This year I decided to set up a blog for my class of eight to ten year olds. Now I think a bit of background information is required here. Firstly, we do not have interactive whiteboards or projectors in the classroom. However, I have a laptop and wifi access. This has proved to be sufficient to show the learners how to access the blog and to answer any questions with a quick demonstration. In this class there are ten learners but I think even with larger groups you could show them how to use the blog a few at a time and allow them to practise in small groups while the others are working on something else. My main point here is that you don't need lots of equipment to set up a class blog. The main requirement is that the learners have computer and internet access at home.
I wasn't sure how willing the kids would be at first. This is the group I wrote about last month who were having some problems with their attitude towards each other and in particular to one boy. They are in the third and fourth year ar primary school and come to English lessons twice a week after school. For this reason they are not used to having to do homework for me - they have enough of that from school. When I introduced the blog, I didn't use the word "homework" but focused on how they would be able to write what they wanted, from time to time having specific tasks to do. This is in fact not true, at least not yet - I have given them a task to do every week, but until they get used to blogging I think this is a good idea. One of the girls already posted an entry about what she was doing that weekend and I think some of the others will follow suit when they have got used to the platform and how it works.
You can imagine how surprised I was when the very day I gave the homework some kids had already posted their answers! I set up the blog on 21st September and showed it to the class, and I wrote an introductory post which they dictated to me. The following week I set a task - write about your favourite outfit. On that weekend every single student wrote an entry and what is more, they started to comment on each others' posts! Some started by saying hello on our introductory post and then commenting on other people's work. One of the reasons for this is our "Kindness and Respect Box" into which a marble is placed every time somebody does or says something nice to a classmate and the children decided that the blog was a good place for this.
Some of the comments they have made are:
"So good description"
"Wow, your outfit is very beauty!"
"A very good description!"
"Excellent work, goodbye"
There are now 28 entries (so far I have set three tasks, the last one just yesterday) and over 50 comments, some of which are mine. I use the comments to recast some of the learners' errors. However, these kids are not used to writing in English and their work is full of strange spellings and a lack of grammar. I plan to go over some of the more common errors in class, but I'm not too worried about this because they are still young and one of the objectives of setting up the blog was to motivate them to use English outside the classroom.
All in all I am really pleased with the results - the kids are very enthusiastic and love writing and reading each others' comments about their work. The platform we are using is called Kidblog and is designed specifically for primary aged children. You set up a page for your class and then each member of the blog has their own individual page. It is very intuitive and easy enough for children to use without help, once they have been shown how to use it.
Give it a try!