a class blog you need to consider what is an appropriate username for you to use.  Most don’t allow students to use first and last name online so some prefer to model this by using names like Miss W or  Mrs Waters.

#2 Blog URL

During the creation of your blog you’ll have to select a URL for it.  When you want others to visit your blog you give them the URL link of your blog.   For example, the URL for the Teacher Challenge blog is http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/

Think carefully about your blog URL.

Once your blog has an established audience you’re less likely to want to change your blog URL and educators often use the same blog for the next year’s class.

Ideally you want to keep your blog URL:

  • short
  • easy to remember – something that is easy for both students and parents
  • Avoid using your first name in the blog URL
  • Suitable to be reused for several years – avoid using a room number or year in the blog URL since these both can change from year to year

A simple option is to use your name in the blog URL as these educators did:

  1. Mr Baldock’s Class blog (http://mrbaldock.edublogs.org)
  2. Mr Salsich’s Class blog (http://jmsalsich.edublogs.org/)

Alternatively use something unique that has meaning like:

  1. Huzzah (http://huzzah.edublogs.org)
  2. The Plugged-In Portable (http://thepluggedinportable.edublogs.org/)

#3 Blog Title

Think about the name of your blog.

Choose a name that reflects the purpose of your class blog and your students can relate to.

For example, Mrs Burton‘s blog title Blog, blog blog blog, blog some more is very clever.

But don’t stress too much!  You can always change your blog title any time via Settings > General in your dashboard.

Check out the following blog lists for ideas of blog titles other educators have used:

  1. The Edublogger class blog list
  2. Best Class Edublog 2010

Example of a blog title

Check Out Class Blogs

Coming up with ideas on how you might use your blog with students can be hard to visualize.

Make time to check out how other educators use their class blogs to get ideas on “what works”/”doesn’t work”.

Here are some blogs for you to look at:

  1. Network Nine (Year 4)
  2. MrToft.ca (Grade 5)
  3. Grade 5e (Grade 5)
  4. Huzzah (Grade 6/7)
  5. Blog, blog blog blog, blog some more (English I)
  6. Endless Questions (Grade 6-8 languages)
  7. Or check out our class blog list (over 200 class blogs separated into grade and subject area)

Create Your Class Blog

Now you’ve done all the research it’s time to create your blog.

Here are the instructions to follow if you would like to set up your blog on Edublogs:

  1. Signing up for your blog
  2. Logging into your blog dashboard
  3. Using your blog dashboard

Step 3:  Optimize your theme and appearance

Your theme is what controls the look and appearance of your blog.   This is the template or look of the blog that people see when they visit your blog.

This is what gives it your class blog its personal touch.

Like most things in life first impressions count.

Great blog themes make good impressions on readers so that visitors are more likely to read your posts and subscribe to your blog.

Overwhelming themes detract from your blog content, and visitors will be less likely to read your posts and subscribe to your blog.

Every newly created blog on a blogging platform normally has the same default theme.  The last thing you want is to look like all the other blogs.

New bloggers often spend considerable time changing their blog theme to work out which theme works best for them. While you do have a limited time to make the right impression for first time readers….Don’t spend too much time initially on your blog theme because you will find that you change it as your tastes change.

Ready to change your theme?

Great!  Start by first reading What to consider when choosing your blog theme and then follow these instructions to Change your blog’s theme.

And check out the following if you would like more information on blog themes:

  1. The Edublogger’s Introduction to blogging
  2. The 137 Edublogs Themes Separated Into Categories To Make Choosing Your Next Theme Easier

Step 4 – Discussion Question

Visit the Discussion Question for activity one to reflect on your experiences with getting started with class blogging.

Step 5 – Extension Activity – Optional

Congratulations!  If you’ve done all those steps — well done.

And we’ve included this extension activity for those who are wanting for extra work and for those beginners who have already set up their class blog.

For the extension activity we would like you to write a comment on this post or a post on your personal blog to tell us what you’ve learnt from checking out the different class blog such as:

  • What were your favourite class blogs?  What was it about those class blogs you liked the most?
  • What do you plan to use your class blog for?  And did you have any specific questions you’d like to ask us about how you are planning to use your class blog?
  • What aspects of class and or student blogging you have struggled with?

Don’t forget if you write a post to leave a comment on this post with a link to your post so we can share with others.

Here is where you find the other activities from this series:

Thanks to everyone who is participating in the 30 Days to Get Started Blogging with your students!

And if you missed out, it is never too late to work through the challenges at your own pace!

You can always form your own team with other educators and work together!

