With the numbers of long-term English language learners rising, schools are exploring all venues to see what can be done to reverse the trend. These students have been in school since the early grades and now in middle school and high school are failing. Their academic language skills in reading and writing are far below those of their American peers (those from English speaking homes). Conversational language is fine, but that skill will not make the language in a textbook more accessible or an academic writing assignment easier to complete.
So how can a teacher re-introduce the skill of writing in a way that will spark interest? Blogging might be just the ticket to show students that writing is a skill that the vast majority of people have and that they should not consider themselves and exception to the rule:) There are blogging sites available to teachers to use with their students.
One of my favorites is BLOGGER (this site). Several teachers at my site have class blogs up with details from their lectures, power points, notes, etc. loaded on it. Students must create GMAIL ACCOUNTS and then they can create small group blogs on their class projects. These blogs are stored on the teacher's class blog to share with every student in the class. Students are describing, noting, clarifying, generating hypotheses, etc. online. It should also be noted that the teacher assigns the usernames and passwords so that parents can see what their children are doing at any time. Further, the teacher can prevent strangers from entering the blog since s/he sees the comments first and can decide what does or does not get published so students can write and then publish their results to the web safely! Long term ELLs are provided with sentence stems to set them up to eventually write up their own lab reports using academic English formats. Over time and with lots of scaffolding, long term ELLs see their use of academic English improve. Their blogging entries will develop over time with patience, support, class charts, notes, etc.
EDUBLOGS is also a free blogging site for classrooms. Like BLOGGER, it is another tool to use to have students publish to the internet. It claims to be the largest educational blogging site on the internet. Here, blogging is just as easy as sending an email. If something is stress free to use, more students will use it. Further, teachers can create as many student blogs as they like. Managing the sites is also not an issue for the teachers. Some of the features here--discussion tools, video embedding, Facebook and Twitter
integration, and calendars--are also in BLOGGER. Again, research based assignments are possible here. Students can collaborate with classmates through them using computers, iPads, OR cell phones/smart phones. With common core project based learning assignments on the way, this is a tool that will enable students to develop those life long skills to survive in the real world where team work is valued.
Other advantages to having struggling students blog? Teachers can have students use them as "notebooks." Just think about it. No more will students be able to say, "I left my binder home." No longer will teachers have to struggle in trying to read illegible handwriting. More importantly, students will be able to embellish more with pictures, videos, links, etc. These additional supports will enhance their writing efforts. As mentioned at the start, this is a tool that might excite them about writing.
BLOGGING -- GET STUDENTS EXCITED ABOUT WRITING!
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