Often times as teachers, we are asked how we spend our days. Some may think teaching is just babysitting twenty-some kids for eight hours a day while their parents work. Others wonder how we can expect so much of someone so little. There are pictures depicting how different people in society may perceive teachers, and then there is reality. Once you have set foot in a classroom, you have a whole new appreciation for teachers. Just this week, two parent volunteers expressed that they did not know how so much gets done in our short day and how you don’t step in and do every little thing for the students when they aren’t on the right track. Well if we don’t teach them how to problem solve and struggle, we will be still tying their shoes and helping them locate keys on the keyboard for them when they are in high school. Some parents want a daily synopsis for each individual child about what he/she did that day. They think this will prevent the shrug of the shoulders or “I don’t know” when they ask what they did today during the typical dinner conversation.
While not necessarily a fix for the dinner conversation, classroom blogs can be an answer for many other questions in the classroom. A classroom blog can help teachers share out student work, inform parents about resources to help support their child at home, share homework assignments, provide pictures and/or videos of student learning in the classroom, and/or share lesson plans and resources with families as well as other educators. Blogs can be both private or public and are an easy way to update others about your current classroom happenings. Blogs allow for collaboration amongst teachers, as well as students and community members. Blogs are a great tool for today’s tech driven classroom to help enhance communication and collaboration amongst teachers, families, and school communities alike. Some teacher blogs include the following below.
Elementary Blog- Fun In First
Purpose: Fun in First is written by Jodi Southard, a first grade teacher in Indiana. She has also taught art and 3rd grade allowing her to have experience with a variety of ages in elementary school. In addition to her blog and teaching, she sells resources using a Teachers Pay Teachers account under the same name. There are also links for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and Pinterest that display her large digital presence. The purpose of the Fun In First is to share resources and ideas with other primary teachers. The specific posts relate to tried and true strategies and resources that she is currently implementing in her classroom.
Other primary teachers, especially first graders, can quickly gain insight into how to utilize supplies and materials in the classroom to be more effective with time management. Right off the bat, the blog is appealing. It is bright, colorful, and well organized into tabs that tell about the teacher, specific ideas for the classroom (décor, management strategies, supplies) curriculum (broken down by subject area), seasonal resources, as well as an index to search blog posts, and a link her Teachers Pay Teachers account to purchase products she has created.
Posts: The author of the blog seems to post pretty regularly, usually about twice a month. One entire section in the blog, as well as several blog posts, are dedicated to the use of morning tubs in the classroom. The “Morning Tubs This Year” post describes everyday items the teacher uses to encourage creativity and community among her students. The post outlines how students work in collaborative groups after they finish their morning work to build, color, and create using the tools assigned for that 3 day period. A post titled “Interactive Task Folder” describes how early finishers can stay engaged after they finish the assigned work. The post includes pictures and words of the extra practice folder in action as well as how it can be differentiated for each student. The link to purchase a pre-made interactive task folder designed by Fun In First is available so teachers can purchase their own copy from her Teachers Pay Teachers site. One thing that helps encourage followers of blogs, are freebies of printable activities that can be used in the classroom free of charge provided you follow the stipulations listed. A quick search revealed many available, included one related to Martin Luther King Jr. The post “Martin Luther King Jr. Freebies” outlined specifically how the teacher introduced the students to Martin Luther King Jr. by reading about his life, how he changed the world, and then sharing their knowledge in a flipbook. The post provides the flipbook as a freebie as well as a writing activity where students can use their own pictures and share about their own dreams to be displayed in the classroom.
Value: Overall, this blog is visually appealing and well-organized. It serves it’s purpose of informing other primary teachers about strategies and resources for teaching students in a variety of subject areas. There is a strong push for followers to purchase resources from the Teachers Pay Teachers store or affiliate links, but there is also a decent amount of free resources available as well. The products available, both free and of cost, seem to be designed well and are engaging for students. Many teachers will find the stories and examples included true to real life and help them as they plan for future activities in the classroom. The blog itself can be used as a tool to assist with planning future lessons, designing classroom management strategies, and helping develop everyday routines within the classroom.
Middle School Blog- Math in the Middle
Purpose: This blog is written by a middle school math teacher and consists of posts related to resources and ideas for the middle school math classroom. The author reveals very little about herself and only has links to an affiliated Teachers Pay teachers account and Facebook account. Once again the blog is visually appealing as it is bright and colorful. It is organized with links at the top to the different sections of the site including the blog, resources, review games, end of year activities, and freebies, This blog focuses on keeping students engaged in math through the use of an interactive whiteboard as well as games that students can play to practice and review concepts on their 1:1 devices. The author seems to post about once a month, sometimes once every other month. Again the resource links connect to the Teachers Pay Teachers site where readers can purchase ready-made resources that they can quickly implement in their own classrooms.
Posts: Not having taught middle school, but remembering what goes into the organization piece at that age, it seems that she has a lot of great tools and strategies for setting up and organizing students in a math resource notebook or binder. The post, “Setting Up Student Math Binders”, describes why the author made the switch back to binders from spiral notebooks after the district got rid of workbooks for students. The author describes how she creates dividers for the student notebooks and then breaks down what types of ideas and resources will fit into the different sections. This is nicely organized as the author provides direct link to specific blog posts within her own blog and resources you can purchase that go with each specific unit. The use of pictures helps the reader to visualize what the author is describing and see a glimpse of the products offered. In this post specifically, the author used a question and answer format to help organize the information and make locating the answer to specific questions easy.
In the post, “FREE Interactive Review Game for any Grade or Subject” , she provides a free review game “Attack” that she uses with her students. The free interactive game post even links back to an original post that describes the format of the game and how it can be played without the interactive component as well. The use of bullet points and step by step directions helps the reader easily follow how to utilize this game within his/her own classroom. The post goes on to describe how the game is played and the difference between the free version and the full version.
