Thanks to Edutopia for this recent post on June 20, 2016
As a foreign language teacher, I constantly look for new, engaging ways for students to work on their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in and outside of the classroom. It is also very important to me that they develop confidence in expressing themselves with the language. Confidence is sometimes an issue because of the fear students have of making a mistake, either writing something incorrectly, or pronouncing a word wrong. The fear exists and often it causes students to be more hesitant before responding and not participate as much. The fear of mistakes is not something that is specific to students. Teachers have this same fear, as do all people. I have noticed more this year, than in prior years, that students struggle with this and as a result, it limits their learning potential. So I have worked on finding ways to encourage them to use the language and be creative, and to leave that fear behind.
I took some opportunities to ask students why they did not answer a question on an assignment or a test, or respond in class, and before hearing their response, I already knew what they would say. They “figured it would be wrong” or they “didn’t know the whole answer” so they left it blank or did not complete the assignment. Sometimes the students would even write on their papers that they were wrong, or would draw a big X or a frown next to a response.
Seeing these responses, or hearing their reactions, made me want to find ways to help build their confidence levels and to keep them learning. I tried encouraging them to speak more in class, emphasized that it was more important to try and express themselves and create with the language, rather than worry about being wrong. I thought that by providing opportunities for them to choose a topic, to know that they were not being graded based on perfect grammar, but rather receiving points for having made the effort and created with the language. The way to do this was through blogging.
Blogging helps students develop content area skills and confidence
I thought that blogging would be a good way for the students to have a more meaningful and personalized learning experience because they could choose a topic and write about something that they wanted to. While I emphasized the importance of using the related vocabulary and verbs, I also made it clear that I was more concerned with them using the language, expressing their ideas, and then taking time to look at mistakes and learn from them. Reading their blogs was a great way for me to focus on their individual needs but also to learn more about each student. It is helpful as a teacher to understand where the students are coming from, what their interests are, and their learning styles, and blogging is a very beneficial method to accomplish these tasks.
Some students initially were not in favor of blogging and at times, seemed almost pained at the idea of having to “blog”, however it is really not any different than filling in a worksheet or making up sentences for class. It took a little time, but in the end, many students enjoyed blogging and made their blog posts a very creative and personal space, but also were able to look at their growth over the course of the year, and see the progress that they had made. Blogging is a great tool for practicing language skills and many others, but also a way to look back and see how you have improved. The ease of sharing ideas and creating with the language, plus the increase in confidence, are some of the reasons why I think blogging is beneficial for any student or teacher, but also why it will be a practice which continues in my classroom next school year.