Blogging provides elementary-age ELs the opportunity to practice writing across the curriculum. Even beginning ELs can produce text to publish a blog. Many teachers blog with students as young as first grade. Here are four questions that I am frequently asked about teaching young ELs to write.
1) What are the benefits of blogging with my English learners?
- An authentic audience for their writing. Families of ELs love to see their progress in English. The blogs are often sent to grandparents or other relatives in their home countries. It is my experience that children are more willing to revise their writing when it is viewed by family and classmates, and with blogging ELs are really enthusiastic about writing.
- An occasion to learn to use writing in English as a way to communicate with others. It helps students build a learning community with their classmates and provides an opportunity for them to learn how to give constructive feedback or ask questions on the work of other students.
- A chance to tell stories about their life, their family, and their home culture. They can share photographs and artifacts from their family’s culture, as well as drawings that they make in response to learning.
- An opportunity to reflect on learning. Students can write responses to literature, discuss information that they learn in the content area, or share ideas or thoughts about what they’ve read. It is also a way to respond to blogs or stories read in the classroom.
2) What are good platforms to use when teaching English learners to blog?
In my opinion, the best platform for the blogs of elementary-age ELs is Kidblog. This blogging platform was created by teachers for teachers and children, so it is safe and easy to use. It can be used with very young ELs, and teachers can monitor all posts and comments. Blogs can be published privately or publicly. Students are engaged prewriting, drafting, and revising their work on this platform. Here are samples of Kidblogs for students in Grades 1–6.
3) What activities do you suggest for elementary-age bloggers?
Teachers have an opportunity to tailor ELs’ blog entries according to their English language development level. Here are some activities that I recommend for young ELs:
- Comments or labeling for art work, photographs, and realia
- Lists such as classroom objects, vocabulary words, and spelling lists
- Favorite websites, videos, music, and other interests expressed by students
- Science or math notebooks
- Reactions to stories or books read in class
- Information about class activities and schedules
- Classroom rules
4) How do I teach my ELs to write through blogging?
I would work with students pretty much the way I teach writing. Here is a blog that I wrote on nonfiction writing for ELs. Here are some additional ideas that give young writers the structure, vocabulary, and language that they need in order to write a blog.
- Have students write from a story map, Venn diagram, or other type of graphic organizer. For beginning ELs, this organizer can be written as a group.
- Don’t expect ELs to self-edit, because they will not usually find their own mistakes. Teachers need to be more hands-on with the editing of young ELs’ work and conference with students on a regular basis to discuss their writing.
- ELs will not remember what to revise unless changes are clearly marked on their work. Blogging gives teachers an excellent opportunity to comment directly on the blog before it is published. If students are a part of the editing process, the revisions will be more meaningful to them.
Do you blog with your class? Please comment on what works for your class.