Using blogs to write in class
I recently read Shelley Wright‘s post I used to think….. and related to how I work with my class, I noted this paragraph: “I used to think the essay was the Holy Grail of the English classroom. Now I honestly believe it’s one of the least useful forms of communication I teach, at least in the 5-paragraph essay format. I still believe it’s important for my students to be able to persuasively argue, but now they learn how to do it via blogging, social media, and using visual and audio formats.”
I introduced blogging as a way of writing to my first year high school students this fall and they have eagerly been writing since the end of August. One thing that strikes me when trying to catch up with my commenting all their posts is this: They are writing a lot, long texts and more texts then required. Why? Probably because they like to write and because they are motivated by knowing they have a wider audience. It is no longer students writing for teacher only. It is students writing for other students in class and in addition we sometimes manage to get comments from students in other schools and in other countries.
Blogging has great potential
Shelley Wright writes in a previous post: “Blogging has the potential to reach and influence many. Furthermore, it has greater potential for being a life-long skill. And isn’t that our goal in education? People from all walks and professions blog for the purpose of teaching, creating, and informing. A number of my recent Masters courses didn’t require papers; instead, they required blogging. Why? Because blogging is the new persuasive essay. If we’re trying to prepare our students to think critically and argue well, they need to be able to blog. It allows for interaction. It allows for ideas to be tested. And the best posts anywhere in cyberspace tend to have a point that can be argued.”.
Some simple steps to improve the students’ writing
- Spelling mistakes, should not be possible. Students should write text using Word and paste it in their blogs after using the spell-checker options or use spell-checker options in their Browser. I now use Google Chrome and the built in spell-checker extension. Everyone should do the same!
- Peer review. Not only for content but helping each other with language structure, grammar and spelling. When writing for a publication or reports at work, you usually have someone look over your work, right? Students should practice correcting other students’ work and writing in teams. Teachers should arrange to give tasks where students work together doing research and end up writing on the same post. Goal: Assess and comment on your progress in learning English. Express yourself in writing in a varied, differentiated and precise manner, with good progression and coherence. Use a Thesaurus Extension to vary your vocabulary. If you are unsure about your word choice install Lookup definitions online. Firefox or Chrome.
- Work on grammar exercises found here. Concentrate on areas you know need improving in your writing. If you often makes mistakes with concord make it a rule to look for that before you publish. Perhaps a friend in class can help you! Read about subject verb agreement, do exercise here: .
- Only use pictures you are allowed to use. Wikimedia commons is a great place to find images, sounds and video you can use in your blog. (thanks to Ulrik for showing me) Flickr: creative commons is one. Google image search: Choose Google Advanced Search, and be sure to click for: Usage rights: Free to use or share!