Touching Spirit Bear Student Introduction

8th Grade Interactive Active Novel Study

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

The introduction assignment is designed to introduce the students to the classroom blog and provide an opportunity to create background knowledge for the novel study. Touching Spirit Bear starts out in Minneapolis and moves quickly to Alaska. The main characters is placed on an Island and must fend for himself in the elements of Alaska. Students were assigned a city in Alaska as a username. The introduction assignment provided the students with an opportunity to explore Alaska and learn more about the environment, weather, and setting. The images below walk through the first steps the eighth grade completed as they started the Toughing Spirit Bear Novel Study.

Before this individual assignment, The class looked over the classroom blog on the white board. The class reviewed “Welcome to Touching Spirit Bear Novel Study.”

8thgradeIntroductionpostingSTOP HERE – each student was given the introduction hand out. The whole reviewed the Touching Spirit Bear Novel Study Introduction to Kidblog and reviewed the sample  Posting Kodiak Posting.

Introduction Sheet

When introducing a new assignment and technology tool, it is important to provide visual examples and set expectations. Before the students logged into their accounts, they walked through the steps of the assignment together. Exploring cities in Alaska. Student volunteer read the Kodiak posting and the class checked the posting facts with the information at the Cities in Alaska website, AreaVibes. This whole group process set the expectations for independent student work.

Alaskan CitiesKodiak

This initial assignment provided the students with the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to use real world skills. The students researched cities in a manner that they may one-day research a place to live, go to college, or find a job.


Sample Student Response for Whole Class Lesson


Eighth Grade Student Examples



Student Introduction Reflection

Student usernames and logging in daily for lessons.

Deciding how to set up usernames for the students is a process that should allow students anonymity to encourage students to communicate openly. Taking the use of sorbets (nicknames) one step further provides an opportunity to create background knowledge and work on media literacy standards. Usernames were selected based on the introduction assignment. For The Pigman novel study usernames are animals from the Bronx Zoo and usernames for the Touching Spirit Bear are cities in Alaska. See The Pigman Part One and Touching Spirit Bear Part One for details and student posting examples.

The easiest way to complete this process is for the teacher to go through and assign the username and student email address. The School District has student email addresses through Google, which made sign up easy for students. As the teacher creates new users, enters usernames, and adds student email addresses an email is sent to the student. The email is an invitation to Students follow the link provided and login with Google.

To test the signup process the seventh-grade signed up using Google and the eighth-grade used the specified classroom blog website address, logging in with usernames and passwords. Signup with the Google was smoother, took less time and was easier for students to login during subsequent lessons – all the teacher had to say was go to and login with Google. Eighth-grade signup with usernames and passwords was a little more time-consuming. The teacher passed out slips of paper with classroom weblink, username, and password. On the following days, signing in took longer because students had to go to the specific classroom blog web address, remember username and password.  To eliminate the wasted time, student email addresses were added to usernames by the teacher, welcome emails were sent to students, students followed the link, and verified Google email login. Now both classes login with Google, saving time.

Importance of the Read Aloud

Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Levels: exposure, collaboration, and fluency

“The Read Aloud” has always been an important part of the reading curriculum with middle school students in courses I teach. Reading a book together in class and creating moments that we all have in common, not only strengths students academically, it builds a community of learners that can relate to one another. The only rule is that we only read the book with the class and never read ahead.

When we first start a novel study, students are exposed to the reasons why we read aloud together:

  1. Reading a story and discussing it as you go is fun and exciting!
  2. Creating something in common with your classmates builds future relationships and learning opportunities.
  3. Listening to a story and following along increases comprehension, fluency, and reading level.
  4. Individuals will also see growth in background knowledge as well as vocabulary.

ReadingHorizons has a Blog that features articles and evidence that supports a variety of reading strategies. The May 04, 2012 posting by Angie Stevens The Importance of Reading Aloud to Students of All Grades and Ages provides detailed examples that are directly tied to common core standards and established scientific based evidence for best practice.

Reading Horizons Blog Posting

Internet Safety and Security

Building an interactive Novel Unit Study that uses online social media requires some time up front putting in place a classroom blog and a communication platform.

In our school, each student has an iPad and access to the internet and course material online. Having an interactive novel student that uses social media as a vehicle for assessment only seems natural.

Open social media platforms like Twitter and Snap chat are currently blocked from the school network, and students do not have access to these mediums. Knowing that parents have concerns about internet safety, it is important to incorporate blogging and messaging that is secure and limited to only to those invited to be part of the class.

For a safe and secure classroom blog, the best choice out there is


For safe and secure messaging, that is a modified version of Twitter, one of the best choices is


The next few hours will be spent setting up a Kidblog classroom and Remind class list. At the same time, it is important to build in a couple lesson plans to provide instruction on how to use each social media outlets and have practice posting sessions. That will be coming up next week.

Project Proposal Research

Taking risks and meeting students in the world they are most familiar with – Social Media.

As I am researching how other middle school teachers are using blogs and Twitter to enhance the educational process, I am coming across some amazing teachers. I am inspired everywhere I turn by educators who are stepping outside of the brick and mortar box; taking risks to connect to students through the world of social media.

