Creating student blogs with Wakelet

Student blogging might just be the way to get even your most reluctant student to fall in love with writing. Here is a simple and FREE way to get your students blogging with Wakelet.

This post is written by Jon Fortney, a fifth-grade teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can connect with Jon on Twitter @FortneyTECH and check out his blog Fortneytech.com.

Writing sucks.

That’s the essence of what so many kids express during writing time in school. In my experience, many children who could spend hours talking your ear off all of a sudden have nothing to say when asked to put their ideas in a journal- regardless of if a prompt is given or not. And don’t get me started on the hand cramps that all of a sudden plague so many students the second that they finish writing their third sentence!

The Problem

Getting our students writing is often like pulling teeth, which in reality is what sucks. As teachers, many of us recognize that writing is an art. For many people, writing is a great form of self-expression, of demonstrating knowledge, or even processing life.

Knowing all of this, I set out to find a better way to help my students fall in love with writing- or at least to tolerate it!

My goals were to:

  • Empower my students to enjoy writing
  • Make writing digital so I can take a look at it wherever, whenever, without collecting notebooks
  • Provide my students with an authentic and global audience
  • Not spend any money

The Solution

Immediately, I knew that all signs were pointing towards student blogs, but I wasn’t sure which venue to use. There are a lot of great blogging tools out there, but they either cost money, or require users to be at least 13 years old, which doesn’t work for my fifth graders.

Eventually, I realized that Wakelet, a tool I initially thought was designed to replace the bookmark bar in a web browser, could meet all of my specifications.

Wakelet had, in fact, become one of my favorite tools to use in my classroom over the previous months. I use it for parent newsletters, to allow my students to collaborate in groups, and as a space where students can submit and view presentations, they and their peers have made. This, however, was clearly taking things to a new level!

Like I mentioned before, my students are 5th graders, so they’re still too young to have their own Wakelet accounts (you have to be 13) but Wakelet has an incredible workaround to solve this problem. An individual with a Wakelet account can give anyone, regardless of age, a contributor code allowing them to add text, images, URLs, PDFs or Google Drive documents to a Wakelet collection.

My plan was this: create a collection for every student in my classroom, and add them as a contributor. This would allow students to write blog posts on a collection that could be shared around the world.

When I introduced this plan to my students, they were not particularly excited- they live in the time of the vlog, but, when they got to customize their blog’s name and cover image, along with a steady increase in their blog’s view counts, enthusiasm grew exponentially!

Currently, my students are thrilled when writing time comes around. I do Daily 5, which gives students a lot of choices about what they are working on at any given time, between reading, writing, and vocabulary. I have to be diligent in making sure that my students are spending enough time on all elements of Language Arts rather than spending their entire time writing- which is a cool problem to have! Students even ask me if they can work on their blogs from home!

How to set up a student blog with Wakelet

Are you interested in setting up blogs for your students, specifically using Wakelet? I sure hope you are! It’s a very simple process, especially if you use Google Classroom or a similar tool.

Here’s what I did- it’s easily modifiable to fit your specific needs.

  • Create a blank collection for each of your students (I named each one with student initials)
    • Change collections from “private” to “unlisted” or “public.” (This must be done to share student work)
  • Share the contributor code or URL for each collection with their respective student (I used Google Classroom for this)
  • Ask your class what they want their blog to be named (I used Google Classroom for this as well)
  • Since students have the credentials to contribute to their blogs, they should begin writing their first blog post
  • As they do this, call over one student at a time, in order to rename their blog and add a picture for the header.
  • Create one final collection that contains all student blog collections
    • Use the URL in the Omnibox of Google Chrome (or where URLs are typed in web browsers)
  • Share student work! (That last Wakelet collection of all student blogs is not just for ease of access, but also to share student blogs!)
    • Share with students, on Twitter, in parent newsletters, etc!

While there are a few things I haven’t quite figured out yet, like allowing readers to comment on student work, I’m really thrilled with this format for student blogs. It’s easy, but it produces great results. Admittedly, I can tell that my class has a lot of work to do in order for students to be writing at the expected level, but I’m really excited to get to do this using Wakelet, as are they!

You can check out my students’ work here: https://wke.lt/w/s/ntAYhU

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Tennessee Educational Technology Association Conference Murfreesboro, TN