Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blogging and Wogging Around

I thought I’d talk about blogging this week and how I’ve found the use of a blog particularly useful as a classroom tool. A lot of my peers are wide-eyed and bushy tailed about Wikis – and perhaps rightly so because of the potential for collaborative work - but for now the ‘old fashioned’ blog is proving to be a more useful instrument for quick presentation of material in the classroom and simple feedback from my students.

Take a look at Week 7 of my ESL Blog for students (recently renamed Dale’s Free ESL Club)

This lesson is a quick 'Sunday night concoction' so don't be too critical. The activities fit with classroom work planned for the coming week and can be adapted across levels. Week 7 fits well with a topic we were covering a few weeks ago : what did you do last weekend? There are also a number of postings on our VOXOPOP site to listen to related to the theme.

A couple of weekends ago I went on an outing with two friends ... a boys day out on bikes! Salami and beer by the Yarra (Italians!) By the way, our outing isn't the "Wogging" referred to in the title of this post. You'll have to keep reading if you want to know about that.

Anyway, I used the FLIP to record our antics. A lot of editing - foul language, emergency road side toilet stops (Italians!) and the like stripped out. While editing I thought about how I could use this little 'road movie' meaningfully in my class and came up with the idea of using PARTS of it rather than the entire film. (Also easier to upload to YouTube).


1. Play PART ONE of the movie to students in class or they watch it themselves.

2. Students predict what is going to happen next (higher levels can use modals such as could / might / probably will, etc) and the lower levels can stick to the use of the past simple. This can be partly brainstormed as a whole group and then be left to pairs or individuals to continue using notes they take from the sequencing exercise - see exercise 2 : snaps from PART 2 of the movie (which they have not seen yet)

3. Students workshop their first draft in small groups (a couple of student examples photocopied and shared around as a point of comparison with their own - one weak example, the other strong).

4. Debrief as a whole class. The teacher can draw attention to the most glaring 'mistakes' and various versions of the story produced by a number of class members.

5. Write up a class version on the whiteboard. Elicit sentences. Write using the 'silent way' technique. Have others come up to the board and correct mistakes.

6. Get the students to use the COMMENTS facility at the bottom of the blog posting to write up their 'self corrected'/reviewed product - as you will see there are still typos, spelling mistakes, some odd expression - but that's ok.

7. At the end of the lesson / or next lesson, play PART 2 of Jules, Jules ... and Dale Go for a Sunday Bike Ride. (Will try and upload PART 2 to YouTube this week).

Let students compare their versions with what actually happened on the day.


Step 6 initially presented itself as a difficulty. I didn't want to keep the COMMENTS section of my blog postings/lessons open because of the potential for abuse and spamming by outsiders. By controlling who could post I realised students had to go through a rather convoluted security process each time they wanted to COMMENT on something. I then thought my way around it. As administrator I simply leave the blog postings OPEN during class time and close off universal access at other times. This works well and provides some level of protection. Those students who access the blog from home are usually savvy enough to go through the convoluted security process of logging into their gmail accounts in order to post, so there's no difficulty there.


This week I also added a link from Google Docs to the blog posting so students can print out the exercises and complete associated worksheets. I recently discovered you can upload word files to Google Docs and publish them as a webpage (Why didn't I see it earlier?! )This is a very convenient facility and overcomes an obstacle blogs present - you can't add files for download on a blog - not very easily anyway. I discovered you can add various GADGETS to do this - but it's a clunky measure. Using Google Docs was an instant and elegant way around the problem - all I had to do was add the Google generated link in the blog posting and ecco la! If anyone knows of other ways please tell me.


POST SCRIPT: Using the COMMENTS section with Beginner Level One

Had a very successful lesson with my lower level class today. Most of these learners are new to computers. We've just installed power-points at every desktop in my ESL classroom and nearly all students in my class have the use of a laptop (with more to come soon). This is fabulous ... I hate 'computer labs'. I want the computer to feel natural, to be just another tool, that can be whipped on and turned off at a jiffy, to be incorporated into activities at the right moment and be left alone at others.

Watching the movie led us to discussing road safety issues. We are reading complex forms across all levels as well as understanding FINES/PENALTY NOTICES and talking about the police ("Have you ever been stopped by the police?")

I found this delightful Danish commercial on YouTube. It fit beautifully with the theme and language learning objectives of this week's lesson (biking, safety, reading complex forms, dealing with the police)

Isn't it great?! I love it and it brings home its message powerfully.

I got the class to construct a class story around the video. They dictated to me. I keyed it into a COMMENT. I then got them in pairs to copy the master comment and post. It took a while for many of the students but they followed the procedure beautifully. Another simple, achievable activity for low-level ESL learners with limited experience on the computer. Take a look at their work in the COMMENTS section of Week 7.

Ebbene ... qual è wogging? trans. WHAT IS WOGGING?

As for the WOGGING. No it's not something Italians do on bikes or on the side of the road when taken short from drinking too much :-)

Five years ago I was a runner - religious 10 kms around Williamstown everyday - until I hit 40 and it all came to a crashing end o0(sounds like my career in E-Learning!)

Years of yoga and a more sensible approach to fitness have restored me and someone suggested recently I take up WOGGING. I thought they may have been casting some smart-arsed, racial slur on my origins but alas no! WOGGING = walking and running.


Wow! It really works ... feeling so much fitter ... and it's a great form of exercise even if you do look like a bit of a dork. Also keeping those kilos (piled on from too much spaghetti) under control! So having exhausted myself writing this blog post I'm off for a wog! Mama mia!

Ciao amici ... ci vediamo!


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