Blogging with Middle Schoolers: Frontloading and First Steps

by Heather on September 8, 2010

“So I just finished introducing blogging to my middle school classes. They are hooked, as each year before them was hooked. I use it as a substitute for Reading Logs, that dreaded love-of-reading killer which causes eye rolls in many a Language Arts class. Rather than simply log the quantity of books, perhaps embellishing with a short summary or bibliographical entry, I have them discuss quality.”

Quantitative Representation: Data Shaping our Personalities

“This is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.”   JKaufenberg Reflection, Week Four

This week’s reading, chapter 1 and 3, Seeing Ourselves Through Technology (Jill Walker Rettberg, 2014) grabbed my attention and intrigued me in more ways than one.

Watching teenagers around me digitizes what seems to be every waking moment of their lives; I have been in a constant state of concern with the greater impact that technology may have on their lives in the future. After reading, Rettberg’s concept of Written, Visual and Quantitative Self-Representations, I developed a better understanding of digital self-representation. Even though society as a whole continues to ridicule selfies and blogs, the digital forum plays a major role in everyday lives of individuals.

The digital mediums that Rettberg focuses on, written, visual and quantitative, have a definite place in our modern world. A place that would be here in an alternate format if we did not have our current technology. According to Rettberg, blog and written status updates are descendent of diaries, memoirs, commonplace books, and autobiographies. Selfies are descendants of visual artists’ self-portraits, and the quantitative modes of lifelogs, personal maps, productivity records and activity trackers are descendants of genres such as accounting, habit tracking, and to-do lists. In today’s digital culture, the three modes are intertwined (Rettber, 2014).

Relating to and understanding the writing and visual self-representations was easier to comprehend, while the quantitative side was a little more challenging to wrap my head around. The more I read, the more I thought back to the Insightful human portraits made from data, TED Talk. In an earlier post, Inspiration from Data and a Little Creative Thinking, I connected to this same TED Talk after reading Heilyeah: Weekly Summary and Digital Artifact. It is definitely worth bringing up again because this is where my original fascination with society’s inability to disconnect from technology and social media morphed into a twisted concern.

As Language Arts and Communications teacher, I am seeing directly and indirectly how technology and social media are influencing students in a variety of ways, both positive and negative, every day. Part of our, middle and high school Language Arts, studies involves personal character, first impressions, and self-image. We look at who we think we are and how people view us. As students mature, they can see that the two are not always the same, and the choices we make can change how others view us. Adding technology and potential “alternate personal characters” into the mix can shape the reality of our future selves. It is important that we continue to discuss the impact of data, technology, and social media with students of all ages. Technology creates an open book that displays the “who” we want people to know and even the “who” we want to keep private. The important thing to remember is that no matter “who” that is, once it is out there it cannot be taken back.

Artist R. Luke DuBois makes unique portraits of presidents, cities, himself and even Britney Spears using data and personality. In this talk, he shares nine projects — from maps of the country built using information taken from millions of dating profiles to a gun that fires a blank every time a shooting is reported in New Orleans. His point: the way we use technology reflects on us and our culture, and we reduce others to data points at our own peril. TED2016

Self Portrait of a Secondary Teacher: Part II

Are you an open door or a closed window?

“Recognizing our Imperfect Impact on the World,” JKaufenberg

Educators have an immense role in the bigger picture of our society and the lives of individuals. With the responsibility of guiding students through the formative years of their lives, educators need to recognize they can either be an open door to all of the world’s possibilities or a closed window blocking the mind from opening up to its potential.

The second self-portrait that I would like to share is a poster I created to represent the philosophies behind educational psychology. The words strung through the hair represent all of the positive and negative things that affect me as an educator, as well as my direct and indirect effect on students.

It is important to remember that, while this blog focuses on the student, relationships with collogues, parents and the community is extremely important to the overall success of a classroom and the school community as a whole. Future blog articles will feature Community, Family, and School topics.

Creative Commons License  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Developing a Great Weblog with Credibility

Understanding Common WordPress Mistakes: Weblogs and Wikis, Week 3


Thank you, WordPress, for inspiring a week’s worth of journal writing lessons for my 11 and 12 grade Language Arts class based on the posted quote “Battling dragons is easy. It’s stepping in chewing gum that brings me to my knees.”

Weblogs and Wikis readings for the Week of January 24, have us looking closely at the weblog format, design, and layout. As I worked my way through “The Most Common Tiny Mistakes Made When Setting Up a WordPress Site,” I tried to review the Weblog I am creating to make sure that I am avoiding common errors that can discredit the blogs credibility. It is important that bloggers remember that, often times, blogs lose credibility because of simple errors that turn away readers.

For example, spelling and capitalization errors may seem like a futile battle with students and adults alike; however, a blog with multiple spelling and capitalization errors can turn off a potential follower. The letter “I” is an extremely important letter, especially to bloggers who write in first person. When referring to yourself it is essential to capitalize the letter “I.” not only is “I” a proper noun, in this case, “I” is the most important person in the world. That is you! The concept of capitalization and punctuation holds equally true when replying to postings. Many professional bloggers will not approve postings that are riddled with spelling and capitalization errors, or contain factually inaccurate information because this is a reflection on the quality of their weblog. Technology is an amazing thing – believe it or not, there are built-in spelling and grammar checkers that indicate errors that they can easily be fixed with the “right click of a mouse.”

The section, Category and Tag Management, helped me develop a deeper understanding of how to use categories and tags as a tool to help readers navigate the weblog. At the same time, categories and tags help with organizing and maintaining a quality weblog. One error that I made right off the bat, which I cannot figure out how to change, is the capitalization of the tags. According to the blog, tags are a part of a site’s first impression and in general, keep tags all lowercase or title case for a clean tag cloud or list. Note that if a tag name is added as a category first, the tag name will be capitalized. Edit the tag to change the case.”

“The Most Common Tiny Mistakes Made When Setting Up a WordPress Site” has a section labeled EDIT TAGS, which goes through a set-by-set process of how to change capitalization; however, I have been unable to correct this error. One thing I would like to do is clear the drop down box that is automatically created as you add new tags. The first tags I entered are capitalized and when I enter them, again in lower case, it defaults to the first entry of that word with the capital. Only new words that I enter are correct with no capitalization. In the [To edit or delete a tag] section, the step by step directions say to go to Posts > Tags, search or scan for the tag you wish to change, Hover over it and select Edit – this is the point where I get stuck – I do not get the option to Edit.

As I move through the process of building a weblog, it becomes clear that creditability is like our first impression when we meet people. Whether we want to admit it or not “image is everything” and even weblogs need to “dress for success.”


Understanding Blogging Part III

Blogs, News, and the Facts: Weblog and Wikis, Week 3

Some have compared the genre of blogs to that of “news.” This is understandable because the content is technically “news” to someone somewhere. With the current state of affairs regarding “fake news,” it would be in our best interest not too loosely refer to blogs in general as news. News is information based on fact generally about current events and is nonfiction. Blogs do not need to be fact based and can be fiction or nonfiction.

With that said, a weblog could easily resemble the format of a newspaper with categories like Feature News, Editorial, Opinion, Sports, Classified, Entertainment, and Photography. For more examples and details of the Parts of a Newspaper see this SlideShare. With creative license left up to the beholder, a weblog can be fake or real. It can be written as a piece of creative text that forces a new perspective on candid issues using a realistic fiction format or it can bring to light critical societal questions using a journalistic format with support evidence. In either case, the weblog may look and function like a place to go for “news” and/or “entertainment.”

This is where the audience (reader) has the responsibility of understanding what they are reading and determining what is the author’s purpose? Is the weblog: informative, persuasive, or for pure entertainment?  Once this question has been answered, the audience must establish creditability of the blog and determine if the information is supported by fact-based data or evidence. More directly – Is the weblog written in a fiction or nonfiction format?

The ultimate question becomes – Should the author or blogger of a weblog clearly label content, so readers understand author intent and purpose?

Understanding Blogging Part II

Weblogs, Blogs, and Blogging: Weblog and Wikis, Week 3

After sifting through a host of information on the internet about the purpose of a blog, it was ironic that the information I was searching did not necessarily come from academic sources, it came for weblogs about blogs.

What is the purpose of writing a blog?

Essential Requirements to Starting a Successful Blog

Stepping back and looking at the source of information, more informational and academic sources started to show that first there is a difference between a blog and a weblog. With that said, does this difference really matter? In the bigger picture, it should not matter, because a “blog” is essentially an abbreviated version of a “weblog.” According to, Introduction to Blogging – What is a “Blog”?

 “Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other websites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order.

Reflecting back on, Understanding Blogging Part I: What is the Purpose of a Blog, it is clear that the genre of weblogs follows the rules of writing as any other genre; and like other fiction and nonfiction genres, each develops common elements that guide the author through the writing process. in general terms has a list of the few things blogs tend to have in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed chronologically, newest on top. Often, the articles are organized into categories
  • An archive of older articles
  • A way for people to leave comments about the articles
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll”
  • One or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files

Of course, there are always exceptions to every list. Some blogs may have additional features beyond these. Watch this short video for a simple explanation for what a blog is.

Weblogs: a History and Perspective, by Rebecca Blood, looks deeper into what weblogs are by analyzing the history and connecting style to readers’ needs. The original intent of weblogs was to provide a valuable filter function for their readers. According to Blood, the web has been, in effect, pre-surfed for them. Out of the myriad web pages slung through cyberspace, weblog editors pick out the most mind-boggling, the most stupid, the most compelling.

At the same time, Blood notes that weblog editors participate in the dissemination and interpretation of the news that is fed to us every day; by highlighting articles that may easily be passed over by the typical web user too busy to do more than scan corporate news sites, by searching out articles from lesser-known sources, and by providing additional facts, alternative views, and thoughtful commentary.

Weblogs have evolved, but they still hold a place in society that gives people a voice. Weblogs continue to include a mix of links, commentary, personal reflections, anecdotal notes, and more recently provide a forum for discussions and asking questions. As we move into the next wave of blogs and bloggers, ethical issues arise throughout the world of journalism and media.