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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Three Thoughts About Making Time to Blog

A few years ago I was speaking at a conference in Arizona when I was asked, "what do you say to teachers who say I don't have time for a blog?" I've been asked many variations on that question in the years since. Here's my advice:

First, don't think of blogging as something you have to do on a daily basis. Some of my favorite bloggers only publish once or twice a week. Set a goal of writing one post per week to start. Think of the activity as simply a way to document your reflections on what you tried in your classroom that week or what you're thinking about trying next week. Reflecting on what we're doing should be a part of our lives anyway. I set aside time each week to mind map ideas for future blog posts.

Second, think about a blog as a living document. You don't have to publish complete thoughts in every post. Start a thought and ask readers to join in a conversation. Spelling and grammar don't count as much as think they do. The goal is to publish not practice proof-reading. Of course, if you do see a glaring mistake you can go back and fix it.

Third, think about all of the time that you spend on activities that don't benefit you or anyone else. In a typical one hour television program you will see twelve minutes of commercials. How many television shows are in your weekly "must watch" list? Use those commercial breaks to tap away at a blog post. How much time do you spend waiting in traffic? Use an app like Anchor.fm to create a mini-podcast that you later post on your blog. Or use speech to text function to dictate part of a blog post.

Need help getting a blog started or re-started? Check out my Winning Blog Strategies webinar. 

Historical Patterns Animated

Some of my favorite social studies lesson plans include having students use maps to analyze data and identify patterns in history. Over the years I've done this with paper maps and digital maps. Mapping History, produced by the University of Oregon, features lots of animated maps illustrating problems, patterns, and events throughout history. Mapping History is essentially a digital atlas of American, European, Latin American, and African history. Each section is divided into modules based on historical themes and eras.

Applications for Education
Mapping History is a resource to bookmark for the next time that you need a thematic map to illustrate a pattern in history. I found that some of the maps will also be useful as question prompts. For example, this map prompts students to evaluate the extent to which the expansion of slavery in the U.S. was connected to the demand for cotton.

Character Scrapbook Helps Students Analyze Stories

Scholastic's Character Scrapbook is an online activity that could help your students analyze the characters in the books that they read. The Character Scrapbook asks students to create a digital drawing of what they think a character from a book looks like. The Character Scrapbook allows students to create digital drawings of people or animals. After creating their drawings students then complete a list of ten things that they know about the character, ten words to describe the character, ten details about the character, ten challenges facing the character, and ten things about the character's personality. When students have completed each page of the Character Scrapbook the pages can be printed.

Applications for Education
Character Scrapbook isn't a revolutionary tool. In fact, you could do the same activity on paper. The one thing that I really like about Character Scrapbook is that digital drawing tool allows students who might not think of themselves as creative artists to create a visual representation of their favorite characters from the books that they read.