Using Instagram to Encourage Writing in Kindergarten

I have recently created a class Instagram account. Since every student has their own iPad with the Instagram app installed I signed them all into the same account. I have made it a private account and accepted follow requests from only a select number of other early years classrooms that we converse with on Twitter. The idea is to keep it small so that the students can get to know a few classes really well rather than a bunch of classes not so well.

In our class we are using this as a way to share pictures of our favorite things and as a way for us to start writing about these things. We talked about it as a class and decided that each student will take just 1 picture a day and write a sentence or two about what the picture is and/or why it is special to them. So far we think it’s going pretty well. Here are a couple pictures they have shared.

I also used this as a way to talk about online safety as we created the account together and had no followers to begin with. As we get follow requests we talk about how to be safe and how they need to check with an adult before sharing any information with anyone online or in person.

I think this provides a great opportunity for them to practice their writing with and get some dialogue going with fellow kindergarteners. It may not seem like much to you, but when you’re just learning how to write as they are, writing one whole sentence all by yourself is pretty cool! Their friends are able to leave comments on pictures that they’ve taken and vice versa. They are writing about things that are relevant to them and their world, it’s authentic. From the get go these students understand that writing is a very valuable tool for communicating. They are motivated to write!

As the year progresses and their writing improves we may move to a different platform such as Kidblog but for now they really like the social aspect of Instagram. They like looking at each others photos and since the photos are all lumped together it helps to boost the feeling of community in our classroom. 

What are you using to encourage shared writing in your classroom?

About Benjamin J Sheridan

Instructional designer at the University of Kentucky.
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42 Responses to Using Instagram to Encourage Writing in Kindergarten

  1. WoW! I absolutely love this idea! It takes me back to my days as a French teacher. I could see this being a great tool/strategy in a 2nd language classroom. I also follow people on Instagram who write lines of poetry or prose to accompany their photos. Thanks for sharing the details of how you set this up with such young children.

    Reply
    • I love your idea of using this in a second language classroom, very cool. I like your idea of writing poetry or prose to accompany their photos equally as much. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Reply
  2. Emily Roth says:

    You are so right on when you say that the kids learn that WRITING IS A TOOL TO COMMUNICATE!
    I currently teach grade 4. I think the Lucy Calkins’ writing program is fabulous; however, our end celebrations tend to be with either our class or another class across the hall from us or the parents. Borrrring.
    When I talked to my kids about possibly connecting with other classes worldwide, their enthusiasm for writing soared! Even my non-writers were revved up! Unfortunately, due to ‘walled garden’ policies at my school, we cannot participate…yet;)
    I’m not losing hope.

    Reply
  3. Sorry to hear about the ‘walled garden” scenario at your school. It seems almost daily I hear of school taking the leap and opening up to the possibilities of global collaboration so keep the hope alive! I have heard of school creating a semi-closed blogging environment were they have an invite only environment. That way they can control who sees the blogs but can still invite whoever they want to comment etc. Might be a first step… Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    Reply
  4. Hi Ben, great idea! I’ll share it with my KJS teachers here at Munich International School.

    Another idea I had with Instagram is have the parents follow. Then students can share some of their work, day to day lessons, etc. The assistants could also help with this. I’m sure the parents would love the insight into their child’s classroom.

    Reply
    • Yes! I have shared our project in more detail with our parents at parent interviews. We have also embedded a widget on our blog that shows our 6 most recent Instagram photos. You can click on a photo to open it in a separate window which will allow you to see the writing that goes with it. I think it’s a nice compliment to our blog and gives the students a little space all their own.

      Reply
      • Jaclynn says:

        Thanks, Ben! I teach kindergarten too and this year, we have 5 iPads. This is definitely doable in a small group center. Logistically with everyone signed in as one account, are you able to tell which student’s instagram is whose? Can’t wait to try it and link it to our class blog!

        Reply
  5. Jenny Day says:

    I am so in love with this idea and know my second graders would have a more desirable and meaningful outlook in writing if we were to participate in such a task. How ever I have no clue as to how to start or even find a class to blog with. Any comments, suggestions or blogging sites would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hello Jenny, sorry it has taken me a while to get to your comment! Try checking out Cybraryman’s website. He has an amazing amount of resources to get you connected with other educators and classrooms. Here is the link to his class blog page: link to cybraryman.com

      Take some time to poke around his website, you won’t be disappointed!

