Last summer, I was walking around Ikea when I spotted an orange moose that I thought would be a good class mascot. I had wanted a teddy for us to pass around during Circle Time, so when I spotted this one, I knew he was the one. I made the mistake of only buying one (I had to return to Ikea later in the year to buy a couple of spares!) and off I went back to school in September.
In the first few weeks of the autumn term, I had a suggestions box in my room so that the children could name him. There were a lot of imaginative names, but after a vote, they decided on the name Gerald. And so Gerald The Moose was born! He became a member of our class and he was used very often for his initial purpose – as the item to pass around during Circle Time.
I very quickly got bored of this though and I wanted to do more with him. It’s very common for EYFS and KS1 classrooms to have a class teddy who goes home with them each weekend. Normally these teddies have a diary of some description that the children and their families fill in. This was a bit too lo-tech for me. I decided that having a blog would be a much better idea, so I set up geraldthemoose.com using a standard WordPress blog.
As this is an idea that is often used with younger children, I wanted to show some progression in the children’s work with Gerald. I was very concious that they should be writing differently in Year 5 from what they were producing in Year 2 when they last had a teddy like this. For this reason, I decided that the blog would be written by Gerald and would be from his point of view, meaning that the children were developing their skills of writing in the first person using empathy, but they would also be writing about themselves in the third person. To demonstrate how this would work, I wrote two example blog posts (Visiting Northern Ireland and An Adventure To Northumbria University). Soon after, Gerald started going home with the children each weekend and over the holidays, with his host being decided by The Tupperware of Terror.
The children in my class really loved taking Gerald home. They were given the choice of letting him update his website on Sunday before coming back to school, or first thing on Monday morning. Most decided to write on Sunday evening, which was great to see. They used the help sheet that went home with Gerald every weekend, which gave step-by-step instructions on how to update his blog, just in case he forgot how to do it!
There were some really good pieces of writing on Gerald’s blog, and it was particularly pleasing to see how reluctant writers really loved writing his blog, as they were writing as someone else, rather than as themselves. I think this was a particularly successful tactic to use to enthuse reluctant writers.
As soon as Gerald’s blog was updated, other children in the class would comment on his posts. I must admit that this is one aspect of the process where I failed the children and didn’t give them the attention I should have. At the start of the year, I commented on each blog post, however my comments towards the end of the year were few and far between. As I embark on a new blogging journey next year leading a whole-school blogging project, I know this will be one part of the blogging process to which I will pay particular attention.
I will definitely be repeating this with my new class next year, however I will need to find a new teddy. The Ikea teddies are cheap, resistant to abuse and easy to clean, however they are mass-produced. My story of how Gerald had come from Mooseland was scuppered when a set of siblings in my class came in with this photo:
I had to explain that geraldthemoose.com was obviously becoming so well-known that Ikea were producing replica Geralds! Unfortunately I don’t think they believed me!
For next year, it would be really great to link up with other class teddies who blog. If you will be doing this, please get in touch!