Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Technology

Teaching Languages with Blogs

HISP 150 Intermediate Spanish I
Prof. Montserrat Perez-Toribio

What was it?

Montse had her students do blogging as part of her intermediate Spanish class.

And why did she do that?

For many reasons, including:

  • Using the social nature of blogging to create a "learning community" in which students share and comment on each other's written work
  • Encouraging participation of students who are otherwise reluctant to speak up in class
  • Getting the students started in shorter-form, more informal writing in preparation for the longer, more formal final assignment
  • Encouraging a sense of fun and pleasure in the use of language that is not present in typical writing assignments
  • Documenting student progress over time; with a blog, one can "select out" the contributions of a single student at any time

Blogs also fit well with her overall teaching philosophy, which is to shift the emphasis from the formal, grammatical aspects of language to that of communicating. "Grammar is just a tool. It really doesn't matter if you memorize all this grammar, if you don't know what to do with it," she says. "Blogs are a great tool to encourage students to talk in the target language."

What was the assignment?

Blog participation was worth 10% of the final grade. Assignments varied from week to week. The first blog assignment was a self-introduction (who are you, what do you like to do in your free time, etc.). Other postings regarded favorite cities, childhood histories, life since arriving at Wheaton, etc. Generally, students were required to both post and comment on 5 peers' postings.

One activity that Montse has used to good effect is the "scary story" in which she starts a story in a blog posting, and students continue the story through subsequent postings. It doesn't always result in great literature (Stephen King has nothing to fear, at least not from this assignment), but the students become completely involved in the process of crafting narratives in an unfamiliar language.

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