As TEFL teachers, we all know that getting the class to engage is vitally important and also that engagement comes through enjoyment.
This means that anything which lets your class practice English in a fun, non-didactic way is going to be a hit. And we have just been playing with class blogs which are a brilliant way to do this!
This article is how you can setup – for free – a simple to use blog system for your class and have everyone participate. To do this we’ve used a site called Kidblog which is completely free for teachers.
As a teacher the first step is to set up your own blog. This is simple to do and we had a blog up and running in about 30 seconds from the Kidblog site. On this you write your first blog entry. A good idea here is to make it an introduction to the blog with a few ideas on how you and your students will use it and what it will be about.
The next step is to add your students. The good thing here is that you don’t need to include any personally identifiable information (such as emails) for your students: just a name & a password for each one. Depending on how many students you have this whole process will take just a few minutes.
Check also the privacy settings so that the blog is viewable only by you and the students.
In the next class explain to your students the idea behind blogs: that they are short texts (such as diary entries, thoughts, etc) which anyone can write, which the whole class can view and which any student can comment on. Let them know that the whole class will see what they write on the blog (so they don’t say anything too personal).
As an example, why not show them one of your blog entries? Perhaps this is a short piece you’ve written on something in the news of interest to the class, a recent holiday, and upcoming school event… Use your imagination! If you can, get a discussion going about the topic!
Now give each student a slip of paper with their name & password on it. If you have computers in the class you can get the students to log on and then either individually, or in small groups comment on one of your entries or write their own, short, entry. Then encourage others in the class to comment on any new entry.
Of course there is one rule only: English Only!
Perhaps blogs like this are more suited to work at home where the student has time to think and browse and just enjoy reading what others have written.
Encourage the students to write their own blog entries and comment on other entries. Strategies here to get the class participating include:
- Setting specific assignments such as writing about their weekend or reviewing a film (of course the assignment will very much depend on the students’ levels and interests).
- Asking them to leave comments on at least 2 or 3 other blog posts.
The idea is getting the students used to using the blog, reading and writing on it and participating. At the beginning it may need some pushing from you to make sure all students are participating but if you can give them a few specific tasks and let them know that they can use the blog as and when they wish, this will help make the class blog a fun area to use in their free time.
If, perhaps, you know a lot of the class are going to watch the big football game on Saturday night see if you can’t get them to log on afterwards and discuss it on the blog.
Taking it Further
Of course the ideas above are just a start. There are many ways to use a class blog to engage the students and give them plenty of free practice in reading and writing.
- Use the blog to put out homework assignments; invite comments as well!
- Make an entry per lesson and encourage students to post their feedback (in this way you can check on whether they have understood the lesson).
- Personal expression: have students write reflective entries on either set or free topics.
Depending on the class and how you want to use the blog, you might also want to make the blog a “criticism free zone” or a “correction free zone” where no one will be pulled up for any spelling or grammatical mistake. The blog is there for students to write whatever they want and not worry about whether their English is up to scratch or full of errors.
Some teachers find this incredibly useful as a way of
- allowing students to express themselves freely
- silently noting spelling/grammatical mistakes which can be covered more formally in a classroom lesson