21 October 2011

Kids and Blogging

After the success of my 12 year old class on Kidblog, I decided to take the plunge and set up a blog with my 11 year old class. The main reason I want to use blogs with my younger students is to get them writing in English. There's always a groan when I ask them to get their notebooks out, partly, I suspect because they feel nervous about writing in another language, and partly because it's very hard for them. Unless there is a gapfill, they are reluctant to write anything at all.

These problems are especially noticable with my 11 year old class of 9 boys and one girl. Their writing is illegible at times and some of them have real difficulties copying from the board. It is difficult to keep their attention for more than 5 minutes and the result is usually quite poor.

I started a Kidblog with them this week and I'm thrilled with the reaction from the students. Sharing a netbook, one student was the "teacher" reading the instructions, while the other student typed a short paragraph about themselves. I gave them a couple of prompts but they asked if they could write other things too. Of course I was happy to accommodate! They were engaged and motivated to write. Some of them writing much more than I asked them to. Most of them asked basic grammar, punctuation and vocabulary questions - they were really trying to get it right! Others were slightly more nervous. The girl, M, was very reluctant at first, but when I realised her partner was still waiting to write his post when everybody else was almost finished, I couldn't get the computer off her.

Homework is to write three sentences using Past Simple about what they did at the weekend - I've asked them to write it on Sunday night. M, very enthusiastic now, has already written hers using "going to". Other students in the class have commented that she's "cheating" because it's still the week. And other students are leaving comments for me and their classmates, asking me questions and rewriting their original messages in multicolour - all without prompting from me.

It's early days, and they're very excited about having a blog, but if this continues they are going to be writing an awful lot of English - and hopefully enjoying it. Of course, I will still need to do pen and paper writing, but there will be less of it and hopefully they will lose some of their negative attitude to writing tasks.

I'd like to use the blog mainly as an online learning diary, but also do a couple of projects during the year. Maybe later in the year I can involve parents - but as it's an English only blog, they can only write in English!

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