Blog Baby Blog Week 6: Blogger vs Wordpress

I'm back for Blog Baby Blog this week with a Blogger vs. Wordpress showdown.  Want to catch up on the other posts from this summer?  Here you go:

Maria from Kinder Craze and Emily from Education to the Core were nice enough to help me out.  Not only are they amazing bloggers, but they are kind of Wordpress bosses.  These ladies know what they’re doing.

I thought it would be funny to photoshop pictures of us looking tough and facing off on a field, but it's not actually at all accurate and would have been time consuming and maybe a little creepy.

So, you get nice smiley pictures of them instead.
I've been on Blogger for three years now, and I'm very happy where I am.  Maria and Emily made the switch to Wordpress some time ago and love it.  The two platforms are very different though, so it's good to know about both.  It's not like Walgreens and CVS, identical concept but different logos.  There are pros and cons to both, and you have to think about what's going to be best for you as a blogger.

Here's a very basic break down:

Blogger Pros:

•If you’re just getting started, Blogger is easier to learn.  You go to, click on new blog, put in your blog name and address, and you’re ready to post.  There is also a log of support and tutorials within the teacher blogging community to help you get started.

•Blogger is free.  You may choose to pay for a design or .com yourself, but actually blogging on blogger is free.

•You don’t have to do anything to your blog.  Since it’s hosted on Google, they’re doing all the work for you.  Those widgets on your sidebar? They update themselves.  You never have to update your Blogger software.  Everything is stored for you.  Getting a lot of traffic or writing a ton of posts? No need to worry about storage, bandwidth, etc.  Google’s got you covered.

•If you do want to purchase a blog design, they are many options out there in a wide variety of price ranges.  The WP designers aren’t trying to rip you off.  It’s just a lot more expensive to design for Wordpress sites.

Blogger Cons:

•There’s a whole wide world of widgets and plugins out there.  The Wordpress world is a lot bigger giving you a lot more options.

•Blogger’s layout is pretty limited.  You can make customizations to it, but it takes a lot of HTML knowledge to override that.  Also, since it is an override, it can make your website kind of clunky-slow to load and many overrides don’t work on mobile view.

•Google owns Blogger.  They own the servers.  They’ve got your stuff.  They can shut you down.  (Before you go in panic mode, the same is true for Instagram and Facebook, but you’re not going to run screaming from them.)  With Wordpress, you’re paying for the hosting, so it’s all managed by you.

Wordpress Pros:

•That wide world of plugins? If you are looking for a more business driven site, this can be very useful.  You have a lot more options for functionality and layout than with Blogger.  (Be careful though-sometimes I visit a blog and can’t figure out where the heck the blog posts are.  You can do a lot with Wordpress, but don’t try to do it all or the site can be overwhelming.)

•SEO say what? Search Engine Optimization (helping people find your content) can be optimized in Wordpress if you are willing to put the time into it.  You would think that a Google owned site would be best for helping people find you, but you can do more to make your content searchable with Wordpress.

•Wordpress is a more professional platform. You can do more with it and customize it to fit your needs.  It much more easily lends itself to a website looks and layout.

Wordpress Cons:

•Wordpress is more expensive.  And I don’t just mean the designs.  You’re going to need to pay yearly hosting fees which add up quickly, you’ll need to purchase a framework, and a theme.  The plugins? Many are free, many aren’t.  I just set up a practice site for designing Wordpress, and all I can say is ouch.

•You have more maintenance.  You have to make sure your software and plugins are up to date to work properly and keep your site from being vulnerable.

•Making the switch is not cheap.  If you have been on Blogger for a while, migrating your content over can be expensive.  I know there are plugins that will do that for you, but a plugin like that is a bandaid.  If the plugin goes down or Wordpress stops supporting it, where is your content?

So how do you know which one is best for you?  This part is my personal opinion based on my blogging experience and experience designing blogs for others.

Are you a . . . .

New Blogger?

Completely just my opinion, but--Don't do it.  You will hear people say, "I wish I had just started in Wordpress."  Keep in mind those people are B4Ls (Bloggers for Life).  Blogging is in their blood, they live for it, they love it, they are killing it.

I work with a lot of new bloggers.  Often, I install designs for people that try it for a few months and quit or even never end up writing a single post.  And you know what?  That's perfectly okay.  How do you know if you like something without trying it first?  Because of the up front expenses as well as yearly expenses associated with starting on Wordpress, it's not something I would recommend.  (Yearly self hosting fees, framework, theme, additional design costs, it adds up quickly.)

Established Blogger?

What kind of established blogger are you? Do you post routinely or is it hit or miss whenever you can squeeze it in during the school year?  If you blog routinely and you are ready to take your blog to the next level and really maximize it (i.e.: put time and effort into learning the extra work necessary to do that), then it is time for you to really think about making the transition.  Since there is greater cost and learning involved, it needs to have recognizable added value other than it sounds cool.

