Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

September 28, 2010

Getting your voice heard – authentic writing for English language students

This is second post in a 3-part series about how to write for a wider audience than your English teacher.

Last time we looked at blogging, which is a great place to practise and improve writing skills and attract comments. These can be supportive and constructive but they can also be very critical and even hurtful – this is the risk you take. There are, however, gentler and more modest ways of writing for a public audience.

If you are not ready for the level of risk in blogging or don’t feel that your writing skills are developed enough to tackle a blog then there are other ways in which you can write online for a large audience.

Here are some suggestions.

Comments on other people’s blogs

This is a great way to start writing for a large audience. Comments can be any length so you can begin with a sentence or two and build up to longer comments later. As these are short bits of writing then you can check them for errors before you post. Also, because you have chosen to write this (i.e. it isn’t an assignment set by the teacher) then you can be completely free in what you say and use your own creativity!

If you follow a blog and comment regularly then you will also build up some rapport with the other followers and can enter into a written dialogue with them and maybe the author too!

 

 

from ‘Globally Speaking’ 2004 

Message Boards:

Discussions on message boards give you similar opportunities to those above. Here you are taking part in a discussion with like-minded people and there are many available to choose from, from small English language sites to the BBC site – all available to you and all providing great untapped opportunities for you to practice your writing online.

If you choose an English language message board then it’s likely someone will help you with any errors in your writing. If you choose a wider forum then make sure you follow the guidelines above; start short, check your errors and then build up to longer and more content rich messages. You don’t have to restrict yourself to English language sites,  if you have a hobby or a burning passion about a topic then search out a suitable message board and get started.

With these activities it is important to be mindful of your personal digital footprint. With both forums and message boards you should investigate thoroughly to find the one that suits you and is going to be the best for you to explore your writing. Watch them first, look at the kind of messages that are being posted and if you’re not happy with the content or the tone of the forum then look for another one!

Here are some messages on Gapfillers Word of the Day page

Chat rooms:

Although chat rooms may not seem the best place to practise writing they are in a written format and expose you to the same opportunities. Chat rooms are more tolerant about errors as people are generally writing very quickly to get the message over. This does not mean that it is a free for all! There is a certain tolerance level for mistakes and if you don’t take some care other members of the chat may become irritated. Use the same ‘rules’ as we discussed above and if you attend regularly then you will build not only a learning relationship with other members but a confidence which will help improve your writing skills and allow you to post longer messages with more ease.

This is part of a discussion about studying online – a student’s point of view

Social Media sites: 

There are now many of these from the 140 characters of Twitter to longer but equally functional ‘bits and bobs’ of writing on Facebook, LinkedIn etc.. Use these opportunities to comment. Choose a group within the site with whom you can communicate and the opportunities to flex your writing muscles are endless. Always be careful with your postings, be sensitive to others and watch your digital footprint and you will not go wrong. Finally do your homework – check out the sites, the rules and regulations, the norms and etiquettes and the world of online writing and commentary is yours for the taking!!

Here are some students experimenting with Twitter.

Whatever method you decide to use, it’s time to move beyond the classroom with your writing! Start slowly and safely and increase what you write, or jump in at the deep end and have a go. Just remember you are letting it ‘all hang out’ so treat your authentic writing as you would your homework assignments – take care, check and work towards improvement!

Have fun with your writing!!

Part one of the series Using blogs to help your writing skills, the how, the why and the what

 Other posts in writing:

Warning, mistakes cost marks!

7 Deadly sins to avoid in your writing.

7 Great virtues to help you write well in English.

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September 10, 2010

Using blogs to help your writing skills, the how, the why and the what

This is the first of a 3-part series about writing and how you can explore ways in which to write for a wider audience than your teacher.

Finding an audience critical enough to help correct and enjoy what you write is not easy. Writing a blog, however, might just be the answer!

Before you leap in and launch your blog to an unsuspecting audience you need to consider three questions:

  • How?
  • Why?
  • Where?

How? that’s easy – just grab a blog site, sign up, throw down the ideas (think of a theme?) and away I go!

