At the start of the year I decided to set up a class blog that I would, initially, use with my Year 8 tutor group.
The main purpose of this blog would be to share my form group's work and to share with them useful information throughout the school year. A large part of the blog involves my form taking part in the 100 word challenge (see http://100wc.net). The 100 word challenge is a weekly activity for students to take part in that involves them writing a 100 word piece of writing around the weekly 'prompt' that is put up on the website.
I was unsure at first as to how my tutor group would take to the idea, but have been massively impressed with how much they seem to be engaging in the process.
Each Wednesday evening the 100 word challenge website posts the 'prompt' for that week, then on Thursday, during tutor time, I show the class the website, the prompt and then get them to start writing their 100 words in our 20 minute tutor time. Then, at the end of the 20 minutes if they have finished their writing and want it to be put up on the blog (they don't have to have it published on the blog if they don't want) they hand it to me and I post it for them later that day. If they would like more time to work on it, or they want to type it up themselves, they then e-mail me their entry later in the week. This is easier for me too as it means I just have to copy and paste their work into the blog post creator.
From an initial point of view everything posted on the site is going through me, whilst I ensure all the e-safety elements are checked and the students get used to the process. Eventually, I will try and set up a universal 'student' logon for them to all have and then post when they've done the challenges. I can still moderate everything posted by that account and so will still be able to ensure there is nothing that shouldn't be posted on the blog.
We have now done the 100 word challenge for the 1st 2 weeks (the activity is still in week 2) and at least 7 or 8 students have posted each week, there is a buzz about the room when we talk about the blog and many students are asking me if I've seen the comments they've had on their work from other people.
This, in my opinion, is the best thing about the 100 word challenge. After I have linked each of my student's work to the 100wc site the 100 word challenge team (and other students/teachers) then comment on the work completed. They give constructive feedback on the work and highlight areas in which the students may improve their writing. This, for not only the students, but my new school, is a massive thing this year as there is a whole school literacy push. This includes having a 'word of the week' feature in each week's tutor times; I am also posting this on the blog and giving away VIVOs (our awards system) for the first student to comment on the post with a sentence using the word of the week.
I'm planning on 'showcasing' the blog to the rest of the school soon, once I have plenty of evidence as to the usefulness of it, the student's engagement in it and the ways in which it can develop students' literacy. Part of this will involve me explaining that I have said to students that in their writing they are not to mention the school, their full name or names of other students etc etc. I also have on the blog a whole menu devoted to e-safety and have provided loads of links for students and parents if they are experiencing problems with online safety, cyberbullying etc. I hope this will also form a part of tutor time later in the year where I can discuss with the students being safe online, refer to links on the blog and discuss these further.
Here's the class blog... http://mrcollinsclassblog.wordpress.com if you'd like to comment on any of the students' work then that'd be great, they love the comments they've received so far and this is helping massively to engage them in using the blog and completing the 100 word challenge.
This week I even had a student e-mail me on Wednesday after school saying that they'd been on the 100 word challenge website, seen the new prompt and asked if they could start their 100 word piece of writing early. I, of course, said yes and then within 10 minutes had an e-mail with a word doc attached containing their entry, it went straight on the blog and was then used as an example for the other students in Thursday's tutor time!