Another post, “Finding the GCF & LCM of 3 or More Numbers using the Cake Method” the author again refers to a past post about using the cake method (something foreign to me in the primary world) to find the greatest common factor and least common multiple for two numbers. The updated post discusses how the same strategy can be used for to find the GCF or LCM for 3 or more numbers and was in response to a question left on the blog. This shows that the author is aware of her readers and takes that into account when creating blog posts and resources. While reading the directions, the reader can also use the pictures provided (along with colored clues) to help follow along.
Value: The author’s blog specifically targets fellow middle school math teachers in her audience. While that may be the case, this blog could also be used as a resource for teachers to share with parents or other teachers during professional development. The descriptions of the strategies taught in class along with the pictures of examples can be used to help students and parents alike when they may need a refresher of a particular strategy. Since not all of the materials are targeted at math, such as the review game that can be used for multiple ages and subjects, other teachers can find value in the blog as well. The use of tags on the different blog posts as well as the tabs allow for a quick search of the content and make it very user friendly.
High School Blog- Amy Brown Science
Purpose: Amy Brown is a high school science teacher who has experience teaching a variety of biology and chemistry courses. In her “About Me” section, she shares a great deal of information about her 30 plus years in education, her love for science, and her interests outside of teaching. The blog includes links to affiliated Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers accounts along the top of the site. There are also tabs to link to the different pages within the blog where you can learn more about the author, find free products, and connect to her store to purchase products as well.
This blog again appeals and is targeted at other teachers. The right side of the blog includes quick links to new resources that are displayed through graphics. There is also a blog archive that shows the number of posts she typically posts can vary greatly during the school year, but usually includes at least 1-2 posts per month. Readers can also subscribe to a newsletter and see what the author has recently pinned on her Pinterest account.
Posts: The posts seem to share mostly about current activities and resources being used in the classroom as well as links to the promoted products she has designed for her TpT account. The post “The Pros and Cons of Outdoor Science Education” provides a detailed and realistic approach to getting students outside to learn about the ecosystem. The author’s blog posts seem to be longer than most typical blog posts, but her way with writing has you visualizing and nodding your head in agreement as you read along. While the narrative may seem a little more lengthy than others, the use of pictures, captions, and bullet points still make the posts easy to navigate. This post specifically outlines a list of 9 pros to venturing outside with students for hands-on science while on the flip-side only 2 cons. The cons listed related to time and classroom management, but then the author quickly goes on to provide tips to plan effective outdoor lessons. Again there are links to the TpT store where readers can purchase student handouts and PowerPoints to use to deliver instruction.
Another post titled “Motivating Science Students” different teachers’ viewpoints on motivation related to education. Through a series of four tips, the author describes how other teachers can encourage motivation in their students. Teachers should be energetic, make learning fun and relevant, and provide students with praise. This post may be include science in the title, but is easily applicable to other subject areas and grade level as well.
“Charles Darwin: The Tale of Evolution” was a post that provided specific teaching instructions related to the history of evolution and background information on Charles Darwin. The post described the TpT resource that the teacher designed and her thought process behind the lesson itself. She focused on the objectives she wanted the students to accomplish at the conclusion of the activity. The post then broke down what the students would specifically be doing, what the teacher and students would need to complete the assignment, and how it can be used in the classroom.
Value: This blog would best serve high school teachers of science who are looking for resources and ideas for their biology or chemistry classrooms. The resources provided cover a wealth of information and are all linked directly to the author’s TpT store. The labels that reference specific posts make the site easy to navigate and the organization is visually appealing. The freebies link provides small visuals that link directly to the TpT store. The author obviously has a strong love for science which is reflective in her writing. She seems relatable and while some posts may seem long, the site itself is easy to navigate and the support of pictures continues to help the reader.
Overall classroom blogs are a great way for teachers to reach out and share with one another. At any grade level or subject area, teachers around the country (and world) are planning, creating, and implementing lessons that help meet the diverse needs of their specific learners. A classroom blog is just one way to share out what you are doing with colleagues and learn from others. This helps teachers with ISTE Standard 5 related to engaging professional growth and leadership. Teachers are interacting in a professional community of learners as they share and discuss ideas and strategies for the classroom. Teachers also often use classroom blogs to reflect on current professional practices and research to help us move forward with student learning. The new strategies and ideas can help facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity as well, which is ISTE Standard 1.
The creation of sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher’s Notebook have also added another component of classroom blogs as teachers are now able to seek profit for what they have always done, which is create resources for their students. I believe that teachers would benefit from getting out there into cyber space and exploring all that these classroom blogs have to offer. The blogs themselves allow teachers to have a peek inside and see what strategies and resources they can take away to help improve their own teaching. In order to share the concept of blogging with my coworkers, I think it would be helpful to share my own classroom blog with the staff. We currently use a blog in first grade to communicate with parents and share resources. By scheduling time during faculty meetings, professional development days, or even setting aside a specific day and time before or after school, teachers could meet to create blogs together and compose posts. This would help improve the community and create consistency among the school. Teachers no longer have to answer the question, “But really, what do you do all day?” Parents may no longer have to wonder what they will discuss with their children at dinner if the teacher regularly updates a classroom blog with current happenings through narratives and pictures. From a professional standpoint, over time teachers may locate and share specific blogs and blog posts that relate to trends in the school (such as growth mindset or productive struggle), the School Improvement Plan, or new curriculum that has been implemented. By sharing the resources that are already out there with colleagues, they will quickly realize they do not have to reinvent the wheel, but can take advantage of the ideas that have already been put into action.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). ISTE standards: Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.iste.org/standards