Help! Some colleagues and I are trying to create a book review site for our middle school students that not only provides a place to rant and/or rave about books read and look for books worth reading (as recommended by student peers), but provides multiple, categorized data that students can use when researching a new book. We also want it to appeal to our students, so they want to use the site. We have considered wikis and blogs, but would like to know what you all know is best practice in this area.

Tags: book, for, literature, review, technology

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I bumped into this book review blog written by a kid, it has a nice, clean look. It would be a no brainer to set one up like it. If students titled their discussion the name of the book and included the name of the book in the tags there would be a list of the books in one of the margins of the blog.
Thank you, Nancy! This is precisely what I was looking for! Now how do I create this for our middle school. Just now I do not wish to join the book review blog you sent. I would like my kids to feel comfortable just connecting with kids within our school before opening the blog up to others. Eventually, I want to do the latter; just not now. Thank you again! Sarah
Go to and set up an account, I don't have blogger blogs with multiple authors but I'm sure it is easy to set up. Let me know if I can help you. Other people in this forum rave about other student blogs but I've been happy using blogger for my personal blogs (and that is what the student reviewer used).

You might consider starting small with maybe 10 reliable writers. If you start with 40-50 kids you all will be overwhelmed. You can see my students' blog HERE and my blogger blogs HERE and HERE.

I'm planning on starting the book review blog for my students this year, also.
To make sure it appeals to students, have some students help you design it. Especially if you use blogger, there are plenty of options and choices they can play with, and you get the added benefit of extra helpers who can teach other students and help you maintain things.
Thanks, Sylvia. I need to be reminded to get the kids involved. My habit of doing it all myself is just that, a habit. It is not the way I want to be! I use edublog because it is free and has most of what I need. Thanks again for reminding me of what I know is right. Sarah
Blogs would be pretty well suited for this. You could use tags as a means of categorizing the book. They would be great because they are so flexible (ie: fiction, fantasy, harry potter, j k rowling, witchcraft, series, intermediate). Setting up a tag cloud would be great too!

If you use WordPress, you could add a ratings plugin so that you have the cool star ratings like you see on Amazon. It would be even cooler if people making comments on a b review could also give ratings.
I love all of your ideas, so how do I do them all? I will check out WordPress and tag cloud to understand them better and be back! Thank you, Steve.
Tags are part of the default WordPress installation (and I'm sure that is so with any blog platform. The Tag Cloud is a widget that is also part of the default package, you just need to activate it. If you need further assistance, let me know.

The ratings would have to be uploaded as a plugin. I'm not sure how edublog, which runs on wordpress, handles plugins, but I know they offer an assortment. I guess you could ask them.
Thank you, Steve. Unfortunately, I cannot follow quite what you are saying as my learning curve is waaaaay behind yours. Sarah
Sarah, I'm right with you. Thank you for starting this discussion because it is precisely what I want to start with my students. I run a Writers' Guild after school and started a wiki for those 15 or so kids. They took to it like the proverbial water-seeking ducks and many started their own wikis where they'd write and comment. I want to do the same thing with books for my classes. And I, too, need to remember to let the kids do what work they can!
There is a danger here if the teacher does not understand what the students are doing when they set up a resource on the Internet. It is up to the adult to understand the software and how to configure it securely. I've seen too many examples of teachers into a web project over their heads having students set things up for them.

I do agree with the idea of giving students more ownership. The adult just needs to be able to monitor and check.
WET BLANKET ALERT! I agree with what you say, Steve, about teacher knowing what is going on, it can save a lot of headaches; but I have another reason for setting things up in advance---most kids (K-8) have no taste, no design skills, and produce some downright ugly stuff!! Left to the kids each website, wiki, blog or Moodle would be bright pink and green with pirated clipart photos of the Jonas Brothers and Chris Brown!! lol



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