Recently I created a Slideshare called ‘Your blog can be a fantastic teaching tool’ and I wrote from the standpoint of the teacher using a blog to teach. I posted this in an earlier blog post. Here it is just as a reminder.
Today’s post examines how a blog can be very beneficial to the students in a classroom, and in this case, an English classroom.
Create a blog for yourself and for your students
One of the best ways to start transforming your classroom is to first create your own blog and then let the students create theirs. Link their blogs to yours by using a blog roll. Look at the example from Mrs Albanese’s class. Here is the perfect example of the students blogs listed down the side. This is very important because often you want the students to comment on each other’s postings and this way is easy because they simply visit your blog and easily find the rest of the students’ blogs.
Which blogging platform?
Naturally you want to use platform that is safe, economical, spacious and attractive.There are many options but I will just mention four.
Now that Edublogs no longer has advertising on it it is a much better proposition to use. Edublogs provides a very small amount of storage space, so I pay for extra space yearly. You can then create student blogs yourself using something called the gmail hack, so that you have access to passwords. (The Edublogger is a great site with plenty of tips and tricks on how to do things like that) The only problem is that Edublogs doesn’t allow much space on their free blogs for the learners. But it would probably do for a year of work.
I particularly love using Blogger for myself because it gives loads of free space and has a nice feel and touch. The templates are also very attractive. However, it is often felt to be unsuitable for students because of “the next blog” icon at the top.
Some people rave about using Posterous blogs for collaborative projects. The reason for this is that you can send an email from anywhere to your posterous blog. It then becomes a draft ready for you to edit and publish. To get details for this look at: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/28413/blog-from-anywhere-instantly-with-posterous/ (I have since discovered that you can also post to your blog using Blogger.) Here is an example of a posterous blog used for a global collaborative project.
There has been a lot of talk about Kidblogs being a safe and simple platform. The Kidblog ‘About page’ says “Kidblog allows teachers to monitor and control all publishing activity within the classroom blogging community.” I haven’t personally used Kidblog, but it is supposedly really easy for creating a class blog and blogs for your students. Here is a post that tells more about the pros and cons of using Kidblog: http://blogallaboutit.edublogs.org/2010/04/23/kidblog-an-easier-alternative-to-blogging-with-elementary-students/
Here is an example of a kidlog
Well, whatever platform you use, just do it!
Can a blog really benefit an English class?
A blog can benefit any class…any subject. But today I am going to focus on English. I was quite inspired by a post I read recently on an English Teacher’s blog (http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/life-in-an-inquiry-driven-technology-embedded-connected-classroom-english/) – and this caused me to think about writing this post.
Well, I am sure you have plenty of ideas of what you can do with a blog in an English class. I will add ideas to these further along in this post. It is certainly a fantastic way to get your students writing. To start off take a look at Mr Miller’s blog and see how he uses his blog for his English lessons. I like the way he also has a wiki to support the blog. In my thinking the two go together…
Notice how the teachers in these blogs give regular detailed instructions to their students.
http://student.sheboyganfalls.k12.wi.us/kajohnson/ (her Grade 9 class)
http://msjohnson12.anewecology.com/ (Her Grade 12 class)
This teacher directs her students to using web tools.
What activities can you do on a blog in an English class?
As you know English has four main strands – reading, writing, language and listening and speaking. These can be beautifully incorporated into blogging.
1. Let your learners answer questions and respond to prompts online. You could set a question on your blog and the learners can answer the question in your comment box. Notice how The Hawks Talk does this. http://stgeorgesenglish.com They can then extend the conversation by answering your next question or prompt and then post comments on each others blogs.
2. For literature lessons, invite an author to post on your blog and let the learners comment on this post. This is a great way to have book discussions online. You could even try and organise a Skype interview with the author and let the slearners summarise this afterwards. There must be plenty of examples of Skype chats with authors, but here is a post about one with Scientist.
3. The learners identify and discuss the major points of a book, article, speech etc.
4. The learners write good book summaries and assess others summaries using a rubric.
5. Let the learners post reviews of movies, books, concerts, games etc regularly.
6. Use a blog to archive daily class notes. You (or someone in the class) could post summaries on to your class blog. This will be helpful to students who may be absent.
7. For listening and speaking activities learners could use a MP3 player, read into it and then post it on the blog. They could concentrate on voice modulation, inflection, and tempo. The learners could then listen to each others’ speaking activities. You can virtually put anything on a blog. There’s a programme called embedit.in which gives anything the necessary HTML code which is necessary if you wish to include it on a blog or wiki
8. The learners could make presentations on different things and then embed their presentations on webpages. My Slideshare above mentions how useful Box.net is for this.
9. They could learn about language conventions and then practise using the example on your blog. You could post weekly exercises for them to do. The following is an old blog but it gives some ideas like this.
You could take this further and ask them to make podcasts and even slideshows of difficult conventions.
10. As they read a novel prescribe blog prompts for them to respond to.
11. They could paraphrase sections that you post on the blog.
12. You could teach the learners the structure of workplace documents and let them analyse them in terms of heading, font, pictures and readability etc. They could make suggestions on how to improve them.
13. When starting a new theme create a “KWL chart” on your blog. Have students blog about what they know, what they want to know, and eventually what they have learned. Students will be able to see other posts and scaffold their learning off the responses of others. As the educator, you can quickly assess, focus, and possibly redirect your unit to meet the specific needs of your students.http://teachinghistory.org/system/files/KWL+Chart+with+Knowledge+Questions.pdf
14. You could link documents to a folder in Box.net (also a free programme). Notice how Mrs Lesniak does this. http://lesniakenglish.blogspot.com/
15. On your blog you could communicate with parents about classroom news, policies and events. You could publish commendable student work, writing, photos, video etc.
16. You could use your blog as a place to reflect as well.
17. Your blog could be a blog of ideas for English teaching.
18. The learners can write journal entries, essays and poems in their blogs. They could also write book reviews
Further down in the same blog – he relates his book review.
Here are another two posts that give a lot of ideas about book reviews.
19. Illustrate to the students how they can use technology on their blogs. You can do this by using screencasts on your blog or just be blog posts.
20. Post homework in your blog. http://student.sheboyganfalls.k12.wi.us/aeharter/
21. I love the way this teacher posts lesson ideas in his English blog
22. One teacher I know of got her class to write a novel on a blog. This was eventually published.
23. They could create book trailers for their blogs.
http://msdegenhardt.com/ (I like this teacher’s collage of books in her header)
24. Don’t forget about using a fake facebook page (template in Google Docs) which could be then embeeded into the blog. This teacher created a fantastic template last year in Google docs that he is willing to share.
Other useful links
A great source of ideas for English teachers
And to end off this post here is a fantastic Ning for English teachers which will undoubtedly have plenty of resources and ideas.