One of the pleasures of my role in support schools to change direction with technology as the driving force is the chance to work with schools in completely different circumstances and in different locations. I first worked with Ian Rockey and his school Westwood with Iford Primary School last year. The impact their work has had on standards since then has been a pleasure to witness, I asked Ian to write a guest blog post in the hope that his message would reach far and wide…
Blogging to write… writing to blog
I remember, not so long ago, standing in front of a class of 28 children. Within it was a mixture of reluctant girl and boy writers and at that point we were one term into the academic year. It was a pattern I had seen and experienced many times.
Looking for inspiration to motivate and engage these fantastic children in their writing I took to the web that evening in my usual geeking about, one site leads to another and then all of a sudden it’s midnight, kind of way. Quite by chance I hit upon a site called Quadblogging and next to it, the twitter handle of a chap cunningly disguised in some pink glasses. More on Mr Mitchell later… I realised that the idea of a blog was just what I was looking for and very quickly ( and for free!) I had one up and running and was introducing my class to the skill of post and comment writing and the importance of using correct punctuation! We also had ourselves a place in a quadblog with three other schools, all of whom took turns to comment on each other’s blogs each week. Perhaps most importantly, though, the children were introduced to the concept of writing for an audience. This was probably more influential than anything, as my class now knew that they weren’t just writing for me, but potentially to the world. Very quickly the quality of the writing improved and because we were using a different medium to respond, record and write our ideas, more children seemed to be engaged. By the end of that particular year, 80% of the cohort had achieved a 2b+, 31% a L3+ , with 100% of pupils progressing 5+ APS points, the average being 7.5 points (of course this is all old money assessment, rather than life after levels!). This was all the evidence I needed to know that blogging had a place in the curriculum.
Fast forward a couple of years and I took over as head of a small primary school where the previous year’s KS2 writing results were well below national average. The key focus for the SDP was, of course, writing, but with a twist. Enter the concept of blogging. Taking forward the successes from the classroom I knew that this would impact on standards and with a committed and engaged teaching staff behind me, we embarked on an entirely new journey for the school.
Initially our first school blog was my Head’s blog, offering a window into life at our school and answering the ‘So, what did you do at school today?’ question for parents, who could have a look for themselves. We then quickly developed our two KS2 class blogs, lotus.westwoodblogs.org and orchid.westwoodblogs.org. Children became proficient in writing their own posts and writing comments, both to praise and develop their friend’s work constructively. I felt we were then in a good position to receive some fantastic CPD from David Mitchell, who had initially started me on this journey. After a twilight packed with ideas, tips and strategies for empowering children to write, we were ready to take this forward as a whole school initiative. KS1 classes, thistle.westwoodblogs.org and clover.westwoodblogs.org adopted the class blog approach, perhaps using a picture or a site such as the 5 Sentence Challenge as a prompt for ideas. KS2 classes took a more individual approach, with our blogs soon filling up with writing from both inside and outside of school hours and including cross-curriculum writing from our International Primary Curriculum units of work. Furthermore, through the power of Twitter, and with the help of David Mitchell, I was able to direct other teachers and interested professionals from literally around the world to see the amazing work that our children had produced. With a fast growing audience, the impact was huge. Our reluctant writers were writing 500 word stories of their own, homework was being completed, children were writing and blogging before school and the likes of Pie Corbett, Ros Wilson, Tim Rylands and of course David Mitchell – big hitters in the educational world – were leaving comments for our children, in this small Wiltshire village school. On a more formal note, in the first year’s KS2 writing results after the introduction of blogging, 100% of children achieved a Level 4. Success!
Needless to say that blogging is now embedded at our school. As of today, our blogs have a combined visitor tally of around 15000 in just over a year and by this evening even more posts and comments will have been added. Children are inspired to write independently and the work that they produce is quality work. We are able to balance writing through blogging with traditional writing in books and I believe we have a culture where writing is encouraged, valued and celebrated by all. Watching the children work gives me a huge sense of pride, particularly when I know that in the past the teacher would have been the only person to read the inspiring writing being produced on a daily basis. Thankfully that is no longer the case and our children have a far larger, much deserved, audience for their efforts.
At westwoodblogs.org you will now see that we have 11 blogs and a school community who buy into the value and enjoyment of blogging. We use Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto, Audioboom and Linoit to make our blogs sparkle and with International links around the world, our blogs hit a truly global audience. We would always welcome comments from new readers and will return the favour on your blog. However, our journey is still really just beginning and I am excited to see where it will take us next. From both an educational and leadership perspective, though, I believe blogging has a place in the classroom, allowing all writers to succeed whilst enjoying their learning.
If you are interested in beginning a new journey for your school with the support and guidance needed to make change happen, please get in touch using this form.