Weblogs for ESL classes

Weblogs for ESL classes

There are many ways how you can vary your classroom activities. A weblog is one of them. As Cambridge Dictionary states a weblog or blog is “a regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read”. Blogs are an interactive tool as people can comment on your posts. They are used for different purposes: personal, educational, commercial, etc. They can be on any topic, so why not use them in an English lesson? In this article, I will discuss some ideas on how we can use blogs in English classes. 

Websites to create a blog

Let’s start with different resources you can use to create blogs. Here are the most popular ones:

Blogger

It’s a free resource to create your blog with your own design, domain. You can upload and save photos there too.

WordPress

It’s a free software to create a website, a blog or a web-app. It is the world’s most popular site builder. It powers more than 33% of all websites on the internet, that’s millions of websites all over the world. It is really easy to use: you can add content to using the user-friendly post editor and there are many theme-templates.

Edmodo

It is a platform for teachers and students, but you still can use it as a blog. You can start discussions there, share materials, create polls, assess students’ progress etc. 

Livejournal

It’s a platform to create your blog. You can subscribe to other bloggers there too.

Manila

It’s a system to create websites, blogs, intranets and portals.

Diaryland

It’s another platform to create a blog.

Types of weblogs

Blogs can be public – open for everyone, or they can be private – open only for a certain group of students. As for English learning and teaching, generally, there are three types of weblogs: teacher’s blog, student’s blog or classroom blog. I have tried all three options and I’ll share my experience with you. 

Teacher’s blogs

Once I created a blog on blogger.com for one of my group of students for several purposes. What I used it for:

  1. Post general information about the syllabus.
  2. Post homework assignments, attach files with exercises, send links to the videos, etc. 
  3. Update organisation information about the schedule, room numbers, exam/tests dates, etc.
  4. Update on what’s been done in class for the students who are absent so they can catch up.
  5. Give follow-up on difficult points of the lesson to provide extra explanation and clarify some complicated areas.
  6. Give students extra daily practice: send links to the websites where students can practise target language or skils; send worksheets. Develop their autonomy.
  7. Share useful links, for example, dictionaries, corpus, websites with interesting articles to read or videos to watch. Anything that can be helpful and motivating for their self-study learning.
  8. Send additional interesting information on the topic discussed in class. For example, you come across a controversial video or amusing news. Share it and provoke the discussion.
  9. Integrate other subjects, for instance, if you teach at university, you can integrate the major subject into English (send articles and videos). Or you can expand your lessons topics, for instance, the topic of the unit is ecological problems. You can find extra authentic materials and post them on your blog for your students. You may discuss them in your next lesson.
  10. Write something yourself. For example, you’ve checked all writing tasks and you see common mistakes. You can write a post on that, clarifying the rule and giving some extra practice. This way you can save your lessons’ time. Another idea is to write a post on the topic you discussed in class: some extra information or your opinion. Include the target language so it’s recycled this way. This makes reading more personalised and students are more motivated to do it. 

It was so convenient in terms of communication with students. Moreover, the blog was a quite efficient tool. I wouldn’t say all the students used it, commented on posts and were involved, but the main part of the group was. And it gave students all the information they needed in one place and it provided them with extra practice.

Learner’s blogs

You can encourage students to create their own blog in English or maybe they already have one so they can switch into English in it.

  1. All students have their own interests. They can post something about their hobby. It’s a great writing practice for them and reading practice for others. You can agree they post once a week, assign pairs or small groups to read each other’s blogs and then, they share what they’ve read in class.
  2. Students can share what they do every day. For example, once I had a group of teenagers and almost all of them had Instagram. I asked them to post comments and hashtags in English for one week. They really enjoyed that and many of them started to write posts in two languages afterwards.
  3. They can do writing assignments through their blog. Then, you can set pairs and students can check each other’s posts. (Important: make sure students agree that others see their writing tasks as it’s personal)
  4. You can ask students to post their ideas on the topic of the unit for further discussion and/or extra information exploration. 

Class blogs

We had a class blog on blogger.com when I studied English at university. We really got into it and when I started teaching I tried it with my group too and it worked well. A collaborative blog has many advantages and ways to use:

  1. Students can post messages, thoughts, images, ideas, feedback on class discussion topics. That provides opportunities for extra writing practice.
  2. They can discuss homework and help each other.
  3. Learners can create an online resource, for example, if you read a book in class, they can create wordlists together. If you ask them to do research on a certain topic, they can share useful language they find.
  4. They can do online research together and share information, links, etc.
  5. They can do a collaborative task together. For example, you give a challenging gap-filling exercise and they try to do it all together. They can give riddles or puzzles and others post their ideas in comments. You can set a writing task (e.g., The Five Ws) and they take turns to answer and create a funny story.

Advice

  1. Keep all the posts short and straight to the point, so students do not get bored or struggle to read long “academic” messages. A blog is one of the ways to motivate students and “get them going” so keep it simple and useful at the same time.
  2. Agree on the rules. Students should remember about their behaviour, tone of messages, ethics, etc. as sometimes people forget about the general rules of politeness when they are online.

As you can see blogs serve for many purposes and it can be used in lots of ways to support your classes. 

Create your own and encourage learning outside the classroom!


Наринэ Егорова

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