As I mentioned in one of my previous blogs, the concept of audience seems to be quite challenging to grasp for second language writers. One of these challenges may be rooted in the lack of ability to link their knowledge about audience to the other components of rhetorical situation, such as purpose, tone, language, and media. Unfortunately, L2 writing instructors may not dedicate much of class time to teaching about audience, not only because of the rather intensive curricula of English programs, but also due to the L2 writing textbooks’ lack of activities and exercises designed for practicing the concept of audience.
In what follows, I will suggest one tool that you can implement in your writing course to help your students write with a particular audience in mind. In addition, this tool can motivate your students and engage them in the meaningful use of the written language. The tool is simple—travel blogging. Certainly, many of our students have traveled at least once in their lives. And it doesn’t have to be a major trip to a different country or a cruise. Some trips can be very simple, yet worthy of describing and reflecting on. Plus, students don’t have to keep their travel blog on a regular basis throughout the course; instead, they can simply start their blog to get the hang of it, and, later, they can continue updating their blogs with more descriptions and pictures from their trips. Finally, along with offering students the opportunity to write for a “real audience,” travel blogs also give teachers a chance to introduce the concept of multimedia composing in their classes.
To get your students started, you can simply demonstrate a few examples of travel blogs. You can discuss the language of the blogs and the techniques the authors used to make the blogs more appealing to the readers. Be sure that your students understand the differences between travel blogs and other types of blogs by pointing out the focus of a travel blog—a particular destination. Therefore, in a travel blog, any story that is related to a specific journey can be of much interest to the reader. For example, a story about the trip to a grocery store can be absolutely boring for the readers, but a story describing a trip to a store in a new place and new culture could be quite fascinating.
You could also do a few activities in your class to help students start developing their blogs. For example, you can ask them to think about the most memorable trip they had. Ask them to think about these questions:
- What was so memorable about that trip?
- What was the most exciting thing they did on that trip?
- What was the most amazing thing that they saw during that trip?
Have students write down the answers to these questions. Then ask them to think about the audience they would write for. The following questions can help:
- What will be particularly interesting for my readers?
- What was different during that trip from my home?
- How were people different from people at home?
- What is different in the lifestyle of the people on the trip from the lifestyle of the people at home?
- Would it be worthwhile to write about?
One word of caution. Students may feel quite excited to see their stories online at first, but they can also pretty soon lose enthusiasm or run out of ideas. Encourage your students to stay motivated. Tell them that writing a travel blog shouldn’t be viewed as a chore. Ask students to share their travel blogs with the class. You can also organize an activity in which students will respond to each others’ blog entries.
Certainly, blogging is just one of the many activities that can be implemented in a writing course to help students compose for a real audience. Please feel free to share your suggestions with the TESOL community.