Over the summer I was inspired by this post to create an online class forum to extend our classroom, expand our thinking, and write authentically for an audience (friends, teachers, parents). I thought quite a bit about how I wanted this to look. At first I went for the visually cool Wallwisher, but I saw that if we were to get into any real discussions, Wallwisher's lack of organization would be a real problem.
Wallwisher: Not a great choice for a class forumThe other problem with this tool is that it lent itself to fragmented thoughts and sentences, which are two habits I do not want my fourth graders to get into.
So I went with a more traditional forum, that allows me to start a new thread topic each week, have kids respond to the thread topic, and have them be able to quote each other to respond to their responses.
This past year I settled on proboards, a free forum hosting site where I could set up an account, invite students and parents, and monitor activity. If I wanted to talk about song lyrics, it was an easy attachment. Pictures could be embedded by dragging and dropping onto a thread post. It suited our needs just fine.
Because we reviewed the responses in class, and parents were encouraged to discuss and participate in the thread topics as well, the children latched on to the idea that writing on the internet can and should be done with careful consideration to sentences and ideas (comments such as, "I agree with Maiya" quickly became a thing of the past), and the children really enjoyed thinking about and responding to the new threads each weekend.
One of my goals this summer is to create a more seamless experience for my students. We use too many disconnected apps. To this end, I'll be looking at Edmodo, Schoology, and Edu 2.0 as places where we can migrate our forum platform to. That way there will be less online tools for everyone to keep track of.
A Few Forum Topic Ideas
I (almost) always created a thread topic that dealt with something we were learning in class. Here are some ideas.
Beginning of the year
- Take the following poll (creating a poll is another nice feature for most forums)
- What are your favorite books? Write at least one title and why you recommend it to others. Then quote at least one of your friends and respond to their recommendation.
- Write a question you would like to explore for the science fair, then quote classmate's question and try to create a hypothesis using your background knowledge for their question.
- We waste a lot of food at lunch. What do you think we can do about it individually? As a class? As a school?
- Do you agree with this statement, "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me." Why or why not?
Listen to "Point of Light" by Randy Travis. Write one metaphor from the song and what you think it means.