Posts Tagged ‘Kidblog’

Last weekend we toasted in the new year with some friends around our fire pit. I had taken down the tree ornaments earlier in the day, and my husband usually carries the dry fir tree out to the curb, but this year, it seemed appropriate somehow to burn it.

A new year also brings about changes in my teaching routine. For whatever reason, I hadn’t used photo prompts with my students yet this year. So this week I posted my photo on our Kidblog and directed them to respond. In Paula Bourque’s book Spark, she encourages teachers to use their own photos because it helps kids get to know you a little better. It was fun to hear my students’ questions and connections to this photo. I think I’ll do this with them every week. Click on the Kidblog link above to read their responses.

Fire sizzles flames
Christmas fir tree
forever skyfree

Margaret Simon

Please write your own small poem response in the comments. Leave encouraging comments to other writers.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


Madison came into my gifted class when she was in second grade.  On day one, she wrote 3 blog posts and was hooked on writing.  Now in 4th grade, she came up with an idea for a story writing club.  This was a result of problem solving.  She loves writing stories, particularly fan fiction to Warrior Cats, but she didn’t think many people were reading her blog posts.  She thought if we had a blog that was specific to writing stories, maybe those kids who are interested in writing as well as reading stories could join.


With a new subscription to Kidblog from my district’s gifted program, we teachers are able to have multiple sites with the same students.  Story Writing Club was born. The day after I set up the blog was a Saturday, but Madison checked in and wrote this post.

Hello. This was originally my idea, so.. I guess I’ll make the Welcome – To – This – Blog – Post. 

This is a blog where you make your stories- nonfiction, fiction, or any genre. Chapter by chapter, or just a normal picture book.

Word, by word, by word, we are changing ourselves into authors. Word. By word. By. Word.

Think of your ideas as silk or cotton. Weave them together- make cloth. Now it’s time to put the cloth together to make a wonderful story.

I hope you enjoy making wonderful stories out of many ideas.


I introduced the idea to all my classes (I teach 3 groups of gifted students at 3 different schools).  To date, eleven kids have signed on.  And they can’t wait to write.  This is an highly motivating free time activity.  Madison created a story about cats, of course.  She is also very talented at digital art.  This is an image of one of her story characters.

When students writing stories they want to write, they learn the stuff of writers that I could never teach them.  Jacob was writing his second chapter today, and he exclaimed, “You know the berries from chapter one? Well, turns out he needed them in chapter two.  I didn’t know that would happen.”

Jacob wrote, “He took out the berries that Triton saved in his booksack. The creature seemed to love them. Triton tossed the creature a berry, in a second it gobbled up the berry.”

Sometimes writers follow the story and find their way.

I love that my students are experiencing the joy of writing with little direction from me.  We often talk about student-driven learning but rarely do we really have the opportunity to make it happen.  I applaud Madison’s resourcefulness in building a community that would support her passion.  These are lessons that don’t make it into the standards but will support my students in being the best they can be.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I was just informed that March is SOL challenge month. It’s a cruel, cruel world. We have to make SOL every single day. I don’t know if I will survive this deadly month. Okay, that was a little ( lot ) over the top of the ice cream cone. Yeah, that was a metaphor.

That’s kind of like saying over the mountain but in your mind picture a mountain sized ice cream cone with a ton of chocolate going right on the top and turning it into a chocolate avalanche. Did you do that? Good for you. Now I will grant you as many wishes as you want. NOT!! I am not a genie. But if I had one wish it would be not doing any Slice of Life challenge posts ever again. That is how bad I don’t want to do the Slice of Life challenge.

by Andrew, Feb. 21, 2017

“Andrew, the Slice of Life Challenge is voluntary. Are you saying you don’t want to try it this year? Should I make you a sticker chart?”

“I’m not making any promises. Yeah, go ahead, make me a chart.”

I teach my gifted students year to year throughout their elementary schooling. This is a blessing and a curse. I am blessed to know my students really well. I don’t have to pretest to find their reading levels. I don’t have to do writing prompts to see how well they write. I know all this.  They also know that when March rolls around it’s torture time. Time to write a Slice of Life every day!

Every year I try something new to motivate my students. Last year it was these buttons designed by Stacey Shubitz of the Two Writing Teachers. My students proudly collected badges until about March 15th when the newness wore off.

I also use incentives. One day of the month I hold a commenting challenge. The reward, one Skittle a comment. I soon ran out of Skittles.  I buy a book for each child who completes the challenge.  I usually buy 3-5 books.

