Well, first day at getting the classes started on their blogs. Seems like it just may work!
I showed the two classes what their site looked like. I tweeked it a bit, adding in links to the other class’s blog site, as well as mine. Why not? Let them see other sites as well. The task then was to get them to come up with their next entry. Some kids either seem a little reluctant or hesitant or just outright, don’t want to do it. I tried to explain that this is the next logical step in their language learning evolution.
As babies, we learn to speak our language first. That is a given. From the moment we utter the infamous “mama” or “baba”, and our parents go crazy, the speaking begins. Our parents and older siblings try everything under the sun to get us to say more words. Eventually, those words are put into sentences, and voila, we are speaking.
Next on the agenda of language learning, is recognizing characters and words. It matters not what language we are talking about, every language progresses in the same manner. Speaking then reading. Many times though, the reading and writing sort of get combined. We not only learn how to read a letter or a word, but we also learn how to write and/or spell same.
However, those are only words. A whole bunch of words mean nothing. Sure, I can say about a thousand words in Chinese (some better than others), but they are only words. I don’t know how to put them into a sentence that makes sense. Rather, I should say that I can form little sentences, but then again, I’m not ‘learning’ Chinese.
The hard part for me as a teacher, is trying to convince these students that this is actually a good thing. With these two classes though, that doesn’t seem to be a difficult task. For the most part, the students seem to be enjoying this new way of learning.
I read a few months ago, about a teacher in Ontario (somewhere), who was able to convince his students to use iPods in class. Their learning, since most of the kids had iPods anyway, would entail using these devices to further their education. I thought what a great idea this would be, especially in Taiwan. As we all know, many of the electronic components used in putting together an iPod or some similar device, are made in Taiwan anyway. However, to convince an organization like Apple Corporation to give me several of these devices for use in class, may be an effort in futility.
So, the alternate choice for me was to use something that the kids already have access to anyway! The computer. So many of them spend hours playing computer games, chatting online with friends, watching videos, etc., that why not get them to take a few minutes out of their hectic life, and create a class blog.
In one class, the success rate of having the kids post their first blog entries, was about 75%. Not bad, actually, considering they only started last Friday. The second class, which I would have expected to have done much better, actually their user rate was only about 52%. I think they got the point when I told them I was a bit disappointed. However, the difference in material posted was incredible. The second class material was by far, much more entertaining and lengthy, compared to their ‘rivals’.
The other thing that spurred them on a bit, was seeing the comments to their posts. For this, I will have to thank my mother. I haven’t figured out the percentage, but my mother’s comment rate must have hit close to 90%! The kids were more than impressed, and I think it sunk into them, that their posts would be read by people, not only in Tainan, but perhaps Taiwan and the world!
Again, I encourage all my readers to have a look at these blog sites, and feel free to leave any comments you wish. The students have been told that all their postings and all the comments will be in English. I have also told them that they should try, where appropriate, to respond to comments. So don’t be surprised if your comment is commented on!
It should also be noted by MY readers, that I, as the teacher involved in this project, will not be correcting the students’ blog entries. Rest assured though, that during class time, I will be guiding the students into writing better. I will make an effort to show them all where their errors are, and let them do their own corrections. If I do the corrections, they will not learn. If they do the corrections, hopefully some will sink in.
Now this project has actually given me the encouragement to attempt another daunting task. This may take a little longer to accomplish, but it’s worth a try. The next classes I’m going to attempt this blog idea with, are my Wednesday classes. These students are a little more challenging. However, I believe that I can motivate them to at least attempt this project for the remainder of the school year. Granted, there are only a few weeks to go, and they only have class with me once a week, so this is going to be more of a challenge.
Readers, please, again, keep in mind that these are grade 8 students. The average age is 13 years. This is also, for some students, their second or third language. Don’t expect to see 1000 word essays like mine! Well, maybe from Eric, who seems to be enjoying this outlet for his creativity!