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How to integrate blogging in EFL teaching (by Christina Markoulaki)

I am pretty confident that a vast majority of EFL

teachers relish blogging, but each one employs this practice in his/her teaching differently. I am therefore taking the initiative to write this post to ask and give an answer to this question:  Have you ever thought of creating a blog for your students to use? A blog that will challenge them to think, to produce the target language and subsequently demonstrate their work to the world?

If not, let me give you some ideas by sharing what my students’ page contains and how this content was created. I will mainly stick to the fundamentals of blogging; therefore, if anyone has more tips and tricks to offer, he/ she is welcome to do so in comment form.

It goes without saying that blogs for students’ use are extremely helpful in language learning, since they include:

  • texts relevant to students’ interests or to the objectives of the lesson to which students can respond by leaving their comments. Besides, who knows their interests better than their teacher who daily receives their written and oral output? Having browsed the Net for such articles or stories, copy the beginning of the text and paste it on your blog. Do not forget to guide your students to the webpage where the complete article is by placing the link to it immediately after the extract you have chosen.
  • link lists of useful sites for learners to practice all skills; thus, all links are being placed under easily accessible categories ( you can see how I have categorised the links I recommend to my students at the bottom of the side bar of this blog.) Forming visual galleries of the web pages you suggest to your students instead of simple lists is another great idea I first read about on ‘Free Technology for Teachers‘.
  • photos and videos from school lessons and celebrations so as for parents to be able to download and keep this material which will demonstrate parts of their children’s learning journey. (Be sure to inform parents and get their written consent for this.) Personally, I have created Picasa and Flickr accounts where I upload the school photographs; as for the videos, a YouTube channel is my way of enticing parents and other teachers to take a ‘peek’ into the classroom. You will find a useful link about how to embed these in your blog in what follows.
  • embedded slideshows, recordings, glogs, polls or even ebooks used or created during the lesson. In this way, the blog will serve as an excellent reference point for students who wish to go through the material discussed in class once again. They may even wish to vote for the play the class should put on next or check the level of their reading ability by listening to the recording of themselves reading poetry in class. Vocaroo.com is what I have used for recording purposes, while slideshare.net constitutes an excellent means for displaying your slideshows and documents. Team or individual e-posters (i.e. glogs) also appear to arouse everyone’s interest, so the site to create educational glogs will definitely come in handy. For those who are still ‘newbies’,  here is a comprehensive article I have recently come across named ‘How to Embed Almost Everything in your Site‘. It briefly explains how to display videos, RSS Feeds, slideshows, photographs, word documents, to name but a few straight on your blog.
  • scanned student’s projects of all levels; as soon as learners of all ages (even teachers!) realize that their work is published online, they immediately feel a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Isn’t this the type of motivation we are all looking to instill in our students? What is more, parents can partially monitor their child’s progress and even leave their comment to encourage him/ her more. Only some basic mistakes should be corrected before publishing the project, since we all want the scanned document to represent our students’ real progress. Besides, mistakes are a natural part of the learning process and this is what all students, parents and teachers should finally internalize.
  • all kinds of funny or educational videos, which offer a great opportunity to students who love exploring novel paths of knowledge. Some sites where such videos abound (apart from YouTube) are TED, Vimeo, Sky News and CNN. There is also an intriguing selection of educational YouTube video channels in Karenne Sylvester’s Kalinago English. (I intend to number the steps for anyone who wishes to prepare such an activity in my next post on this blog.)

This is how I have made use of the above features in my Students’ Page. The posts that follow are mere examples of the innumerable ways students can practice, enhance or exhibit their knowledge by regularly visiting a teacher’s blog. You can create any activity suits the objectives of your lessons as well as your personal philosophy of teaching and learning.

