RM Winter 2016 FLIP

Unplugged Table-top blogging is a pre-reading, or pre-unit, activity for engaging students in thinking about the idea, theme, or meaning of the class’ instructional topic by activating prior knowledge and making predictions using teacher selected artifacts. This practice uses a selection of photos, political cartoons, primary source documents, pictures, newspaper articles, poetry, music lyrics, and videos that pertain to a unit of study. Teachers can combine tabletop blogging with both narrative and expository text to activate prior knowledge before a unit of instruction (Beers, Probst, & Rief, 2007). Here is how Table-top blogging works: 1. Select 4-6 artifacts related to the content being studied, such as photos, political cartoons, primary source documents, pictures, newspaper articles, poetry, music lyrics, or videos. Place each artifact on its own poster board or large paper. 2. Place the poster boards or large papers at various stations around the room. 3. Partner students in small groups and explain that students are not allowed to talk during the activity. At each station the students are to respond to the article by writing a summation, question, or thought related the artifact on the poster or paper. The students are also encouraged to respond to one another’s comments, just as one would comment on a blog post. Depending on the nature of the content, you may want to have each student initial his/her responses; for more controversial topics, anonymity may engender unguarded thoughts. 4. Once the groups have visited each station, the teacher reviews each poster board article and student responses with the class, keeping in mind the day’s or the unit’s learning objective. 5. At the conclusion of the activity, posters can be displayed on the classroom wall so students can refer back to them during the unit’s study.

Plugged in The paper format of tabletop blogging can also be modified by using a class Twitter page, a classroom blog, or a Google doc. For younger students, a site such as Kidblog (www.kidblog.org) allows for safe interaction between classroommembers and invited guests (see Figure 4). Blogging in the classroom has become increasingly popular with the one-to-one and Bring-Your-Own-Device movement in schools. According to Halic (2010),“[e]ssentially a form of personal publishing, the blog is a text-based online environment which allows for embedding links to other online resources and in which the author’s posts appear in reverse chronological order” (p. 206). By allowing students the opportunity to communicate with each other via a weblog, educators shift from a traditional teacher-student linear communication flow to learner-centered knowledge construction. This shift not only creates a broader, more authentic audience for student work, but it also encourages student ownership of texts, and promotes critical thinking (Boyd, 2013). Blogs also utilize the development of intertextuality in writing, the component of blogging in which the author links to other texts, visuals, and videos. As Gallagher suggests,“[t]here is a genuine feeling of interchange here, of writers/readers reacting to and with each other”(2010, p. 288). Figure 4 shows an example of a blog prompt from a fifth grade social studies classroom that requires students to follow the links to primary sources and use higher order thinking skills to form an opinion and justify their response. Lower grades may consider using a blog to discuss aspects of community. Students can use images in their posts to explain the role of community workers. Depending on the availability of at home devices, students can take photos of leaders in their own community and blog what they have learned about that person’s job.

Reading Matters Teaching Matters

Figure 4: Kidblog prompt

Data suggests that teachers who use blogging in the classroom experience multiple student benefits: growth on student consideration of audience in writing; wider perspectives in discussion; more effective revision techniques; improved grammar and spelling, and; growth in confidence with communication skills – all essential skills for improved literacy (Anderson-Butcher, et al., 2010; Berezina, 2011; Boling, et al., 2008; Chen, et al., 2011). Fluency Fluent readers can read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression (National Reading Panel, 2000). Oral reading practice to increase fluency skills is supported by research, while silent reading has had less consistently positive results (Learning Point Associates, 2006; National Reading Panel, 2000; Reutzel, Fawson, & Smith, 2008). So, how do we, as classroom

Figure 4: Tabletop blogging in action

| 54 | Reading Matters | Volume 16 • Winter 2016 | scira.org


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