  1. Student Blogging Activity 1 (Beginner): Setting Up Your Class Blog
  2. Student Blogging Activity 2 (Beginner): Setting Up Rules & Guidelines
  3. Student Blogging Activity 3 (Beginner) – Teaching Quality Commenting
  4. Student Blogging Activity 4 (Beginner) – Helping Parents Connect with your Class Blog
  5. Student Blogging Activity 5 (Beginner): Add Students To Your Class Blog So They Can Write Posts
  6. Student Blogging Activity 6 (Beginner): Add A Visitor Tracking Widget To Your Blog Sidebar
  7. Student Blogging Activity 7 (Beginner): Set up your student blogs
  8. Student Blogging Activity 8 (Beginners): Add your student blogs to your blogroll
  9. Student Blogging Activity 9 (Beginners): Add Your Student Blogs To A Folder In Google Reader
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52 thoughts on “Student Blogging Activity 1 (Beginner): Setting Up Your Class Blog

  1. Hi, I’m excited to join in this new blogging challenge. During last month’s challenge, I finally distinguished between my professional blog and my class blog. On the class blog list is listed what has become my professional blog–Dare to Care. My new class blog is at Krebs’ Class Blogs I think we’ll be working on that name. Thanks, Denise

  2. Hi. I set up a blog for my Year 7 students yesterday, http://stbfmyear7.edublogs.org/ and have been plugging it like crazy all day at school so hopefully several students will add cooments when they get home tonight.

    Is there any way that I can remove the need to add an email address before they post a comment?

    Regards

    Steve

    • Hi Steve,

      If you add students as users to your blog and give them login information, then they can login and won’t need to put in an email address to comment.

      Or, in reality, you can tell them to make up an email address to use if you’d prefer. :)

    • Hi Mrsjw, I would think about becoming involved in the student blogging challenge when it is started because it will give you lots of ideas of activities to do with your students on the class blog.

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  4. Hi, I live in Beijing, China. i really want to start blogging with my Grade 3/Year4 kids but so many sites are blocked here. Does anyone have a suggestion of what I may be able to use? The three biggies – Edublogs, Word Press and Blogger are all blocked. While I can work around that on my personal and professional blogs I cannot do the same work around with my students.

    Suggestions please. Thanks

    Heather

  5. I created my first class blog and love it. I use it in my Finance/Investment class. Instead of having students waste paper and print results, I have my students comment on my blog posts. Also, I find it really useful as my kids work on projects to check for progress.

    dasdbiz.edublogs.org

    • Drew,
      Looks like your students are getting into the swing of leaving comments and you are certainly asking some interesting questions for them to comment on. Well done!

  6. I started blogging with my students right after Christmas vacation. The kids are very enthusiastic about their blogs, but really enjoy commenting on each others blog even more. I am hoping that their comments will be of greater quality with continued modeling and practice. I found some great student/teacher produced videos on creating quality comments (search for Mrs. Yollis’ class).

    I am struggling with a few things. In trying to hold kids to a high standard with regards to their posting and commenting, do I not approve posts or comments that don’t measure up? I don’t want to squash their enthusiasm, but I do want them to strive for quality work. Any feedback/suggestions would be appreciated!

    • Beth,
      A good way to involve the students is to ask them whether they think the post or comment would be suitable for their grandmother to read or for a grandchild they will have some day to see in the future. Can you also give us the link to your class blog? Some students prefer to stay safe and only comment on their friends’ blogs. If you want them to venture further into the world they might like to join the student blogging challenge which I run and starts in March.

  7. I worked my way happily through the Teacher Challenge in January. It was my first attempt at blogging.
    I am a teacher librarian in a primary school so have all the classes in the school during the week. As such my blog is not a class blog, but more a reflection of what happens in our library.
    Our blog can be found at http://cosycorner.edublogs.org
    To date we have looked at the cosycorner blog and read other peoples comments. Several of the older students (yr 5 and 6)are asking if they can learn to write a blog too. As this is all still new to me as well I am planning to start small.
    As part of getting ready for the Student Challenge I am encouraging students to leave comments. Then the small blogging group will come to me at lunch times as we learn more together.
    Initially Cosycorner was meant to be a communication tool for the school community but because of the activities in the Teacher Challenge we quickly gained a bigger audience and I found that was when the real fun began. We have a large world map on the wall near our interactive board and as comments come in from different places we find them on the map. We have really enjoyed checking out some other class blogs and have added them to our Blogroll.
    This is a snowball that is getting bigger (and more fun than I had ever thought!)

  8. Hi,

    I have been working through my thoughts on technology and blogging in the classroom in my still very new professional blog here: http://schooled-essays.blogspot.com/2011/02/integrating-technology.html

    I also started a class blog for my 4th Grade class (nine and ten-year-olds) here: http://mshoward.edublogs.org/

    Already having this experience with the Teachers Challenge has really helped with the Student Challenge, but the learning curve is still steep! As always, I’m inspired and humbled by the work of others on this site.