Another thing we’ve done is connected with other classes doing the challenge. I’d like to do that again this year.  If your class is using Kidblogs, please request to follow by signing in to Kidblog and posting my URL, http://kidblog.org/class/mrs-simons-sea/. Click on the Follow button. Once I approve, I can follow you back. It’s fun and motivating to connect kids across the globe.

After seeing Holly Mueller’s students’ long slices, I implemented a word count rule. This has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is found when my students elaborate and expand their thoughts like you see in Andrew’s post above. The curse happens when they ramble on and type things like, “I’m up to 198 words, just 2 more to go!”

This is the nature of the beast that is SOLC! Blessings and curses! We are going to jump in despite the deep waters. Tomorrow we return from a break. Our challenge will begin. I wonder where this journey will take us.

I wrote a blog post for Kidblogs about the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge here.
If you wrote a DigiLit post, please link up with this button.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Digitally enhanced iPhone image

Digitally enhanced iPhone image

A few weeks ago, I set up a plan for the month of January DigiLit posts. I promised to tweet the topic on Thursdays. I have not fulfilled that plan. I have been barely making it with a tweet on Saturday. Forgive me. I’m adjusting the plan somewhat. I’ll place the topic for next week in the current DigiLit Sunday post and tweet a reminder on Saturday. If you are writing posts, or want to join us, please go to the Google doc to add your information and your topic ides.

I enjoy playing with photographs on my phone using various photo-enhancing apps. The technology available to us today allows for regular people like me to make cool, professional looking photos with a click.

My students have discovered that in their Kidblog, they can change, manipulate, add features, etc. to their avatars. While this is fun, it can take away time from focusing on the real stuff of blogging, the writing. What place does digital design have in our classrooms, if any?

I struggle with this question. I think it is important to encourage creativity in the classroom, but where does creativity end and just fooling around begin?

My answer has been in setting purposes for digital design and creativity. When my students work on blogging, the design for their posts must serve a purpose. The design should communicate. Setting backgrounds, changing fonts and font size, manipulating images should communicate a tone or theme.

What are some ways you encourage digital design in your classroom? Join the conversation with the link below.

I am blogging for Kidblog. To see my latest post on Tapping into the World of Wonder, click here.

Next week’s topic comes from Maria Caplin: Increasing student vocabulary beyond definitions.


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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I have three days left of school. That statement gets stuck in my throat. I’m not ready. In my position as a gifted teacher, I have the privilege of teaching my students year after year. But the sixth graders move on to middle school. This will be a week of goodbyes.

My students wrote their final blog posts for the year. Our space on Kidblog has become a meaningful, safe place for writing. I asked a 5th grader last week to do a graph of our blog posts this year. The most blog posts went to 6th grader, Kielan, with 139! We’ve written a total of 1121 posts this year!

Here is a sample of a few goodbye posts. I am proud to read that they feel like writers.

Sorry everyone, but this is the last week of GT. Soak it in while you can. Good-bye blankets, read aloud, parties, and GT and Mrs. Simon in general.

We have all learned so much from past writings to now. We have learned grammar (by force, AKA Grammarly), we have learned phrases and metaphors and similes, we have learned everything a poet and writer must know in life. Tobie

Today is the last day of Gt and I will miss Mrs. Simon and GT. I have learned many new forms of poems, like Abecedarian and Diamante. What I will hate about summer is summer reading. I will miss all the art projects and the forts and the pillows and read aloud, but I will not miss the Sol’s. Andrew

This site has let me talk to Mrs.Simon about problems that I had when I couldn’t talk to her face to face. This site has given me ideas from my classmates and connections. This site has let me share my life story with the world. This site has made me who I am today. This site has let me give ideas to my classmates and connections. This site has made my day or made me want to scream. But this site has so many memories that I hold so close to my heart. Erin

It is time to hit the refresh button, time for winding down, relaxing, reading, and reflecting. I have books ready for my summer reading. Here are a few of the books I’ve got waiting for me.

books 3books 2books 1

How will you hit the refresh button? Please join our conversation by leaving your blog link below.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I have been “under the weather” lately. After I wrote that sentence, I had to tab over to Google search where that idiom comes from.

“To be under the weather is to be unwell. This comes  from a maritime source. In the old days, when a sailor was unwell, he was sent down below to help his recovery, under the deck and away from the weather.”

This cold that came on with laryngitis sent me below deck. Our gifted program is a pull-out academic program, so my students just stay with their regular teacher when I am not there. I sent an email to all the teachers asking that my students be allowed to use the computer. There I can keep connected with them through our kidblog site.

