This week we had the pleasure of meeting with Sylvanie Girault who is a teacher at the elementary school Sainte-Marie de Mérignac in France.
She came up with the idea of starting a blog for her group of fifth graders to maintain and decided later on to turn it into a yearbook that each of them could get as a souvenir (at a very fair price 😉). She accepted to answer our questions and share her experience with us!
Tell us a little bit about yourself: you, your hobbies, your projects…
My name is Sylvanie Girault, mother of three children and have been teaching at the private elementary school Sainte-Marie de Mérignac for 4 years now. My group of fifth graders is made of 30 pupils, all 11 years old. I came up with the idea of making a blog that they will maintain 4 years ago. I wanted them to be familiar with computers and writing in general. What I had in mind was a blog in which the children would be the authors so that they’d be more familiar with writing and would also have a public reading them. The content of the blog is written by them and them only. I only interact with them through the comments. This year’s group is the fourth to maintain the blog.
What is the blog about?
This blog is about highlighting the major events of the year (a yearbook of some sort), such as school trips like our yearly trip to London or even smaller visits in the region: of the City Hall, the Courthouse, Museums, of the Cathedral Saint-Pierre, and many more. These activities are very important for the pedagogical process because they discover and learn things that they would not if they stayed at school, moreover some of them are not familiar with their surroundings. Our school trips are in keeping with the school program and motivate some students that are usually discouraged by the academic way of learning. But more important than that, they can use these trips as a source of inspiration to write articles on the blog about what they saw, felt or understood. Writing allows them to cultivate their curiosity and awareness to their surroundings, and doing that through a computerized tool motivates them as well. Every single one of my pupils has written at least one article on the blog during the year, each of them with their own writing style; this diversity of styles is what makes this blog stand out from a blog maintained by an individual. Since the blog opened, we have published about 70 articles and more than 6 000 pages have been viewed by the students but also their parents. The blog is entirely accessible to the public and anyone can read about the adventures of the group.
What articles are you the most proud of?
The articles about our yearly trip to England last October, without a doubt. Every year the group goes to London for 5 days and discovers the English culture. It is without the doubt the highlight of the year that all the students are looking forward to. During these 5 days they will be immersed in the English culture together, discover the gastronomy, local habits, the lifestyle…that is a strong collective experience!
The fifth grade is very dense in term of things to learn and master before going to middle-school. This school trip allows us to get together and strengthen the group’s dynamic hundreds of kilometers away from home. The articles published at that time are more profound because they crystallize this moment they had together.
Why did you choose to make a book out of it?
I wanted every student to be able to keep a written record of this moment of their life in England with all their friends. During the making of of the book on BlookUp’s platform, I only kept the articles and pictures of the trip to London in order to have a smaller book that would be entirely dedicated to this trip. Besides it makes sense for my students to have a physical object reminding them of the group because fifth grade is the last step before entering middle-school. Some students have known each other for 7 years, since they were in kindergarten; they grew up together and will, for some of them, be separated from each other once they get to middle-school. Having by their side a book reminiscent of their time in elementary school is something truly unique and precious. A few days away from the end of the school year, every student will go home with a book signed by their classmates. I just received the 40 books and will be signing them as well as writing a personal note, if the pupils and their parents ask me to do so.
What are the qualities of the platform? What would you improve?
I found it easy to create a blook, the platform is intuitive. I have one regret however, it is the standardized size of the pictures. Of course you can choose between three different sizes but once you picked one, all the pictures will be of the same size, which sometimes results in blank spaces on the pages. I think it would be nice to give people the opportunity to play around with the spaces between the pictures to reduce these empty spaces. Other than that, the quality of the book is impeccable, and the cover lamination is really good.
(This interview was originally in French, but we loved the idea so much we decided to translate it to English and tried to make it as true to the original as possible.)