    Ms. Howard

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  19. I am new to this entire blogging enterprise. I have set up the basics and have students checking for assignmnets each day.

    I would very much like others to visit my site and give me some feedback.

  20. Hi again. I’ve set up a new blog with another class, ESOL adults, which is going well so far. I’m using it as a whole class writing and communication tool.
    However, I’m having some technical problems, hoping you can help me. One of my students has activated her login through email and reset her password, but her user name doesn’t appearing in the user list and when she logs in she gets taken to the general Edublogs site, not our class blog. The class blog is http://www.pacebloggersalbany.edublogs.org if you want to look. All the other students have logged in successfully.
    Also some students dont’ automatically get categorised when they write posts, but others do, even if I have previously categorised them. Its not too much hassle to change the categories, but would like to know why. This problem also applies to my own posts.
    Thanks heaps in advance, Stefanie

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  23. Hi
    I have just set up my blog to use with my Year 4 class that I will meet in a few weeks, being in Australia we are still enjoying our summer holidays.
    I’m hoping the blog will be a way to share what we do in the classroom with parents, connect with other classes around the world and join in the global classroom projects.
    I am a beginning teacher and at this stage I’m a little worried I may be getting in a little over my head.
    Thanks for this wonderful website, it has made the process much less daunting.
    Skye

    • G’day Skye,
      It is good to get in early and have the blog started before heading back to school. I did that back in 2008 when I began to blog. Just take it in small steps. Maybe join the student blogging challenge I run which starts in March. Registration forms will be available mid February at this URL http://studentchallenge.edublogs.org

      What is the URL of your class blog, so I can visit as well?

      • Hi Miss W,
        Our class blog is at
        http://missmigansclass.edublogs.org/

        There isn’t much there at the moment but I’m hoping to add websites to the links page of the coming weekend and get our rules and guidelines up next week when I have had time to go through it all with the kids.

        We had our first staff day back this week and I got the big OK from my principal! My direct supervisor is also being very supportive. A lot of staff however are so negative about trying new things and are so quick to put down people that do. oh well.. I feel a little more supported knowing that there are others out there.
        Thanks for this wonderful site.
        Skye

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  25. Hello!

    Im not yet quite familiar with blogging activities…
    im just curious, can I have two or more classes in a blog? Im planning to include all my algebra classes in my blog…how is that possible?

    thank you in advance for the response…

  26. Hello!
    I am spending my summer vacation learning about blogging! I can’t believe this entire world existed right under my nose all this time and I was completely unaware. I am enjoying learning about blogging and am (almost) excited to return to school in August to begin blogging with my class.
    I have learned so much from the blogs of Mrs. Yollis, Kathleen Morris, and Jan Smith of Huzzah! Although a little intimidating for a novice like me to see world-class blog winners as examples, all of their voices are so authentic on their blogs that I feel as though I know them. Also, they have been so helpful to post all the steps they have taken along their own learning journey.
    I am intending to work with two blogs. One blog, called “Hey, Kids!” http://www.bdonofrio.edublogs.org will be a traditional classroom blog of our educational journey in our middle school language arts class in Venice, Florida. Our other blog, http://www.TeddyTours.edublogs.org will be a place for my students to write “post”cards from Teddy, a dog who travels the globe. I am hoping that my students will learn a bit about research, writing, and places of interest around the world, and that other teachers will visit to find out where Teddy has gone that day and to write a thoughtful comment back to Teddy. We have also written and illustrated a few books about Teddy’s tours around the United States (Venice, Boston, Washington D.C. and coming soon, Disney World).
    I am most confused about how to properly cite photos in posts. I did learn about FlickrCC from Mrs. Morris’ blog, but I’m still not sure why citing the source for other photos is against copywrite. Is it not the same as citing sources for printed materials?
    I have printed up the Edublogger’s Class Blog List and hope to connect with some teachers and classes, including Mrs. Morris, Mrs. Yollis, and Huzzah!, when we return to school next month.
    Thanks for all the information on your site! I’m looking forward to a great year!
    Mrs. Donofrio

  27. This is an absolute gold mine for teachers! I have wanted to set up an international blog between another 4th grade class. I am moving to Mongolia and I think a great way for students to learn about another culture, practice writing, practice peer review, and to learn internet etiquette is through an international blog. I recently attended CCIRA and went to a seminar on creating a class blog. While it sparked the interest, this is an amazing resource for teachers beginning a class blog. I already have a 4th grade teacher here lined up to blog with, so I will forward this to her so we have a common starting point. Thanks for posting.

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