  1. Pigeon: Impossible‘ video activity followed by a quiz
  2. Global warming activities: vocabulary, video and games
  3. Ask Alain de Botton a question: a kind of poll, gathering advanced students’ professional worries for the future
  4. Scanned junior projects, all combined in a PDF file and embedded in the blog; this was enabled by using Issuu.com
  5. Slideshows, an electronic noticeboard ( available on wallwisher.com) and students’ projects concerning the issue of tolerance
  6. Christmas games and activities for children: a link list
  7. Traditional books vs Ebooks: article and written comments
  8. An introduction to Geocaching for intermediate- level students
  9. Poetry projects and recordings of students’ reciting
  10. Youth crime: vocabulary, video and comments

Finally, you will be able able to find more examples of teachers’ and students’ use of blogging in the slideshow ‘Using Web Logs in the EFL Class‘.  I saved my favourite quotation for the end, as a reminder of what our inner power of will can do if we simply set it into action.

You don’t have to be great to start,

(to blog, I need to add)

but you have to start to be great.

by Zig Ziglar

My name is Christina Markoulaki and I am a certified EFL teacher in Greece, where I was also born.I am fortunate enough to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels within my 4 working years, their ages ranging from 4 to 44 years old! Using modern technology in the classroom to create new learning experiences is what fascinates me.

14 Comments

  1. Barbara says:

    Thanks, Christina! I love your students’ page, and really appreciate your sharing the insights you’ve gained by using blogging as part of your own teaching.

    I look forward to trying out some of the suggestions with my own students, and I’m already excited to read your next installment!

  2. Excellent primer… I’m just about to start my second year of student blogging, and my use with classes has definitely been informed by my professional development blogging. Part of building an online PLN for teacher learning is the fact you get a more thorough, long-term understanding of how social networks and technology tools actually work before you take them to your learners.

  3. Thank you Barbara for allowing me to unfold my thoughts on your blog! As I’ve written, there are the basics one needs to know if they are about to employ blogging in their teaching, but you can find some interspersed suggestions which demand a somewhat better understanding of this technology.

    I completely agree with you Darren. Only by building their own awareness brick by brick will teachers ever manage to inspire their students to use it and to do so safely.

  4. Neil Barker says:

    I’m planning on using student blogging once I move to freelance teaching in a few weeks. I like the idea of blogging, and want to use it with adult business English students. I think the idea of visual learning will definitely help maintain motivation. Thanks.

  5. Tara Benwell says:

    This is an excellent post! There are so many great ideas here for teachers who have yet to blog with their students. Any teachers who want a space like this to challenge English students are invited to join MyEC. This English teaching and learning community is free to join and offers many of the tools Christina mentioned. You can upload videos, recordings, photos to go along with your blog . It would be so great to have more teachers sharing their blogs on MyEC. The thousands of English learners there are thirsty for your challenges! Thanks for the great links Christina!

  6. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ShellTerrell: How to integrate blogging in EFL teaching (by Christina Markoulaki) http://bit.ly/bK78Zt via @barbsaka…

  7. Christina Markoulaki says:

    @Neil: You should definitely use blogging with adult learners both by creating a blog for them to practice the business jargon and by urging them to set up their own accounts (it seems easier to students who have just taken up blogging to use the ones offered in http://www.blogger.com rather than http://www.wordpress.com because of the relative complexity of the latter’s features)

    @Tara: Your kind words are much appreciated! Thanks for letting me know about MyEC, I will surely visit it to update my knowledge.

  8. Smaragda says:

    An excellent introdution to blogging for teachers. You ‘ve done an amazing job using blogs in your classroom.

  9. Your comment, Smaragda, means a lot to me! Let me tell you that your blog has inspired me in various ways!

    By the way, I should inform you that a new Facebook group has been created named: Teachers of English in Greece DO blog!

    This page is an attempt to gather teachers-bloggers and get them to share useful information. The idea was born during some heated online discussions between Smaragda and me.

    So, if you are a fan of blogs as valuable educational tools, then become a fan of this page, too, and let us know about your blogs and the way you use them in class!

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Teachers-of-English-in-Greece-DO-blog/279272313402?v=app_2309869772&ref=ts#!/pages/Teachers-of-English-in-Greece-DO-blog/279272313402?v=wall&ref=ts

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