I received this email message today—
I am an ESL Instructor at [redacted] and I came across your blog and website. I enjoyed reading it and want to try some of your ideas. I also believe in independent reading (I call it extensive reading). Each student reads different books to the ones we read as a class. I have taught my ESL college-bound students for about 10 years requiring them to read a certain number of pages each day depending on their proficiency level. I started this at the English Language Center at [redacted]. It works, and every semester my students thank me for it too. I like your idea of having them respond on a blog. I will try this with my next class.
This blog does not have thousands of readers, but it is gratifying enough for me to feel once in a while that someone finds my work useful. Thanks so much! As I wrote in my reply,
I can’t express what a profound change class blogs have made to writing instruction. I highly recommend them! The details are more important than one might initially think: threaded comments, ‘Like’ buttons, lists of recent comments, number of posts per author, number of comments per author, etc. That’s why I use WordPress with the ‘Atahualpa’ theme, which can be customized so easily. If you start with a free option, I would recommend edublogs.org—run by teachers, it uses WordPress MU (multi-user), which has many (but not all) of the features you can build into an individual WP blog.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
Another teacher wrote to me on the English Companion Ning. We had some correspondence back and forth, and in her latest reply she wrote this:
Thanks for your previous response. The responses from your students made my day, and I’m glad you linked me to them. I’d read some of those responses in June, and I remembered why I wanted to try this in the first place.
I’ve been making some changes to what we were doing. I was having the students answer a question each day about their reading in their diaries, and after looking at what you do again, I realized it was too much. You are right. If we want them to read, we can’t heap extras onto the students that take away from getting them to get into the reading habit. I think it’s going better now.
I was pretty discouraged. Your message helped me, and I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done to help me in succeeding in this.
I thought I’d share a quote from one of my student’s blog entries. She did happen to stumble on a good match for her, but her response gave me a “fuzzy” teacher moment.
Lauren in Missouri said–
My personal reaction to this book was different from all other books I have read. This book grabbed my attention from the first page. As I read this book I didn’t want to stop. I have never wanted to not put a book down. I used to hate reading, and now I hope to find more books like Sweet Hearts.
These two correspondents, and others like them, have brightened my days. Teaching is hard work, and sometimes we do get discouraged—or at least tired :). So if you have learned something, been inspired, or otherwise benefitted from a colleague’s work, please do take the time to write a note of appreciation and brighten up someone’s day.