1 Creating a blog
There are many places on the Internet where you can start a blog. Just type the words create and blog into Google and you’ll find over sixty million hits! If you have a Gmail account, it’s very simple to create your own blog account with the Blogger tool. Also, your Autonomous Community’s Department of Education website may well contain helpful information. In Catalonia (where I work) you can go to http://blocs.xtec.cat
2 Editing your blog
Blogs work like journals; every new post appears on the screen above the previous ones. Editing them is as simple as editing a Word document but with the possibility of including sounds, pictures or videos in every post. You can also change the appearance of the whole page including typeface, colours, backgrounds, images and the information you wish to display.
3 Things to think about
Be careful about posting videos showing your pupils’ faces. Each school has its own rules about this issue but it’s advisable to find alternative ways to show pupils’ work to avoid problems. Another important thing to consider is time. Organising, planning work and effective management are all essential. For example, if you decide to record your pupils reading something they have written, divide your class time in half and work with half the class at once, making sure that the other half have an activity they can do by themselves. It’s also a good idea to request the collaboration of the IT teacher so that some of the work can be done in that class (eg typing, editing pictures, scanning, etc).
How to use a blog
You can use your blog to post all kinds of activities related to all the skills. Here are two examples with suggestions for procedure.
An individual or pair writing activity
- One of the easiest ways to set this up is by taking a writing activity from your coursebook. This means you don’t have to find extra time to include something from outside the syllabus and you can also use it to assess skills that are usually difficult to evaluate.
- Set your pupils a clear task and fix a deadline for handing in a draft of their work. This will give you time to do some individual work with every pupil, correcting and improving the text. A second deadline can be set to hand in the final version (including pictures).
- Once you’ve collected in all the texts, you’ll have to scan them or take photographs of them then upload them on to the blog. You can still put them on the classroom walls later, adding to the existing exhibition. If you can get your pupils to read them out loud, even better. This is a great way of getting other classes involved and it’s good for the younger ones to see older children’s work and vice versa.
- If you place a link to the English class’s blog on the school web page, parents will easily be able to have access to what their children do. And it’s amazing the expectation that a Coming Soon! announcement can generate among parents and pupils alike! The blog can also be a good tool for self-learning as there can be some selected links to useful ESL pages.
A group video project
Once or twice a year, you may like to try out a more ambitious activity that can involve the whole class or even two classes. A group video project using a multimedia programme such as Microsoft Movie Maker is hugely rewarding and a great way of developing several skills at the same time.
- Choose a topic, such as a story you have read in class.
- Create groups of 4-6 children and divide the story into as many parts as you have groups. The logistics of combining two classes works fine, as the advantage of group work is that not everyone needs to be working together at the same time.
- Assign each group a part of the story and get them to draw a picture to explain it. This will help them visualise more clearly their part of the story.
- Depending on the level of the group, you can either get students to write their part, or if the main objective is having them telling the story, you can type it yourself. Alternatively, you could do a mixture of the two by leaving out certain words or phrases so that they have some input.
- Take photos and edit them (using a programme such as Photoshop). Then add the text (older pupils could do this during their IT class).
- Make sure you’ve prepared a task that the class can do silently while each pupil in turn comes up and reads their sentence for you to record. You won’t need too much sophisticated equipment, just a very simple microphone and the Windows recording tool.
- Use Windows Movie Maker or any other home video editing tool to put everything together. With very little practice you’ll see that it’s just a matter of dropping and dragging pictures, sound and text. Once it’s complete, depending on the type of blog site you have, you might need to upload it to YouTube first (if you’ve never done this before, YouTube itself contains some tutorials) and then embed it into the blog as a YouTube clip.
Other ideas we’ve included in our blog are a video guide to our town, presentations of new language and our pupils singing a song with a matching video clip. Please feel free to visit; the address is http://11septemberschool.blogspot.com/ . Knowing that their work will be published has a highly motivating effect on most children. Once you’ve started, you’ll quickly see how popular it becomes. Writing tasks will never be the same again!
Sílvia Castelló Masip teaches at CEIP Onze de Setembre in Sant Quirze del Vallès, Barcelona.