In the ESL classroom, it doesn’t matter what you talk about, as long as it is in English. When the students are free to choose the subject, that’s where you’ll find their motivation.
Let’s do a blog project (Yes, just like what I’m doing right now!) But here is how I see it.
I wan’t to have my students write about what they already know, deepen their knowledge of stuff they like and even discover what they didn’t know that they didn’t know. Are you still following ? To make it short, I wan’t to open their mind! Of course it won’t be done for nothing. While learning about their interests, they will be working on 2 important competencies of ESL classrooms, which are reading and writing. Let me explain how students will be working on those competencies.
Starting with the learning competency, this is how students will get there ideas from. How to learn about things you don’t know that you don’t know?
Here comes my finding of the week: StumbleUpon! As it is described on its web page, it is “a giant collection of the best pages on the Internet”. First of all, you have to create an account (see the link above) which will take you only a few minutes and then you select your interests, in other words, the subjects you want to visit pages about. StumbleUpon will recommend you pages in your interests that you can go through at this moment, or save for later. You can also make lists of your favorite pages.
How does it fit with my blog project? Well it’s a way to find new ideas different then a Google research. When doing a regular research, you have to know what you are looking for. What I like about StumbleUpon that is different is that the starting points are your interests, and then who knows where it will bring you!
Furthermore, as a member of the StumbleUpon team, Currin Berdine sees it as a very innovative way to teach languages. It provides the teacher with many different ways to have their students use their new language skills, he says. Once you get the basics, it’s an ideal tool. Just as a weekly homework, appart from the blog project, students could have to write a quick hundred words about what they have learned this week through the StumbleUpon’s suggestions.
Getting back to the blog, after students have done enough research on their subject, by reading different pages, they are ready to start the writing process! The first step of this process will be to create a blog. As I’ve seen in my Computer Applications class, there are many different sites to create personal blogs. I’ve only use WordPress so far and like what I can get here. It is easy to add photos and links to your posts. There are great design options and it is not hard to run.
And then, all that’s left to do is write! No minimum or maximum lenght, no special structure, free to write what comes out of their mind!
Extra Work Something that could be add to the project is a section of new vocabulary! When doing a post, ask them to publish a short list of new words they have learned while reading about their subject. And what about working on the speaking competency? Have the students discuss in pairs or small groups what they have learned while doing their blog!