I know a lot of schools have become Google schools, but our district isn’t there yet. But kidblog works. Here is the screen to my posts this week. I can send an assignment with links as well as individual messages for students. And I shared that we won Douglas Florian’s book on Today’s Little Ditty! Yay!

Kidblog screen

Through our kidblog site, we can also connect across the miles with other kidblog classrooms. As we approach the March Slice of Life Challenge, I am pushing my students to pay more attention to these connections. If you want to connect your class with mine, let me know.

In what ways do you stay connected to your students?

Do you know about Digital Learning Day? Sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, #DLDay is scheduled for February 17th, 2016.

Share your digital literacy posts below.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Being present is easy when the light shines on resurrection fern making shadows  to fascinate me.  --Margaret G Simon, OLW

Being present is easy
when the light shines
on resurrection fern
making shadows to
fascinate me.
–Margaret G Simon, OLW

For this new year of blogging about digital literacy, I decided to use prompts to get us thinking and reflecting. If you have any topic ideas, please share them with me. This week we are discussing digital versus nondigital.

In my classroom we have stopped having conversations about digital vs. nondigital writing. Writing is writing, whether you are typing on a blog site or writing in a notebook. We utilize each as a tool for writing. The choice is theirs. Some choose to brainstorm in a notebook. Some will go straight to the blog and open a draft. Some will type in a word document first, then copy and paste to the blog. Some print out each draft. The choices are as varied as there are students in the room.

The computer should be a tool that is available as a choice. In my classroom, we make use of every space: the desk for writing, the corner for reading, the computer tables for blogging.

This week my students wrote Harris Burdick stories. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick was originally a collection of black and white illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg including a title and a caption. The story was left to your imagination. In 2011, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was published. This book includes short stories written by well-known middle-grade authors, such as Jon Scieszka, Kate DiCamillo, and Walter Dean Myers.

I shared The Chronicles of Harris Burdick with my students. We read a few of the stories aloud. Then they each picked an illustration to write about. I was amazed how well this worked for even my youngest writers. Madison wrote the most words she’s ever written in her life. (She’s a second grader.) Jacob incorporated a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. Kielan would not be distracted. She sat at the computer for three days typing furiously.


One night a girl named Ruby, who was 10 years old, went to the library to get a book because she loved books. The librarian named Mr. Klein warned her not to get the ancient book because it killed a boy named Jack. She didn’t hear him because she was playing music on her headphones. She took her book home and read it. As she was reading it, the vine pulled her right into the book. As she was dreaming about candy canes and gumdrops, it all changed into a story. The only way she could get out of the book was beating the fairy tale in the book. The first fairy tale was Jack and the bean stalk. (Jacob, 2nd grade)

Madison and Emily wrote their first drafts in their notebooks. Tobie just opened up a draft post on the blog and dove right in. Kielan typed directly into a word document. I observed my students go through the writing process in their own way. Some of them needed talk time. When Lynzee was stuck, she chatted with Emily about where her story could go.

Eventually, though, every story will be typed into our Kidblog site. Because this is how we share our writing. We have Kidblog connections out in the world. I’ve encouraged my students to “hack” into other blogs and write comments. They are getting a glimpse into the marvel of “meeting” people online. These connections have not caught on like I had hoped, so I have put a new blog connection on the board each week and required my students to connect to at least 3 other students. They give me a sticky note with the three names on them (accountability).

Would an old-fashioned pen pal letter be more meaningful? I’m not sure. When I was teaching back in the 90’s, we did pen pal letters. The students would wait weeks and weeks for their letters. Then they would write the minimal in a response. I never quite got them gung-ho about this project either.

Today, the world is digital. Nondigital is not going away. I still have about 5 journals floating around. I have stacks of books to read. I even managed to hand-make and handwrite thank you notes for Christmas gifts. Whether digital or not, literacies are about reading, writing, connecting, expressing, and being present.

Please add your blog link. Thanks for stopping by.

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Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

The beginning of the school year is becoming the middle of the school year. Days are passing quickly. October is already here. The promises of classroom connections are coming to life.

In order to welcome classroom connections, we created a Where I’m From poem modeled after the popular poem form by George Ella Lyon. Last week my students each wrote their own poems. This week we created a collaborative poem. I put it all together in an Animoto video.

If you are blogging with your elementary class using Kidblogs, you can connect to us here. Next week we will start blogging about Fish in a Tree, this year’s Global Read Aloud. We can’t wait! And Lynda Mullaly Hunt has promised a video a week. Read all about this event here.

Where are you from?

Where are you from?