Professional Blogger

You've grown your blog, social media outlets, and you are ready for more.  Sounds like a Wordpress switch would make sense for you.

**Side note on sounding cool
Someone did actually say that to me recently, and she meant it in the best possible way.  She is an awesome blogger and definitely has the knowledge, skill, and drive to take her blog to the next level, so all the good things she heard about Wordpress did sound cool to her.  As in, it is really cool that I can get all of these additional features to maximize my blog.  Don't do it if you're talking about it sounding cool in the way Girbaud jeans were to me in junior high.

Feeling nostalgic?  You can go buy some Girbaud jeans on Etsy:

So, why am I still on Blogger?  I'm lazy.  That's it.  I love blogging.  Love love love it, but there are times that this little blog gets neglected.  I know with teaching, TPT, blog designing, and my family, I'm pretty much lucky to get anything on here.  I really can't do more during the school year other than hope to post once a week.  Plus, I have Etsy listings for Girbaud jeans in my post for crying out loud.  How serious am I about blogging?  Could that change in the future?  Absolutely.  But for now, I'm good.

Having said that . . . .

I'll be making the switch to Wordpress for A Bird in Hand Designs.  It does make sense there.  I'm going to start offering Wordpress designs in the next few months.  For me to do that authentically, I need to know what the heck I'm doing not just design wise but with the actual experience.  It also offers bloggers a chance to "see" me in Wordpress action there and in Blogger action over here, as well as giving me some other features and configurations that are not possible in Blogger.

What do you think? Are you Blogger for life or seeing the Wordpress light?

Top 5 Takeaways from The Daily 5: Second Edition

I recently read the new edition of The Daily 5 and discussed it with teachers at my school.  Even if you're not a Daily 5 kind of gal (or guy), there are some really great points in this book for your big picture teaching.

#4 is my favorite! My top 5 takeaways from The Daily 5.  It's more than just rotations.  This book is worth reading to understand the why and not just the what.

I read the first book about 10 years ago.  Does anybody remember  Before there were blogs, was about all we had.  One summer, everyone was talking about this new book-The Daily 5.  I read it and immediately fell in love.

I nervously read the new version.  I was glad to see there weren’t any HUGE differences between the first and second book.  Having said that, I am very glad I read it because there were a few things that rocked my world a little bit.

I thought I’d share some bits that were powerful to my thinking as a reading teacher.  Even if you’re not ready to fully dive into The Daily 5, these are ideas that can challenge the way we think about our instructional time.

This is hands down probably the #1 reason the Daily 5 works so well.  Once kids are part of the process,  they feel like they have some involvement with the learning instead of just being told all of the time what to do.

Time to be honest-As a teacher, how much do you hate being given a schedule that tells you what time you HAVE to teach math, reading groups, social studies, etc.  Does it really matter if you do science then social studies?  Nope.

The same is true for our students.  Does it matter if they do word work before or after independent reading?  Nope.  It might be easier to manage it for them, but it's worth the effort to get your kids on board with their learning.  Kids on board=maximizing instruction.

I'm just going to stop for a moment and let that sink in.

To be honest, when I read the first book about ten years ago, I completely blew off the idea of mini lessons between rotations.  It seemed choppy and messed with my reading group flow.

Since that time and now having taught third and fourth grade, I realize my lessons were too darn long.  You know how kids start kind of rolling around or playing with their socks or they all need to go to the bathroom?  You can keep going, but the learning is done.

10 minutes.  That's all you've got.  So, a brain break or turn and talk or breaking your long lesson into several lessons may take time away from your instructional minutes.  BUT, if all they are getting is 10 minutes of your 20 minute lessons, it turns out as teachers we're wasting a lot of instructional time, too.

So, picture this: It's the first day of school in second grade.  1:00-1:20 is independent reading time.  So, at 1:00 we start reading.  They whole class lasts about two minutes (maybe), and then the staring at the ceiling, endless book shopping, and trips to the bathroom begin.  Sound familiar?

Turns out I was doing it ALL WRONG.  The concept of building stamina goes hand in hand with the sisters 10 steps to building independence.  You have to teach your students explicitly what to do, and then slowly (ever so painfully slowly) build them up.  In the beginning of the year, that 20 minutes is more likely to be 18 minutes of mini lesson, modeling, placing around the room, and checking in with 2 minutes of reading in there somewhere.

And that is a good thing.

What choice is to students, flexibility is to teachers.  I have used some mishmashed version of the Daily 5 for years.  It's looked different almost every year depending on what grade I was in, my students needs, and how my instruction has evolved over the years.

This was another big whoa moment for me.  Have I given my students time to practice and grow?  Or am I so busy trying to teach them all the things I think they need, that I don't give them enough time to apply it as readers and writers?

