Exploring blogs during silent reading [Activity]

I don’t have a ton of time to write tonight, but I wanted to fill you in on something I’m planning on rolling out on my academic team in the next few months.

We do a daily sustained silent reading period—-30 minutes that rotates from classroom to classroom depending on the day—and we love it.  Our kids fall into a comfortable routine over the course of the year and develop a reading-for-pleasure vibe that is just plain cool.

Having fallen madly in love with my feed reader several years ago—who COULDN’T get behind a digital tool that automatically checks my favorite websites for new content every day and brings updates to one homepage for me—I decided to put together a collection of interesting feeds for my kids to explore:

http://www.netvibes.com/wferriter

Poke around a bit and you’ll see sites being written BY and FOR kids.

There are blogs sharing book reviews and interesting current events.  There are blogs being written by the authors that my kids have fallen in love with, blogs about math and science, and blogs that focus on parts of the world that I want students to know more about.

My plan is to turn handfuls of kids loose on this collection during silent reading sessions.  They’ll use our classroom computers and any other Internet connected device that I can rustle up.  I’ll probably only have room for 3-5 kids to read blogs each day, but that’s a start anyway.

The only rule that I’ll set is that if a student is reading online, he’s got to leave at least one comment on content that he’s reading.  The way I see it, I want to encourage kids to interact—both with the ideas and individuals that they’re exploring.

That’s the real beauty of blogs after all:  It’s not just reading.  It’s reading together.  It’s pushing back.  It’s challenging and being challenged all at once.

To help guide their developing commenting habits, I’m going to print off the following handout and leave it next to every computer on our team:

Download Handout_Blog_Comments

It’s chock-a-block full of helpful tips and sets of commenting dos and don’ts.  It’s got sentence starters and sample comments.  I figure that if I want kids to be productive contributers to comment sections, I’ve got to show ’em what productive comments look like, right?

So whaddya’ think?

Should teachers be encouraging kids to read blogs during SSR time?  Is there inherent value in seeing that content is being created by others—and that new digital tools can enable users to have conversations around text?

Anyone else using blogs during their SSR periods?

Anyone got a blog that I should add to my collection of student feeds?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.