Students blogging in Spanish and learning many skills.

I created another blog for my Spanish students where I want to share resources and students’ work. As a matter of fact I already had another blog on Posterous but it closed down and therefore I had to look for another free platform. I found Kidblog which is free for up to 50 students and does not require students to sign in with an email address. A blog is very easy to set up and the easy login menu allows students to select their name from a list of students in the class which avoids memorizing complex user names. Each student ends up having his/her own blog which he/she can customize and the central blog directory and simple navigation links make it easy for students to find classmates’ blogs. However students’ blogs are private by default – viewable only by classmates and the teacher. Apparently teachers can elect to make posts public, while still moderating all content but I haven’t found out how yet!. Therefore you can see the overall outlook of my blog but you cannot read the posts if you are part of our community. On one hand it stops spam and adverts or unsolicited comments from outside sources to clutter the blog but on the other hand, I strongly believe blogs should be opened to the world, otherwise you might as well write in your old diary! However as I started it, I decided to continue with it… At least until I find another better option.

One activity I did with my grade 8 and which was very productive was inspired by the song by Juanes, La historia de Juan:

As Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano mentions in her fantastic blog: “A blog is a tool. A TOOL!!! It is NOT about teaching the tool. It is about allowing teachers to integrate all subject areas (if desired) by addressing multiple skills and literacies.” So here are all the skills students learned and practiced on the blog:

Creative writing: after listening to the song and working on its meaning, I asked the students to imagine the life of Juan in more details: when and where he was born, what his parents did, what he did to survive… It was a good opportunity to talk about children living in the streets. I asked students to write their stories as their first post on the blog. Some students imagined a complete different story with a different name but I was fine with it as long as they enjoyed writing in Spanish and that they used the simple past!

Publishing: the next step was to publish the post. Students were taught what tags and categories are, how to save as draft before publishing on the Web, how to embed media… All the tools they need in order to publish work on the Internet.

Commenting: another lesson was spent showing students how to comment and what a productive comment was. Students had to read different comments and discuss which ones were good and useful to the author of the post and which ones were not so useful. I pointed out that blogs were meant to be conversations and not a monologue!
This is in fact peer assessment and students learned how to use the conditional tense and how to give opinions in Spanish, some very important language skills.
Download the file to use with your students: comentario.blog

Answering a comment: students not only had to comment other posts but also had to take time to answer their own comments. I wanted students to realize that if people take the time to comment your work, you should also take the time to respond.

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