I've just introduced my ESL students to blogs via our class Ning. Anyway it's got me thinking about a few things. Should I correct all their writing? My students are refugees and migrants learning English and I don't want to discourage them in anyway. I want them to feel free to get their ideas down and to feel confident doing so.

Should I respond modelling correct spelling and grammar?

Should they write in Word first and do a spell check etc?

What do you do with your students? How do you work with blogs? I'd be grateful for any ideas/suggestions.

Tags: assessment, blogging, esl

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Thankyou so much, Sylvia! These links are terrific.
What is the purpose of the blog? Is it to write correctly or is it to interact with the language? If it is to write correctly, then there are several things you could do. You could use some of them as minilessons to show proper use of the language. I also would suggest not "grading" or "assessing" all entries. This may dampen student enthusiasm.

When I use bloIgs with my students, I don't feel that it is necessary to grade their responses. I want my students to interact with the content and don't worry about their "correctness".

Modeling correct usage by responding is a great idea! I had never thought of using Word first as suggested in other responses, but I think that is a good option too.
Hi Greg!
I am some students who want to practice writing more in English and this was an idea I spoke with them about. I'm curious as to how you guys got along with this idea. My students are Brasilian English students who work for an American Company and they are quite motivated. Which blog site did you use or did you host your own blogs on a server somewhere?
Hi John

I'm just using a class Ning that I set up for our class. It's a private network for my students and some teachers.
I use blogs as a writing tool, and I've assessed them in a variety of ways. I developed a rubric for persuasive writing. I've used this in journalism and in a 11-12th grade in-class support situation. I'm looking for students to be opinionated, have a strong sense of voice, and support thier points with online article or material from our school's electronic databases.
Feel free to use and adapt the rubric to meet your needs. Let me know if it is helpful at all.
Thanks for that Tom. It's always really useful to see how teachers are structuring up rubrics to use with their blogs. Mine would have to be simpler for my students but all the same it's good to see how someone else has done it.
This is an interesting discussion. The suggestions to start with the objective are right on, I think.

Another consideration is whether the blog is public or not. I think anything public should be "final work" meaning drafts and editing happen somewhere.

By the way, lots of people use Word to write blog posts before they go online. I do about half the time. That shouldn't be looked on as something only beginners do. Sometimes ideas come when you don't have a connection. Spellchecking is a wonder of the modern world. It's a gift, and an opportunity to learn the hard way about homonyms.

Students often believe that writing has to be "natural" or automatic to be good. They don't know that writers work at it and change their minds all the time. What I'm saying is that you can model the whole writing process for them, not just spelling and grammar. Let them correct your drafts too!
If people are using Firefox it will spellcheck for you to save having to use Word first and then copy. I use both Firefox and IE as Firefox doesn't fully support some websites but its still a nice program
Thanks a lot for the ideas Sylvia plus the support

At the moment, I'm focused on getting them fluent with writing - feeling comfortable to freely express their ideas without panicking about grammar/spelling too much. I've encouraged them to help each other check their work and they're starting to do that.

I've just been quite impressed at how they support each other with their comments and I've been making a point of using their comments to show particular strengths in what they do. That way they can be model for others too. I think it's so important to be explicit when giving feedback to them so that's what I do when I use their work.
I have been using blogs with my middle school (7th and 8th grade) science classes for the past two years. I did it originally to support, encourage, and develop their literacy, especially in science.

The original assignment was one I had them do on paper in past years. They were to find an article about science from any reliable source, prepare a brief summary, and then reflect upon the article (with some standard guiding questions from me).

When I moved this to the class blog, I changed two things. First, I had the students use fake names to protect them (the blog is public). And I added a second part of the assignment, which was to comment on the work of three other students (again, with guidance from me).

I have found that the more reflective the assignment, the more effective it is for my blog with my students. I also found that because the posts were anonymous that students would interact online with students they might not interact with in class for whatever reason.

In terms of grading, I treat the blog the way that other teachers treat a class notebook. So, I consider it one, big, full term assignment and grade them on compliance, quality, and improvement over the term.

Operationally, I look at the postings as they come in to screen for anything inappropriate (which has only happened once in nearly 5000 student postings), to find any students who need redirection, and, lastly, to be inspired. Then, at the end of the term I grade their work as a whole.

I also, as others have said here, work in a word processor first. In addition to the spell/grammar check, they also have their work in case something happens to the electrons on route to the blog.

Thanks for the chance to share.

And the ideas keep coming. Thanks so much for the varied perspectives. I've come to see this thread as a personal resource around blogging given the amount of ideas and links here.
Hi Greg--

Just thought I'd chime in here as a technology provider who has enough opinions on this stuff to start a company to solve these problems; hope you don't mind the commercial nature of this message *too* much :).

First, to answer your questions directly, I think you should absolutely respond with writing that sets a good example (although, hopefully, a simple and intelligible one for your students). Breaking the rules of grammar is okay when done with purpose, but most good writers agree that you have to know and understand those rules in order to know when breaking them is going to increase the effectiveness of your communication rather than decrease it. It's all about communication after all, right? Next, a lot of bloggers do write in Word (or Open Office, or whatever) first to make sure they've assembled their thoughts clearly and correctly before going to the blog with them; plus if the browser crashes, word's auto save can be a godsend. I think that's a pretty good habit to teach, but it's not 100% necessary. Some blogs do have spellchecking functions, although I don't believe Ning does.

Next, the more commercial part of this message: I see a lot of teachers struggling to repurpose tools that are fundamentally designed for consumers into their classroom; what will happen when my students write blogs? How do I collect and give feedback on the results? How do I control who can see what? My team and I are offering a classroom-focused (100% free) alternative that's designed to take care of all the 'best practices' automatically so that you don't have to worry about the details too much. Think of an assignment, like "write a blog entry about X", post it, and you can easily control when students are allowed to see each others' work, dive in and write feedback into the text like you would with a red pen, etc. When you want, you can open up the feedback option to other students, and we take all the posts, feedback, and comments each student created and list them on a single screen so you know exactly how each student is doing. Make sense? Again, hopefully this message is helpful rather than overly commercial. If what I said it interesting, check out our site here.



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