Monday, October 15, 2012

Setting up a Blog for your Class

I set up the blog for my High Intermediate class.  It took me a few sessions of blogging to get it all together, but it wasn't too hard since I have done some of the learning curve with this blog.  I created the blog, then looked for a template that had a pretty clean design because I wanted my students to be able to navigate it easily and not be distracted with too many bells and whistles.  The template I chose is a blogger template called Simples Azul.  I did not spend a lot of time on the design, just the basics.  Like having a blog and website list that my students could go to for exercises and information.  The rest I used pretty much the same way as the template had it.  When I created this blog I spent a lot of time on the design and functionality and it took away from the writing.  I might, when I have time, tweak my class blog more, but for now it works. So far I have had 50 page views from a class of 10 students, so I think we are doing OK.  I have written 9 posts so far.

Keeping the Blog Private

I chose to keep it private because I am experimenting right now and I don't want any surprises.  It also helped my students feel more confident when they have to enter information into the blog.  To keep your blog private so that only your students can see it you need to go to your settings in your Blogger Dashboard. There you need to define who can see your blog.  In Permissions select Add readers.  You will have the choice for Anybody Only blog authors or Only these readers.  Select Only these readers and in the window at the bottom you can enter the emails of your students.  I tried this but it wasn't working for me, so I pressed the button Choose from Contacts and this worked.  This means you need to have your students in your contact list before you can add them as readers.

Writing the Posts

I write my posts soon after class or that same day.  If I have an idea for a post and I know I wont have time in the near future then I write a draft post so that I don't forget my idea.  In the draft I put any links I might have generated the idea.  My posts are mostly about whatever we are discussing in class.  For example we are in Unit 1 so I have made a post of the vocabulary we are covering in the book.   I looked up the words in the The Free Dictionary.com.  I like this dictionary because it has an extensive list of the different uses of a word.  If there was a sound available for the word I put in the blog so that students were able to hear the pronunciation.  Of course I sourced The Free Dictionary.com.

I also posted about our Language lesson which gave a brief explanation and listed several sources that Students could go to online as well as videos they could watch for further clarification.  Students have different ways of learning for some it's easier to visualize it.

I also posted about "ed" endings because I saw that some of my students were having problems pronouncing these and it is something they should already have mastered in their Intermediate class.  I might end up having to give a short lesson in class, but since it is not part of my syllabus I am going to try to see if it works just to reference back to the blog those students that are struggling with it.

I posted our syllabus so that it is handy for them from where ever they are. I also post about events that they might be interested in.

Getting Students to Use Blog

I sent all my students a link to the blog and asked them to check it out.  Of course they had not tried it until the night before our next class since they knew I would ask again.  I decided to assign their writing assignments to be written into the class blog.  I wan't sure how to go about this. I could make them all authors and have them write their assignments as posts.  The problem is I don't know them very well yet, so I wouldn't want a surprise written all over the internet.

I chose to write a post with just the title of the assignment and have them write their assignment as a comment to that post.  This way I get them into the blog to try the other resources and I have all their writing in one place where we can then go over them in class.  I would then write a comment in the post myself about general things I saw in every one's writing and address individual problems with individuals.

Another way I am going to try is to have my students subscribe to the blog so that they can be notified by email when I put up a new post.

I am going to try this and will let you know how it goes.  If you have other ways you have tried to get students into your blog. Let me know would love to get ideas.

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