This fall I decided to have my IEP (individualized education plan) students create in-class personal blogs. For my students, having accommodations to support their learning is imperative. Having a learning disability means that you struggle in a particular area and need some extra support. When students are able to write about their lives in short daily blog posts, it gives them the freedom to share their interests and become more in-tune with themselves. While their work is not visible to the public, their daily posts can be shared with classmates through Google Slides.
I begin each class by publishing a new Bell Ringer Blog assignment on Google Classroom — a starter sentence, a picture, a question the students can answer or a video they can discuss in a new Google Slide (their blog post). This process motivates students to get started just after the bell rings.
I go through the blog assignment step-by-step for a couple of weeks at the beginning of each semester to ensure they have the gist of what I expect from them each day. This process makes things easy when I have to be absent, as students can easily see the post I want them to create that day in Google Classroom and complete it without much additional teacher support.
Each student is given design layouts to choose from for their personal blogs, or they can create their own. They use the same layout consistently throughout a semester to maintain equity in their posts. My caseload this year is all freshman, who I will have as students for four years, so the Bell Ringer Blog assignment will be a nice way for them to see their progress during high school. Students will also learn how to use their personal Chromebooks to show me their understanding of digital citizenship. I want to see that they can use their computers properly, search the Internet and communicate with others safely. And because I assigned the project through Google Classroom, I have access to each of their documents and can review and grade for completion, participation and spelling.
The Google Slides program (or the Windows version, Windows Powerpoint) can be a bit daunting if you’ve never used it before. There are a lot of buttons and options, and each one does something different for your presentation. I show my students different presentation options throughout the year, teaching them new buttons and how to get them to work for their personalized slides. Ideally, using transitions and uploading things like pictures and videos will help them with projects later in high school, in college and when they get a job.
Limitations and Low-Tech Options
When kids do this project for more than a quarter, there ends up being a lot of slides — with images, gifs and videos — that need to be uploaded everyday, and it takes a lot longer than I’d like. For this reason, I tend to have students start a new slide deck each quarter so the upload process takes less time. This kind of blog project can also be done without technology. Students can answer the daily bell ringer on a piece of paper and put the pages together like a book at the end of each semester.
Students have told me that the blogging project feels like a personal journal they can use to relay their thoughts without feeling judged. Students also like the chance to get their thoughts together in their blog post about a particular video we’ve watched or topic I’ve presented before they talk about it aloud. They’ve said it has made them feel more confident about what they want to say.
I really enjoy this project because it gives kids freedom to express themselves using text or photos. I have one student who has personalized his Bell Ringer Blog with photos of trophies he has won from his cross country meets. It’s clear from his blog that he’s proud of himself, and I hope that in the future he will look back and be reminded that he was a successful young man in high school.
It’s a big deal for me to have my students acknowledge and share their interests, especially because they may struggle in certain areas of their education. Giving my students the opportunity to work beyond their abilities makes this project successful.