Use Blogs in Your ESL Class and Join the Blogosphere!
What do the words photobomb, binge-watch, throw shade, face-palm, NSFW and trainwreck have in common?
No, I’m not talking about the movie “The Hangover” or your students’ stories about their crazy weekends.
These are all words that were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017.
Every year, the gurus in the dictionary world decide which words deserve official recognition, and then induct selected new words into the English language.
Sometime in the last 10 years, we welcomed another member to the family of dictionary-approved words: blogosphere. “Blogosphere” refers to the world of blogs and the people who write them. But for teachers, that word can mean so much more.
Blogs are actually a great resource for teachers and students alike—if you know how to use them effectively. You can find a blog about nearly any topic out there, from a blog that converts pop songs into Shakespeare-style sonnets, to one dedicated to making food that appears in anime, or another that’s all about criminals in small town Pennsylvania from 1930 to 1960. Yes, people write about all those topics and so very many more.
Whether you’re a blog newbie, an avid blogger yourself or anything in between, you’ll find that the following blogs are great tools to have on hand both inside and outside the ESL classroom.
In this post we’ll go through six different ways to use blogs with your ESL class, and I’ll give some examples of specific blogs you can use in each way. So take a deep breath as we dive into the blogosphere.
Everything ESL Teachers Should Know About Using Blogs in Class
Blogs for Students to Read
Blogs make great reading resources for ESL students. No matter what topic you’re currently covering, from sports to family, from jobs to food, the blogosphere will welcome you with open arms. If you can think of a topic, odds are someone writes a blog about it.
And when you want your students to do some research, sending them to a blog can be a great way to connect them with information that’s presented in clear and engaging ways.
Here are some great blogs you can recommend to your students:
1. English for University
This is a great example of an informational blog, and it’s just perfect for ESL students heading to study in English at a university after completing their language studies. On this blog, your students can find information on all things related to universities.
2. Inspiration Lane
Here’s another great resource for ESL students since every day it posts new reading material with language learners in mind. Inspiration Lane is teacher friendly, and they’ve designed their page so you can project it directly onto your whiteboard and use it in class to get your ESL students reading.
Blogs for Social Interaction
There’s a reason it’s called social media. Today, many social interactions happen through a virtual lens, and commenting on blogs is a very practical way to do that. If you aren’t sure just how commenting on blogs works, here’s a great article on how to do it well.
Basically, your ESL students can have conversations with the bloggers who post the content. Those bloggers may even respond to your students’ comments, thereby opening up an authentic dialogue opportunity.
There are three simple guidelines to making a good blog comment. First, give the comment context. Your students’ comments may be far down the page after the article they’re commenting on, so it’s always good to give comments some context. Students can quote from the article, paraphrase a passage or summarize what they read, and all of those are great skills for ESL students to practice.
Secondly, comments should be respectful. In many ways, our society has forgotten how to agree to disagree. When different cultures come into the mix, disagreements are bound to happen even more often. That’s perfectly fine as long as the comments are respectful.
Finally, encourage students to give a reason for what they’re saying, that is, to explain why they feel the way they do. One-word comments are not helpful to bloggers. To encourage a true conversation, even one limited to the comments section of a blog, encourage your students to express themselves clearly and completely.
3. Connected Teaching and Learning
If you’re looking for a place to start up a conversation, try this blog. Teacher and blogger Ann Michaelsen writes about various educational topics, but she also has links to several student blog pages (they’re listed in the right column under “Student blogs”), many of which are remarkably well-made and interesting. Encourage your students to leave a comment and strike up a conversation with any of the students there.
Blogs for Classroom Communications
Not every blog is made for the entertainment of the masses. In fact, in recent years some teachers have started their own blogs solely for classroom communication purposes.
Blogs are a handy place to post syllabi, daily assignments and other reference materials.
Also, if you’ve considered implementing a flipped classroom, your blog is an ideal place to do it. You can post links to informational videos, interactive practice sites and other resources for your students to read or watch while at home. Then, in class you can use the information they’ve already studied for extension activities. Plus, with a flipped classroom there’s not just one right way to do it.
Here’s another blog that can help you with your classroom communications:
4. Work Source ESL
Kyra gives a great example of a classroom blog at Work Source ESL. The blog was last updated several years ago but you can still use it as a model or for inspiration when you want to set up a classroom blog for yourself and your students.
Blogs for Self-Study and Independent Work
I have a friend whose three-year-old son has learned to read solely by using a tablet on his own. Surely you have seen that some students in your classroom simply flourish when it comes to independent study through electronic media, and that’s where the next category of blogs comes into play.
Independent work is great for almost all students. Besides being one of the seven learning styles, students benefit from independent work in many ways. Students who are flourishing in class can find lessons related to new material. Students who are struggling can review material you’ve already covered. And anyone can take practice quizzes to see just how well they’re grasping a given topic.
There are tons of blogs that are aimed at students who are learning English by themselves or who are looking to supplement their regular classes (in fact, there’s another FluentU article that has all the details about several of them).
Whether they use them at a computer in your classroom, at school during language lab sessions or at home as an assignment, sending students to these type of blogs can help them flourish in their language learning.
5. Mondo’s World
Students can use this blog to find links to activities designed to help improve their English skills. There are listening lessons, links to podcasts, grammar lessons and creative inspiration for writing.
6. Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals
Make English learning fun with Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals, which creates mini lessons centered around movie clips. In addition to grammar, it also has many clips to help develop specific vocabulary.
Blogs for Writing Practice
If nothing else is true about blogging these days, this still is: Anyone can do it. And that includes your students. In fact, blogging is one of my favorite ways to get students writing real-world material.
If you have a blog, use it to introduce students to blogging by letting them write guest posts. You can have pairs of students work together to write a post which you can proofread before posting. Or take some time to help students set up their own blogs. Either way, make sure students respond to any comments on their posts, which is another way to foster social connections in the blogosphere.
You might be surprised at how many people may be interested in making or reading a personal blog, and students who are learning English overseas can use their blog to let friends and family back home know a little more about what life is like wherever they’re studying.
Edutopia is a great blog for educators. This post can get you started on a blogging life of your own, and it shows you how to bring your students along for the ride. It talks about why you should start a classroom blog, and mentions all the things you should know to get started, including different resources.
Blogs for the ESL Teacher
Don’t let your students have all the fun when it comes to blogs! ESL teachers will have no lack of engaging material when they see what blogs have to offer.
8. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
You don’t have to do the job of sifting through ESL blogs and searching for content by yourself. Larry Ferlazzo does the work for you on his blog, where he reviews a different ESL blog every day. And while what works for him may not work for you, his blog is a good place for any ESL teacher to start compiling a list of their favorite blogs.
9. An ELT Notebook
This site is another great teacher resource. It features different EFL methodology and is useful for all teachers, whether you’re in your first year or your fiftieth.
That was the basics on blogging for ESL teachers, including six ways you can use blogs to help improve your teaching and your students’ experience.
And while I’ve only mentioned nine blogs here, with a little time and a few clicks, the entire blogosphere is yours for the taking.
So get clicking and bring the blogosphere into your classroom!