Blogging in a dual-language classroom

As a young child, most of us learned to speak our first language, but not before we spent many years listening to those in our life talking.  By the time we hit the age to start schooling, most of us have semi solidified our language.  The first years of school are then adding to that vocabulary and teaching us to use the language we have in a written form by reading and writing.  The language learning connections that allow us to become fluent in our native language are still open at a young age allowing a second language to be learned with more ease. 

In order for the second language to be developed, authentic language opportunities need to be developed and encouraged, especially if the second language is not spoken at home.  These authentic learning opportunities are important because just like the first years of our lives, we spend them listening and acquiring language, in order to then be able to use the second language as an expression of ourselves.  These authentic learning opportunities need to be cultivated within the classroom and the home life, as much as possible, so that the students think that there is actually a reason or a purpose for it. 

I like to use Kidblog to foster these learning opportunities.   My students are able to receive real language input, both in written and spoken form, as well as being able to produce real output for a real audience, not just the teacher.   Having parents and inviting guests to participate in these blogs is exciting for the students.  Other students’ parents and other guests are able to share in ideas in the target language.  Using the blog for pen pals or connecting classes over distances, even if the distance is across the hall or from one period to another, fosters communication in a different authentic way.  

Students learning a new language rely on images and videos to help relate to the vocabulary needed, new cultural aspects, and grammatical points.  Kidblog, by allowing the uploading of images and videos, makes this aspect easier from both the teacher and student standpoint.  The teacher can upload images and videos and have the student respond to the prompt.  The students in return can respond with written form, images, or video. 

Many language learners are embarrassed by the way they speak the target language, but by having the students record themselves talking and using other applications to create animations instead of having the video of themselves reduces their anxiety of an authentic audience.  The feature of allowing students to edit their work also supports the teacher in reducing anxiety by giving the student control over when they think their work is ready to be viewed. 

Authentic learning can happen in a language learning classroom through using Kidblog as a tool for reporting research made in such projects as Genius Hour, 20Time, and Passion Projects among others.  If you are unfamiliar with these types of projects I recommend looking into them as they give students ownership over the topic or main idea of their learning, using Kidblog in a variety of ways throughout the process, such as brainstorming, a research collection area, a reporting tool, etc. These types of projects allow students to delve into their interests and learn vocabulary that is meaningful to their lives. 

Learning a second language is a challenge at any age, but through the use of Kidblog and implementation of routines in the classroom it doesn’t have to be boring vocabulary lists or lackluster grammar lessons.  Kidblog offers a chance for authentic participation in the language input and output by the students and others who may be invited to share their language with the class.

About the Author
Tabitha is a 7th grade English Literacy teacher in Mexico. She has been teaching in Mexico for close to 10 years, at all age levels from Kindergarten to adult, to students of various degrees of English ability. She has taught GED and TOEFL preparation classes as well as specific English classes for accountants, nurses, businessmen, technology and others, besides teaching Spanish classes for non-natives.

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