Friday, March 13, 2009

A New Blog

This semester I am teaching the Reading/Writing/Grammar component of our Intensive English Program at the beginning level. There are only six students. One began the semester almost a total beginner (she already knew the alphabet, a few numbers and some random words). Another studied English grammar but somehow managed to avoid learning much vocabulary. The other four are more typical false beginners. I wanted to blog with them but felt having them create their own blogs was unrealistic. I ended up creating a blog for them: MEI Level One.

I've tried to make the blog a mix of text and audiovisual, to appeal to different learning styles and needs (four students are Asian, and two are Middle Eastern). Most of my posts concern the grammar we are studying in the class. I started out with a short post on parts of speech, because this wasn't in their textbook, but I felt they needed to know what nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and prepositions were. Then I discovered a treasure trove of grammar lessons on YouTube! I enter the topic I am looking for, e.g., present simple negative, in the YouTube search box, and then browse through the many offerings. An American teacher named Paul has over sixty short videos consisting of himself using a whiteboard and a marker to explain grammar points. Others use pictures and videos to make their point. I've found a few professional videos, like the GrammarRock prepositions video (too advanced for my guys but fun) and have used some of Mike Marzio's Real English! videos which feature the structure we are practicing. In addition, I've posted some songs (a couple of which were suggested by the students). Altogether there are 30 posts so far (we've just passed the midterm). I sometimes have the students explore the blog during our computer lab hours, and of course it is always available to them whenever they are on the Internet. I can't say if they use it much outside of class, but in the lab when I let them access it, I have never had problems with students surfing to other sites. I think they like it.