TESOL 2.0: Using blogs in three ways

Joachim Castellano, Jacob S. MacLeod, Tara E. Tarpey: Teachers College, Columbia University


Quick guide

  • Key words: blogs, Internet, technology
  • Learner English level: High intermediate to advanced
  • Learner maturity level: High school and above
  • Preparation time: Semester-long project
  • Activity time: Semester-long
  • Materials: Internet-connected computers, web-based email accounts


Blogging is a useful language-building activity for in-class and homework exercises, in both formal and informal contexts. The curriculum outlined below showcases ideas for three potential uses of this technology: a class discussion blog, a vocabulary blog, and a class project blog. It is based on the TESOL 2.0 project, which investigated the integration of media and technology at Teachers College, Columbia University.


Step 1: Collect email addresses from all of your students. It is recommended they provide an address with a web-based account (such as Google’s Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail), not one associated with a cell phone. If they don’t have such an account, help them set one up.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with three uses for blogs and decide which style best suits your teaching goals and situation (see Appendix A for URLs to sample sites).

Class blog

This is an informal blog where students post and reply naturally and freely to each other without concern for using precise grammar or being graded. To maximize activity, it is key that at the beginning of each class students are given time to discuss recent blog posts. Although topics are student-generated, you can suggest topics as necessary.

Vocabulary blog

Here students actively search for new words and phrases, whether advanced, idiomatic, or colloquial, to teach their classmates. On this blog, students post a word or phrase and provide hints to the meanings by way of example sentences or digital photos they have taken themselves. At the start of each class, students try to guess the meanings of posted vocabulary entries by following the given clues. As a follow-up activity, students can post narratives using the new vocabulary they have learned.

Project blog

This format involves the semester-long creation of a single netzine, or online magazine, to which all of the students contribute on a regular basis. In addition, students have to be responsible for editorial decisions. This activity not only increases language skills, but also builds confidence in communicative ability, as the blog is a "published" project. The netzine should be a media-rich environment, incorporating soundand images, as well as written text.

Step 3: Create a blog using a free service, such as Blogger, Wordpress, or Vox (see Appendix B for URLs to these services).

Step 4: Invite each student to the blog via their email address, making sure they have permission to post entries and add comments.

Step 5: In the first class of this project, introduce the concept of blogging, what sort of blog the students will maintain, and why. If possible, get student input on some of the design and content particulars. The site should reflect the level, interests, and background of your students.

Step 6: For the next several classes, determine weekly assignments that increase gradually in linguistic difficulty. As the semester progresses, encourage students to suggest their own weekly assignments in order to complete their vision of the site.

Step 7: Each week, facilitate a student-ledfeedback sessionin order to review recently submitted assignments, brainstorm ideas, make editorial decisions, and assign tasks.

Step 8 (optional): At the end of the semester, help students organize a launch party in which they unveil their website to a public audience (fellow students, friends, or family).


These blog activities are examples of the wide range of possibilities blogs have in the classroom. Ultimately, for blogs to be most successful, you must actively participate with your students and incorporate them into class discussions.


TESOL 2.0 website, Teachers College, Columbia University <tesol2pt0.pbwiki.com>



Appendix A: URLs of sample blogs

Class Blog:                  <www.cepwizards.blogspot.com/>

Vocabulary Blog:        <cepwordsimages.blogspot.com/>

Project Blog:               <timeoutcephome.blogspot.com/>

Appendix B: URLs of free-blogging services

Blogger:           <www.blogger.com/start>

Wordpress:     <wordpress.com/>

Vox:                 <www.vox.com/>

Note: Other free blogging services exist and can be found by searching the Internet.

Appendix C: Sample semester-long timeline for creating a Project Blog

Week 1: Creation of the netzine blog- Decide upon title, format, sections, and content with your students

Week 2: Conduct interviews (including Q&A, bio, direct quote, picture)

Week 3: Audio sound-seeing tour- students walk around a neighborhood they know well and describe what they see into a portable recording device

Week 4: Event promo (text, graphic, or both)- students promote an actual event they may attend

Week 5: Feature article using text and multimedia- on any topic of choice

Week 6: Three reviews using a rating system, pictures, and text- reviews can be about restaurants, museums, stores, or concerts

Week 7: Commercials- In small groups, students plan, film, and publish commercials to advertise the netzine

Week 8: Advice column- Each student provides advice on a different topic, answering fictitious letters from classmates

Week 9: Free contribution- Students publish something of their choosing

Week 10: Final editing, presentation, and preparation