      Reply
  6. Allie says:

    I would definitely agree with Mister Norris! That is a valuable feature of instagram – it is interactive. It also extends the writing that seems to be an important part of this – responding to comments. You can encourage parents to ask questions – to do more than just “like”.

    Thanks so much for sharing – this is a great idea!

    Reply
    • Exactly Allie, it is interactive. We were Skyping with another class that we follow on Instagram and the other class watched a student in my class take a picture and then saw it show up in their Instagram feed a couple seconds later. This other class then did the same thing and my class saw their photo show up instantaneously as well. After that the kids really understood how it worked and are all about it!

      Reply
  7. Heidi Echternacht says:

    Fabulous Ben! I will see if I can get this integrated in my classroom soon! I love it and the kids will for sure! Fantastic!

    Reply
    • Thanks Heidi, give me a shout if you get your class on Instagram. We’d love to do this with your class in addition to our Twitter conversations.

      Reply
  8. Elvina Tong says:

    Wow, Ben, this is exactly what I was looking for. Last year, I had a class camera (actually my husband’s old camera from like 2007) which followed one student around for a whole day and we rotated. We also used this for writing “prompts” and it was great – we basically kept a bank of photos for them to go back and browse. We kept this going until they broke the camera. They did quite well with it, I think the camera was on its last leg anyway.

    However, I like the idea of Instagramming instead…. being able to caption it and share it right away adds to the power. My class tweets so I think they will get the concept of sharing Instagram photos.

    On a separate note, how are you finding the handling of the iPad as a camera? My kids seem to find it a bit unwieldy. Managing the cover, plus framing the photo, then letting go of one hand to click the photo. This year, we may try out the iPad mini for them. iPod touch seems a bit too small.

    This is my second year using iPads in kindergarten and I’m amazed by how one year ago I was searching the app store for child-friendly, educationally valuable apps. While this school year, we still do that, I am finding out on my own and through others like yourself many new ways to use apps that we previously thought of as grown-up apps in new ways for our littlest ones! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Elvina, thanks so much for your input. It sounds like you are going some very cool and progressive things in your class! I look forward to see what you come up with this year.

      My kids were having a hard time handling the iPads as well. We ended up just removing the covers and it seems to have made them much easier to manipulate. We do have some mini’s on order and will be using them in the future. One bonus is that they are less expensive. We’ll see how those work!

      Very nice to see you in Beijing at Learning 2012 BTW.

      Reply
  9. Hi Ben,
    I love this use of Instagram! There is a great widget (link to snapwidget.com)that you can put onto your class blog (or any blog) that just takes your Instagram account and plays a slideshow right on the blog. I have the kids taking pictures with the iPad on a class account, just like you. I have not used them for writing (yet, but I love the idea). As they take the pictures, they appear on our blog, which really motivates them to be thoughtful about what they are capturing. Check it out at http://www.in2mm.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Hello! Thanks for your input. A fellow teacher and I were just talking the other day about wanting to find a gadget to put on our blog to show our Instagram photos and here you are giving us just that. Super cool, thanks! As you say I think it would be a great way to encourage the kids to be thoughtful about what they are capturing. I will definitely check out your blog, thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  10. mromaine says:

    I think this is a great project applicable to any language learner: ESOL to foreign language leaner of any level. Use of the Instagram helps children to develop their photography skills at the same time. Students also gain skills to choose a proper title to the photo. Thank you for sharing your findings.

    Reply
    • Many people have commented that this would be a good activity for language learners. I think you’re right on the money! As you mentioned my students are definitely developing their photography skills as well. It’s been great to see how they have developed since we started this project. I’m really excited to see the growth by the end of the year.

      Reply
  11. Melanie says:

    I love your blog! I’ve gotten so many great technology ideas, thanks for sharing. Love the Instagram idea, sure wish it wasn’t blocked in our system. Now, I have a great educational idea to share so maybe they will consider unblocking!! I have nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award, see my blog post for more information: link to iluvtwek.blogspot.com

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comment. I’m flattered you nominated my blog. Too bad your system blocks Instagram. My kinders love their Instagram time everyday. They can’t wait to see what pictures and comments their friends have added.

      Reply
  12. Devika Suri says:

    I love this idea. I am going to use it with my 1st grade EAL beginners. This looks like a fun way to motivate them to write.

    Reply
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