The best thing about summer for teachers is having time to read and reflect on these types of big pictures ideas.  Any of these strike a cord with you?

Blog Baby Blog: Week 5 Five Tips for Bloggers

For week 5 of Blog Baby Blog, I thought I would share 5 things I think you should be doing as a blogger.  Want to catch up on the previous posts?  Here you go:

1. Claim your blog on Bloglovin'.

This is a must.  Want followers?  Make sure you are providing people ways to follow you.  The most common is Bloglovin'.  Do it.  Now.

**To paste the code into your sidebar, go to your blog-->Layout-->Add a Gadget-->HTML-->Paste code-->Save.

2. Stop being a No Reply blogger.  

{And you probably are one even if you think you aren't one)
This happens ALL THE TIME.  Even if you've changed it before, Google is sneaky about changing you back.

What the heck is it?
Whenever you leave a comment, the comment shows up in the blogger's email.  It is #1 a million times easier to reply to comments, and #2 a million times more personal to reply by email instead of posting a reply for the whole world to see.  It is a real and beautiful thing.  Trust me.

You can follow this tutorial to stop the insanity.  (Does anybody else remember this????)

3.  Break. Up. Your. Posts.


(See what I did there?) Don’t give your reader a giant blob of text.  Their eyes are going to glaze over.  We’re teachers, and we’re tired.  If it looks hard, we’re not going to do it.  See the numbers I’ve been using?  They’re pretty darn cute, but they also serve the important job of visually break up the post for the reader.  

Before you click on publish, click on preview.  Is there too much text running together? Add in a photo, so number graphics, a row of colorful dots, whatever!  If you have a post divider or a sidebar divider on your blog design, you can use that, too.

4. Take advantage of your real estate.

Go to your blog’s homepage.  No scrolling.  What greets your readers? This view is what pulls your readers in when they first visit.  Make sure that you are promoting your blog and giving readers a chance to connect with your on social media.  Make it easy on them.  Nobody wants to dig around to find out how to follow your blog, social media, find your store.  Promote you first, others second.

5. Blog

I know.  Seems silly, right?  Sometimes we get so caught up in everything else and don't blog.  Just go do it.  Maybe your photos aren't perfect or arranged in beautiful collages.  You don't have to have fancy graphics.  It would be amazing if you did have time for that with every post but don't let that stop you.

Content is king.  Just share your good stuff.  Here are a few ideas:

•Link up! There are lots of linkies out there, and they're a good way to connect with other bloggers.  Try to stay focused on content related linkies (Five for Friday, Mentor Texts Monday, Tried It Tuesday, there are tons!).  Do link up with the fun ones, but try to keep your blog more content focused.

•What were your excited about this week? No matter how big or small.  There are times it's taken me a little while to figure that out.  And that's kind of sad.  Both for me AND my students.  It doesn't have to be something elaborate, maybe just an aha moment.

•What went terribly wrong and what will you do next time.  This is real.  It's just as real as your happy moments and relatable to us all.  Bonus?  You may get some good advice.

Just blog.  Pinterest is forever.  One of most pinned posts (last time I checked) is from when I had ZERO followers.  What can I say?  I peaked early.  If it's good, people will come.  Maybe not tomorrow, but it will happen.

Anything important you think I missed?

Blog Baby Blog Week 4: Let's Talk About Labels

Hey hey! I'm back with week 4 of Blog Baby Blog.  You can catch up on all of this summer's posts here:

This week we're talking about something really glamorous.  Labels.

Okay.  That's a lie.

Labels are pretty kind of a boring topic, but they can be a useful tool for your readers.  They are also one of the most under utilized tools on your nav bar.  Let's start with the basics.  What are labels, and where are they?

What and Where

When you're writing a post in Blogger, you know that little bar of text to the right of the post area that most of us completely ignore?  The first tab is Labels.

Labels are a way to categorize your posts.  When you click on Labels, you can give your post labels like reading, math, freebies.  Conveniently, any labels you've used in the past show up, and you can just click on them.  Thank you, Google.
Two things happen with labels.  If you have the labels gadget on your sidebar, they will show up there automatically.  (Don't have it? Go to Layout-->Add a Gadget-->Labels.  Boom.)  Also, at the bottom of your post, the labels show up.  Readers who enjoyed your post can click to read more posts from you on that topic.

What Kind of Labeler Are You?

Bloggers mainly fit in one of two categories-they don't use labels at all (wonk wonk wonk) or they label all the things.  That's fine.  You can label all the things, but it may be time to clean up your sidebar.  Good news? It's super easy.

