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Introducing Internet Blogs

Writer(s): 
Leonard K. West, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Quick Guide

  • Key Words: CALL, reading, writing, chat
  • Learner English Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Learner Maturity Level: College
  • Preparation Time: Varies
  • Activity Time: 1-2 classes
  • Language Focus: Reading and writing
  • Materials: Computers, Internet access, OHP or other visual tools for demonstration of steps

Introduction

One need in CALL courses is for students to develop their reading and writing skills. Activities often surround the use of email or chat rooms. Tasks are designed for students to send each other email, or to log on to chat rooms. Internet chat is of use as it can encourage students to use online chatting, but the type of writing students develop is neither academic nor conversational. It is its own genre (Bauman, 1999).

A new tool potentially useful in the academic setting is the use of Internet Blogs. These are simple webpages that people create. On these webpages, students can post their own online journals. In my CALL courses, I have students write their own journal in a program like Microsoft Word and then copy and post it into their own Blog.

Procedure

Step 1: Introduce the topic. Depending on the class numbers, students, in small groups or individually, write a list of the kinds of writing they might do in Japanese. Examples may include letters, notes, email, journals, and essays.

Step 2: Students rank their list according to the criteria of easiest to hardest, most to least important, or most to least common. In my experience, students usually say that journals are the easiest to write.

Step 3: Inform the students that it is important to develop writing skills for communicating their thoughts and ideas in English. Tell the students that they will be creating their own journals, and that these will be done online. The journals can be any collection of writing that students want to do. They can even identify some of the other genres of writing and post them on the Blog. They may even like to make some notes about why they chose that particular genre.

Step 4: Each student writes down five different names they might use for Blog sign-in. I suggest thinking of five names because their first choice(s) may already be in use.

Step 5: Sign up. Students enter the following URL into their browser: new.blogger.com/signup.g. They then enter the following required information into the blank fields on the site: username, first name, last name, email address, and a password for their new Blog Journal, which will have to be entered twice. Students should note their first username and the password they enter at this time.

Step 6: Students click the checkbox indicating that they accept the Terms of Service. If this step is omitted, signup will not work.

Step 7: Students click the Sign Up button.

Step 8: See if signup is successful. If the username is available, the students will be directed to the next page. If the username is unavailable, they will need to complete the relevant fields again until signup is successful.

Step 9: Once students have successfully signed up, they will be directed to the next stage. They will be instructed to write a title as well as a description of their webpage. I usually suggest they use their own names for the title. The description can be something generic about the pages, such as Yuki's Online Journal. A description would be The daily life of Yuki. Students then click the button marked Next.

Step 10: Students write down one of the five names they listed earlier. This name will be the name of the website. Make sure students also click on the I agree to the BlogSpot Terms of Service button. Then click Next.

Step 11: Students note their web address with their username and password.

Step 12: Students choose what their blog will look like. Ask them to spend some time choosing which one they like the best. Click Next.

Step 13: Finally, the students will get a post field. This is the place where students write their journal messages. For the purposes of signing up, ask students to write something simple, such as This is my first webpage. Click on Preview Your Post. If everything is OK, students click on Publish Your Post.

Step 14: After all students have successfully finished the above procedure, I like to give a simple reading assignment. In my classes, students read short articles from the Internet that deal with social issues. For their Blogs, students will have to answer three basic questions: How does the topic relate to the world? How does the topic relate to Japan? How does the topic relate to you, personally?

Step 15: Explanation of final grade evaluation. Place the final grade evaluation sheet (see appendix) on the OHP and explain to students how their Blogs will be evaluated for the final grade. Explain in detail each criterion on the evaluation sheet.

Step 16: Peer evaluation. In this part of the lesson, students email each other, and the teacher, with details of their Blog's web address. Students should read the Blogs of their classmates, and comment in their own Blog about what they read. This peer evaluation exercise gives students a chance to monitor and evaluate each other's work. It involves students directly giving feedback to their peers. It also involves rating or scoring the other students' work.

Step 17: Throughout the course, go online periodically and read the students' work. You should then email each student and tell him or her what you thought about their Blog. I have found that students enjoy reading comments about their Blog. Students will write a great deal more on their Blogs if they know other people are reading them. For the final grade assessment, the teacher can use the evaluation sheet provided (see appendix).

Conclusion

The Internet Blog is a potentially new academic tool perfect for the ESL classroom. These simple webpages allow students to explore their own interests and write about them and share them with other people online. Students can also publish any collection of writing that they choose to publish. In this way, students can discover other genres of writing. Peer monitoring develops in students a sense of responsibility for their classmates' work. It encourages them to work with and learn from each other. Using Internet Blogs in the classroom gives students an opportunity to develop their writing and reading skills in an appealing and creative way.

Acknowledgement

My thanks to Michael Cholewinski for the three questions in Step 14 that serve to guide student writing about social issues.

Reference

Bauman, M. L. (1999). The evolution of Internet genres. Computers and Composition 16, 269-282.

Appendix:

Final Evaluation Sheet
Did you answer all three questions in each weekly blog? 1 2 3 4 5
Did you show that you understand the topics of the reading assignments in your blog? 1 2 3 4 5
Did you express your own opinions in your blog? 1 2 3 4 5
Did you explore other genres of writing in your blog? 1 2 3 4 5
Did you explore other areas of interest to you in your blog? 1 2 3 4 5
Other Comments:
Your Grade: 20-25 = A 15-20 = B 10-15 = C 5-10 = D 0-5 = Fail

 

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