This week’s guest post comes from Mr. Mat Wachtor, who has had the pleasure of working with both myself and Jee Young. He is currently the lead Middle and High School English teacher at an international school in Seoul. Mat is passionate and dedicated to the teaching profession and seems to be leading a seminar every other day (according to my facebook newsfeed)! He was kind enough to give us a post on how he integrates student blogs into his teaching.
“This semester we are getting rid of paper journals, and moving online.” This is how I started my high school English language arts classes on the first day of the Spring 2012 semester. When I came to my current international school, I instituted a journal writing program into all of the high school classes (easy to do since I was the only high school ELA teacher at the time). My rationale was to get students writing and engaging with various topics: creative, personal, school, and classroom topics. However, after having piles and piles of student notebooks each Friday I quickly desired change. Thus, the idea to get students’ blogging was born.
Personally, I have gone through quite a few of the blogging phases: Xanga, Myspace, Facebook Notes, Blogspot, and now Tumblr. One day as I was searching the education hashtag on Tumblr, I came across an article about how the benefits of student blogging. I began imagining what it would look like if I implemented a student blogging into my course. It would simplify collecting journals, and would also allow for greater student responsibility on their part to do their homework.
I chose Tumblr because of its features: following blogs, news feeds, comments, and customization. Students would be able to see my post in their blog feed when they logged in, and then write their own responses for me to see. I customized my Tumblr page to have various sections for keeping up with homework, Youtube resources, and school announcements. I tried to make it as much of an all in one stop for a student as possible.
Students were also able to customize their blogs as well, and follow each other. This allowed for students to comment positively (yes, I monitored the comments) on each others journal posts. This also helped with EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students as it gave them samples for how to respond to the questions.
Each Monday I would start off class by explaining the journal topic for the week, which I actually posted on Sunday mornings for those who were eager to do their homework. Students would then have until Friday 5pm to post their responses. Responses were assessed based on the length and how accurately they responded to the question. In order for students to know that I graded their journal assignment I “liked” their post, and would occasionally post feedback by commenting. This system also helped keep my records in order!
Since the nature of blogs are social, I encouraged various extra credit assignments that required photos or videos. My goal was not only to educate students on how to use the internet as a form of communication, but also to have them understand how to positively use social networks. One of these extra credit assignments was to post pictures from your spring break. Before leaving for break I announced that I would be traveling to Chicago to visit family, and the could follow different parts of my trip on my blog. Thus, they would receive extra credit for posting a picture with a quick thirty word explanation.
Blogging as a class can be very exciting and fun! Remember to set rules for the students to follow so that the community is safe and free to express themselves. Happy blogging^^