Our After Schoolers are Blogging

The following article written by PIC After School Teacher Carolanne Mitchell appeared recently in the Fall 2013 Pennsylvania School-Age Child Care Alliance newsletter.

Blogging with 8-11 year olds

Blogging with kids is a great way to get them writing and to teach 21st century skills. I started Blogging Club for the 2nd–6th graders last year in response to the kids’ interest in computers. I wanted to give them an opportunity to use the computers at our center for something a little more productive than games and a little more fun than homework.

We’ve offered Blogging Club for three club sessions so far and it’s been very popular. We use kidblog.org, a blogging site designed for classrooms, which allows each student to have their own blog on our class site. All blogs are password protected and a password is also needed to see the class site.

Students can read and respond to each other’s posts and as the teacher I am able to monitor everything they publish. Safety online is an important consideration, especially when it comes to our kids, and Kid Blog has been an easy and secure platform that is still meaningful and fun for the kids.

In this club the kids are learning several important skills, often without even realizing it. They are learning useful computer skills that will not doubt be helpful as they advance in school. They are learning literacy skills by writing their own posts and responding to others. And they are exercising creativity and ownership over their blogs.

Publishing something online, even if it’s just a photo with a funny caption, is exciting! Additionally there is a lot of humor peppered in their blogs and comments. We all know kids are funny, but being intentionally funny in writing is a challenge and these kids are up to it.

Of course there are also challenges to blogging with kids. I am constantly encouraging my bloggers to focus on a specific topic and expand their writing to appeal to a wider audience (and get published on our organization’s main website!).

It is easy for kids to get sidetracked with image searches and commenting on others’ posts. The comments feature gives me an opportunity to teach kids about appropriate behavior online and remind them that the people reading their comments are just that—people. 

Online communication and the anonymity it provides can give people the idea that they can post anything, even if it’s mean. I remind the bloggers at my after school program every week that I am reading their posts and will approve or not approve of them accordingly, so they need to think about what they’re writing and whether it is relevant and constructive for the original poster. It is my hope that this early instruction in how to be kind and constructive on the Internet will follow them into high school where online communication is the standard and can result in real pain for some students.

I plan to continue blogging with kids this school year and hope that over time their writing will become more focused and of interest to a wider audience. In any case, the kids in the club are having fun writing and expressing themselves and I consider that a success.