Truth, I don’t break my students into classes. I want them to be a community, to interact with all students. I ask students to organize posts by tags so they can quickly find other posts on a like topic.
But, I understand with 600 students, that probably won’t work as nicely as my 150 students do (4th/5th graders who I also see once a week). Kidblog allows you to set up multiple classes under your teacher log-in, then add students to each. That would break them into a tighter community for you.
I do approve all posts before publishing, as well as comments. It doesn’t take as long as it sounds like it should (though, again, I have less students blogging than you). I added all grade-level teachers as Admins on the blog and collaborated with them to review-approve posts/comments relevant to their inquiry. This worked well as teachers started using the blog posts/comments as formative assessments, assigning topics that dealt with their inquiry.
UN/PW–I keep those simple, especially important with youngers. Since I’m approving posts/comments, there isn’t a high risk that a student will hack a classmate’s account. If they do, I’ll know who did it. Yes, there are clever ways around that, but most 2/3 graders aren’t that savvy. Once the student successfully logs on, they can change their password. I allow that, but let them know it’s their responsibility to remember. They track the myriad PWs in binders. If they forget their PW (which they will), Admin members can reset, which would be you or any of the teachers you added to the list.
I do the bulk upload to get students started. No special reason, though. I am always looking for opportunities to put tech in front of students, so the invitation would work for that also. My 5th graders are on wikis and I often invite them to join (especially when they can’t find that pesky ‘join’ button!).
I use blogging as an educational tech tool, not so much a skill. I show (demonstrate rather than teach) students the log-in, layout, how to add text, media, but let them do a lot of independent discovery on the richness of the platform. I post articles on my blog that, say, include YouTube videos and hope that inspires them to ask, How did you do that?. I use blogging for many Common Core standards–publishing, sharing, collaborating, understand the perspective of others, visual learning, demonstrate independence, respond to the varying demands of audience/task/purpose/discipline, comprehend as well as critique (via comments). It truly is one of those tools that fits throughout the curriculum.
Here are a few more ideas: