15 May 2017

Project-Based Blogging in Spanish

If my students learn nothing else in my class, they will learn
  1. how to set a goal and
  2. how to follow through. 


Blogging is a pretty useful tool when it comes to goal setting. Blogs are a record of progress, a place for reflection, and an avenue for sharing--all important features of any effective project. They can be especially useful when the project is self-improvement. The blogs become a way to keep goal setters accountable and motivated.
And from a linguistic angle,  Very novice appropriate, too!)

So how do they blog? What do they blog? When and why do they comment?

It all starts at the dollar store.


Cuadernitos

I wiped out them out. You know those cute little composition books that come in packs of 3 for a dollar? Yeah, I took 'em all. Last year I had to hit another store to get enough. This year I went with the top-bound spiral 3-packs, and I only had to hit one store. I'm willing to drop $15 for two classes for two reasons:
  1. They have no excuse--if their internet is out, they can still write, and they can always carry a cuadernito in their purse or pocket. And we can get started right away!
  2. It's a present--they get a tangible thing that is now theirs, from me to them, to make the whole process just that much more appealing.
Also there will inevitably be someone who has to have a certain notebook that looks a certain way, and some people prefer to just keep track on their phones or online. Whatever works, man. This means, too, that I never have to buy enough for absolutely everyone.

The point is they have a tangible reminder to stick to their routine (we've also been playing with intangible phone-based reminders with Google Keep this semester too--more on that later).

So where does the blogging come in?

Because they are in teams with similar goals, assembled to support each other, EVERYONE posts their week's progress on a blog post once a week (I like Wednesdays). They can take pictures of their cuadernitos or retype it all.



What to write

Establishing a routine is important for changing habits, so I like for the daily posts to be almost a reflex. Keeping the prompt the same for the daily record of progress really helps
  1. reinforce the routine itself
  2. make it so easy they can't not do it (as prescribed by our "textbook" for this unit--an #authres self-help blog post), and
  3. really zero in on problem areas in their writing.
Let me tell you: there's nothing like writing "Hoy yo..."  (#authres "textbook" tip #2!) every single day to finally get that pesky "yo" form solidified! I really wish I had started the semester with it this year like I did last year so that it really had time to sink in before we got into everything else.

If their Novice Mid skills are firmly established, you could write the prompt in the form of questions--but in English. It turns out questions are a key feature of Novice High writing and beyond, so if they are trying to push forward proficiency-wise, if you post, say, 3 questions like this:
  • What was your goal yesterday?
  • Have you accomplished all or part of that goal?
  • What are you doing today?
Sometimes I'll shake things up a bit and have them post once a week--usually in class--some more reflective posts too.
  • What has helped?
  • What problems have you had?
  • What can you do to resolve them?
They could rephrase them in ye olde target language and bump up another level! (I started just posting the AAPPL level their posts reflect--just a comment in the gradebook, a propos of nothing--just to let them know what level they're practicing. They give me seven days worth of writing with all 3 parts I asked for, I give them a 10/10.)


Commenting

If Wednesdays are for posting about progress, Thursdays are for keeping up with your compañeros. They respond to every compañero's progress post with
  1. a message of support and
  2. a specific relevant question
I've also had them recommend a resource in the comments, but I think that would be overkill every week.

It's important to close the feedback loop and make sure everyone A) sees the support they receive and B) answers the questions they're asked. I'd like to have everyone respond to comments on Mondays, but we've kind of been squishing them in on Thursdays too since everything got bumped to the end of the semester this year. 

The best part, though, is that the commenting and responding provide a solid foundation for further discussion, when compañeros can feel really confident using language they've sort of previewed and also clarifying what has been going on with their own goals and what they're going to do next.

The blogs become a bridge to meaningful interpersonal interaction and reflection in Spanish!

2 comments:

  1. What sorts of prompts do you give the novice low students? And, is this homework for your students? I only have my Span 3 blog.

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    1. I mostly use this with students Novice High and above, but I have used it with Novice Mid (Novice Low only lasts about 2 weeks usually) when students just used "Tengo" and "Necesito" as sentence starters.

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