Why? – easy again – to practise my English (or another language) and network with people – hopefully someone will help me a bit with corrections?

What? –  no sweat, I’ll just do a kind of stream of consciousness thing with stuff that comes into my head!

Where? – now this is a bit more tricky,  teachers would love to see it and so would other language learners – this could be really cool! 🙂

OK, now steady on a bit!!

Let’s consider these questions and the possible implications they might have on your prospective audience, which you haven’t, as yet, considered by the way!

 Right, let’s rewind!

How/Where:

Blog readers are quite a critical audience. They are looking for good, helpful and inspiring information and have high expectations in terms of language and presentation. If you are planning to launch your blog on to the world at large then you have to be very confident that your level of language and breadth of vocabulary and usage is good enough. It might be better to start more modestly.

  • If you are in a class write for the class blog – what, there isn’t one? See if your teacher will set one up or why not do it yourself? A class blog is an excellent way to write in a controlled environment where your audience will be appreciative and helpful.
  • If you are a self-managed learner then look for a site where you can experiment with your blog and get some feedback. Some English language sites allow this. BBC (but you have to apply for this via email) English Club gives you a personal page where you can set up a blog,  Gapfillers has a blog option in member home (you can register free for this). Sites like these have peer correction and teacher support.
  • Or you could set up your own blog community and correct and comment on each other’s work.

Why:

Making your language real is very powerful and satisfying. While it’s a good idea to write in class or for your teacher and have this corrected so you can improve your skills, it is more of a challenge to write for a real audience. Blogging is a real and growing activity and it’s a good way to network, become part of a community and also practise our English skills.

  • If you are writing a real piece for a potentially large audience you will need to take extra care over it both for reasons of quality of language and personal pride. This in itself is a good learning exercise.
  • It is very exciting to get comments on your blog from people you don’t know and this will help to keep you motivated.
  • The more you do the better you should become. A blog requires commitment – it will do wonders for your writing if you work at it.

What:

What you write about depends on you. What interests you? It will be easier to write about something that you are enthusiastic about. Think about your hobbies or your areas of interest.

  • If you choose to experiment using one of the English sites then see what other people are writing about. Do these themes attract you?
  • Do you follow a particular sports team? You could write about them. See what others are saying about your team and come up with a different angle – something like this would help you to build a following and get comments. You can then build a network with other enthusiasts and use this to develop your English skills further.
  • Above all write about what you know and love this way it won’t become a chore and you will always have something new to say.

 So now do your research. Look at other bloggers see what they are saying. Check out the sites and decide which ones would suit you best. Do a test run if you like – ask your teacher or a friend to check it for you.

Here are some posts you can start with.

 The best kept secrets of Edubloggers part 3  Karenne Sylvester

 Students as writers, teachers as audience  Clay Burell

On the ‘mechanics’ of writing:

7 Deadly sins to avoid in your writing   from this blog

7 glorious virtues to help you write well also from here

Now get going, have fun and improve your skills – I hope to swing by and post a comment one day!!

December 8, 2009

My Edublog Award nominations

Filed under: Education — rliberni @ 2:07 pm
Tags: , ,

A bit of a ‘last minute Larry’ but at the eleventh-hour here are my personal nominations.

There is so much out there and the list of  educators producing valuable and thought-provoking content is growing so fast that it’s difficult to keep up!!

My Personal Recommendations for the Edublog Awards 2009

Best individual blog –  Shelly Terrell  Teacher reboot camp

Best new blog –  Teaching village 

Best individual tweeter  – Tom Whitby 

Best group blog – The Afghan Women’s writing project

Best class blog –  Writing4Business   

Best student blog – Marcus Brendel   Der Englisch Blog 

Best resource sharing blog  – Larry Ferlazzo 

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion  #edchat 

Best teacher blog –    Kalinago English

Best librarian / library blog – Bright Ideas 

Best elearning / corporate education blog  Sue Waters

Best educational use of audio – Sean Banville

Best educational use of video / visualRussell Stannard

Best educational use of a social networking service –  Heike Philp’s Virtual Round Table

 Best of luck everybody!!

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