Sunday, 19 February 2012

Blogging with students 5

I have just finished my 2nd English course with my blogging group. What a pleasure it was to start work with them as their blogs were waiting, and they were already familiar with this type of work. I, too, had learned many valuable lessons during course 1, and was consequently better prepared and comfortable with the new concept. Thanks to all these advantages, and the ground work done in course 1, we were able to focus more on reading new texts, watching videos, class discussions and writing 3 separate blog posts with the accompanying comments.

As before, I based the course on the national EFL curriculum topics, and published the course plan online. This time, however, I gave the students more freedom to choose their blog topics. Following the 3 course themes, they chose what and how to write themselves. This seemed to work quite well, and some of the students also mentioned this as a positive aspect in their course feedback.

Unlearning repeating linguistic errors is quite a challenge. Students wrote drafts first, I gave them tips and feedback, and then they rewrote and edited their post, before publishing it. Despite all this effort, the same errors mostly recurred in their next drafts! What would help them actively tackle these ingrained errors? Or am I being a pedantic language teacher again, or maybe too impatient?

Commenting developed in leaps and bounds among some students, whereas those who struggled with their motivation and generally applying themselves in course 1, degenerated even further this time. In our last course, later this spring, I will work hard to get some collaboration going with foreign partners, to make the blogging and commenting an even more realistic experience for the students. Another thing I will try in the next course, is more regular, shorter blog posts, with even more student freedom to choose the topics. After all, this is what blogging inherently is about, rather than writing given assignments, and even some students specifically hoped for this type of change in their feedback.

All in all, I enjoyed the classes without coursebooks more and more. There are so many more opportunities for student involvement and engagement than with the pre-set, rather mechanical gap-fill exercises that coursebooks are filled with. Every class was filled with English chatting, questions being asked, vocabulary use negotiated, ideas thrown in, and students actively participating. In December, we hosted a student exchange visit from a partner school in Singapore. The Singaporean guests visited our class, and students carried out interviews to find out about young people's lives on the other side of the world. The information they collected could then be used for their blog posts, which many of them did. I wish I had videoed the non-stop, enthusiastic talk that went on in that class!

For anyone interested, the students blogs can be found in the right-hand sidebar of our course blog.

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