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Unlike my outside plants that are dying from lack of water, my professional learning network (PLN) is healthy and growing. I have been nurturing my PLN this summer. I joined a group of teachers from around the states discussing writing about reading. We started a Voxer group.

I am totally new to Voxer. It’s novel and fun. Voxer is a phone app that acts like a text message or walkie-talkie. Within the conversation, you can leave a voice or text message. I love hearing the voices of my friends as we ruminate about the process of writing about reading. Now that school has started I am able to use this group to bounce ideas off of and to ask for help and guidance.

This week one of my students wrote about the book he was reading. I wasn’t familiar with the book, so I just sent a message in the Voxer group asking for help in analyzing his reader response. The help came immediately and we used Google docs to communicate further about the writing. How cool is that?

With another group, we’ve started a conversation about student blogging. We met yesterday by Google hangout. We are planning to connect students throughout the year using kidblogs. The connections are still in the planning stage. If you’d like to connect your middle grade kids (grades 4th-6th), let me know.

My PLN is becoming a group of friends. I can call on them with any kind of situation with my students. Last week I received many messages of support and love about the death of a former student. This meant so much to me. Kevin Hodgson responded with a poem. He posted this on Twitter.

Kevin Hodgson

Kevin Hodgson

My digital world is healthy and alive. We are working together to make positive choices about our work with kids. Julianne Harmatz is the pro who can connect you with our Voxer conversations. The Twitter hashtag is #WabtR. This is not a closed community. We are open to new friends, new ideas, and new connections.

If you have a digital literacy post, please link below.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Here we go…first day of March. Time to begin a daily writing practice. The Slice of Life Challenge begins today!

This is my fourth year to join the challenge. When I first started, there were only two writing teachers at Two Writing Teachers, Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres. Now there are six, Stacey, Beth, Betsy, Tara, Dana, and Anna. They make a pretty awesome team. At NCTE in November, I had the pleasure of meeting most of them. They are real people! That is the beauty of this blogging community. Everyone is real. We all support one another. We challenge each other. We engage each other.

If this is your first time, I understand totally how you feel. I still wake up at night wondering if what I wrote was junk, and nobody will like it. I still carry my phone with me all day checking my alerts for comments. That never gets old.

I volunteered to be a concierge for the classroom SOLC along with Linda Baie. (Linda is one of those blog commenters who keeps us all connected. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s been my top commenter for years. One day we will meet face to face.) Together we are here to help answer any questions you have about blogging with your class.

In my own classroom, I have set up a Kidblog site. I like this format, much like WordPress, and it allows my students to all post in a common area. I do not have to do any linking to an outside site. Anything that cuts out a step helps when posting daily. I have stored the SOL logo in my photo file, so I can attach it to every SOL slice.

With my students, I made two anchor charts: What is a Slice? and How to make a slice tasty. We will continue to add to these charts. They help my students verbalize their practice. I have set up incentives for different levels of accomplishment. For 15-20 slices, the student gets a pencil. For 21-26, a journal. And the grand prize is a book for 31 slices. I have only 12 students, so I am able to afford the prizes. Some teachers set up a celebration with food at the end of the month.

On Friday, March 13th, the Alliance for Excellence in Education sponsors a Digital Learning Day. On this day, consider joining me in a comment challenge. My students will be reading blogs like crazy and competing for a Crazy Commenter prize.

Here are a few things I have learned over the years about the Slice of Life Challenge:

  1. Write a day or two ahead.  Have some drafts ready just in case.  I preach this better than I do it.
  2. Add photos whenever possible.  I try not to post anything without a visual. Something more than just the SOL logo.  This appeals to the reader and gives you an anchor if you post to Facebook.
  3. Don’t quit.  Even if you miss a day or two, jump back in.  The prizes are nice, but in the long run, the value is in the daily practice of writing.
  4. Comment.  This takes time, so you may want to set up a method.  I usually click on the person above and below my name in the list.  I also try to return comments to those who comment on my post.
  5. Use your comments to connect to the writer.  We make friends by making connections.  I changed my tune this year with my students.  I once told them to make a criticycle (a critique sandwiched with positive feedback.) Now I feel the connection is the most important thing.

I started this round-up for Digital Literacy.  Here every Sunday, you can link their digital literacy posts.  We learn from each other.  Join in anytime.  On Twitter, @MargaretGSimon, #k6digilit.  Please leave your link in the comments and I will add to the post.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts


Cathy Mere writes about the growth of community through digital connections.  http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2015/03/digilit-sunday-growing-communities-in.html 

Julianne slices about using podcasts to fuel writing.  https://jarhartz.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/sol15-day-1-listening-love/

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