At Pearson we are continuously impressed by the creative things teachers are doing to motivate their students. Today, we look back at Gabriella Cambiasso’s winning submission from the 2017 Pearson ELT Teacher Award.
Gabriella developed a class blog, called Life in Pictures, to help encourage her students to engage more with written English. The learners became amateur journalists and documented their daily lives. She found that her students were given a renewed purpose to write and became extremely eager to share their stories and experiences with their peers.
Other than the obvious benefits of writing regularly, a class blog can be a great way to provide students with extra reading practice, build community spirit and improve relationships between students, and stimulate out of class discussions.
That’s all very well, but do you know how to start your own blog or what to do with it once you have one?
Follow these simple steps and get your students writing in no time at all.
How to set up your blog
Step 1: Choose a platform
In this post we are going to be talking about WordPress, one of the most well-known blogging platforms. There are no set up costs, it’s extremely easy to use and there are hundreds of design themes to choose from.
Step 2: Choose a name
Once you’ve chosen a platform and selected a plan, the next step is to choose a name for your class blog. Think of something which is relevant to your class and will be easy to remember.
You will also need to fill out what your site will be about (education), the primary goal for your blog (share ideas and experiences) and your experience creating a website (if it’s your first blog – click number 1).
Step 3: Choose a theme
On the next page you will be able to choose from three popular themes which will affect the layout and look of your blog. Pick the one you like best. You can always change this later from the hundreds of available options (or even better – have the class vote).
Step 4: Choose a web address
Once you have your theme, you will need to pick a web address so students can access the site. The easiest thing is to use the same name you chose in Step 1. WordPress will automatically generate a web address using this name. Note it may be ugly, as they add some random numbers as well as wordpress.com. However, if you want to customize your web address you can select one of the premium services.
Step 5: Choose a username and password
The final step is to create your account. Fill in your email address and choose a username and password. You will then receive a confirmation email. Click confirm now and activate your account.
And voilà. You officially have a class blog! Easy, right?
How to manage your blog
Now your blog is set up, you need to give your students access. To do this, click on the My Site tab in the top left corner, scroll down to People and click Add. Fill in their email address, choose their role (they will need to be an Author to publish their own posts) and write a short message so they know it’s you.
You can also use this menu to add new posts, customize your themes and much more. Watch out for the on screen instructions which will appear with useful tips and tricks to help you get the most from your site.
You can also add posts quickly by using the + Write box in the top right corner. Click on it, choose a title and start typing.
It is also worth editing the privacy settings. If not, anyone will be able to find your class blog on Google or other search engines. To do this, click on settings, and change the privacy from Public to Private.
Tips for writing blog posts
Follow these top tips for blogging success:
- Make posts stand out and avoid copyright issues by using free photo sharing sites such as Unsplash or Pixabay
- Remind students to plan their posts before starting
- Have them read through after and check for basic errors
- Have someone else read it before publishing to get feedback on content and style
- Use the Hemingway App to check writing is bold and clear
Activity ideas for your blog
Gabriella used her class blog to get students to share details about their day-to-day lives, however, there are lot of other things you can do such as:
- Summarizing lessons – great if somebody misses class
- Writing reviews of places you’ve visited like hotels, restaurants or tourist attractions
- Making quizzes and answering them in the comments section
- Writing self-reflections at the start of class while waiting for others to arrive
- Describing books you’ve read or films you’ve seen
- Interviewing friends, family, colleagues or famous people
We’d love to hear about what you are doing with your class blog. Leave a comment below and let us know what great ideas you have.