If half of your sidebar is labels, it's time to narrow it down.  You do not have to remove labels.  You'd have to go back into old posts, clean them up.  It would be a pain, and you would die a little inside.  Just look at your blog.  Do 40 of your 50 labels only have one post?  Click on the little wheel beneath your labels gadget.  Change the selection from "All Labels" to "Selected Labels" then Edit.  Turn off the labels that you don't have a lot of content for.  You can always turn them on later.  I turned off Collaborative Work.  It's a great topic, but apparently it was a one time blog thing for me.
This next tip may hurt your heart a little, but I'm going to say it anyway.  That cloud option?  It looks great, but it's much more difficult to navigate as a reader if it’s not alphabetized.

Haven't labeled posts before?  No problem.  You can go back into old posts and edit them to add in labels.  No biggie.

Maximize Important Labels

Now-that big deal about the nav bar?  Do you have a page on your nav bar that says "Reading" or "Math" or "Freebies" and you had all the noble intentions in the world of putting your good ideas on there but you never did because TIME is a real thing.  You don't have to.  You already wrote lots of good posts about reading or math or whatever that page is.  Once your label shows up on your sidebar, it has a web address.  Instead of "Reading" going to a new page, you can have it go to all of your reading posts.  This is much more efficient and realistic.

And how do you do this?  If you have a nav bar that's part of the graphic on your header, you'll need to ask your blog designer about that.  If not, . . . .

•Grab the address for your label by right clicking or just clicking on it and copying the address from the address bar.

•Go to Layout-->Pages gadget-->Edit (If you don't have the pages gadget, you'll need to add it.)

•Your first option is "Add External Link".  Give it a title, paste in your link, and you're good.  You can drag it around on the list to show up in the order you would like.

Happy labeling!

Blog Baby Blog: Week 3 Return to Top, Please

Hey hey! I'm back for week 3 of Blog Baby Blog.  Want to read learn more?  You can catch up by reading these posts:

This week's tutorial is on one of the most fun features of a blog: the return to top button.  I swear the first time I put this on my blog, I played with it for 3 minutes straight.

Go ahead and click on mine.  I’ll wait.

Want your own?  It’s a four step process: Get your colors, create, resize, install.

Get your colors

You want this to match, right?  Grab a screen shot or download your header image and open it in HTML Color Codes.  When you click on a part of the graphic, it will give you the six-digit code for your color.  You might want to have this screen open when you work on the next part, so you can grab your colors as you work.

Create Your Image

I used PowerPoint for this tutorial because I know a lot of my TPT friends use it.

1.  Set your page size to 1 inch by 1 inch.

2.  Create your image.  I used KG Why You Gotta Be So Mean, KG Eyes Wide Open, and KG Arrows to create this.  The matching colors are a pain to do but worth it. (The blue lines are just PowerPoint guides.)

Good to know:
**PowerPoint hates you, so it won’t let you copy and paste these codes in.  You’ll have to actually type them.
**When you put the code in, hit enter.  If you click on Okay, nothing happens.  Nice, right?

3.  Save your graphic.  Use your mouse to select all the pieces of your graphic, right click on one of the lines that pops up, and save as picture.  DO NOT USE FILE-->SAVE AS PICTURE TO DO THIS.  It will save your white background as part of the image, and then you’ll leave me nasty comments saying the tutorial doesn’t work.

Resize Your Image

Hop on over to PicResize (or some other site you like.)
1.  Upload your image:

2.  There was unused space around your image.  Drag your mouse to create a box around the image and select “Crop".

3.  In “Resize Your Picture”, select custom.  Change the width to 120 pixels and click outside of the number box.  It will automatically resize the height to the correct proportion.

4.  Click on "I’m Done", and then “Save to Disk" to download it to your computer.

Create Your Code

The good news? No need to go to the dark side of your blog-the HTML code.

1.  Copy the following code and paste it into a word document or whatever you use.

<a style="display:scroll;position:fixed;bottom:5px;right:5px;" href="#" title="Back to Top"><img src="INSERTURLHERE" /></a>

2.  Host your image somewhere.  Honestly, your blog is the easiest place for the this.

•Open a new post and upload your picture.

•Click on HTML in the top left corner of your post area

•Copy the address of your image (it will look like http://EightMillionLettersandNumbersinaRow/WhateverYouNamedIt.png)

•Paste it into your document in the part that says INSERT URL HERE.

3.  Copy your new personalized code.

4.  On your blog, click on Layout-->Add a gadget-->HTML-->Paste your code-->Save.

5.  Drag your new gadget to the bottom of your layout.  This is not actually necessary, but I'm Type A, and it will make me feel better if you do.

That's it! A little HTML code, but you didn't have to go to the dark side, so this is doable for pretty much everybody.

If you make one, share a picture on Facebook or Instagram and tag me.  I'd love to see what you create!

P.S. Feeling overwhelmed? Hop over to this post from The Teacher Wife at Teacher Blogging Basics. She has some ready made for you. Just copy, paste, and save!