Friday, May 29, 2009

English Logs 2.0

From the beginning of last year, my students have been using what I call English Logs. The are notebooks where the students record their evaluations of and reactions to the class. In addition they include a one-line journal where students write about themselves and their activities in brief entries that can only take up one line in their notebook.

The format that I have asked student to use is as follows. It is an adaptation of the format Duane Kindt has posted on his site.

Class date:                         English Target:
             English Used:
(1= not much,  2 = OK,  3 = good  4= Very) 
     DID             Interesting      Useful         Difficult
2) One line journal
3) Comment: 

The students are expected to write about their class and their personal lives for five days out of seven a week. In the top section they are expected to copy the day's class plan from the blackboard and then evaluate each point as interesting, useful or difficult. I also expect them to write one comment in the comment section. That will earn them average mark of 7.5 points out of 10. They can earn higher marks by asking questions, elaborating on responses, and drawing pictures that are connected with their class work or personal lives.

These are the objectives of the basic English logs.
1. frequent writing
2. frequent feedback on learning
3. communicate with teacher in English about topics of immediate concern to the students
4. recursive practice with commonly occurring vocabulary
5. provide a venue for discussing class work

Students are also asked to draw in their logs for several reasons.
1. Drawing is a way of showing relationships between things and ideas that do not necessarily involve words, though students incorporate words in their drawings.
2. Drawing is another method of involving more of the students' intelligences.
3. Student drawing is another opportunity for students to be praised for something that they produce. Praise enhances intrinsic motivation and perseverance. It is easy to praise students for their drawings.

The idea of "English Logs 2.0" is to add another dimension to the logs. The original logs were only seen by me and the owner of the log, though sometimes students share the contents of their logs and what I have written. The 2.0 comes from Web 2.0. I first considered using some kind of social networking service, something like Facebook or Twitter, in order to manage students' work, but discovered several problems.
1. Nothing could manage the formatting of this kind of template.
2. Nothing would accomodate students' drawings without advanced posting techniques that I do not want to use valuable class time to teach.
3. Limited computer access, especially at class time, when there are computer classes scheduled, leaving me with no access.
4. Avoid possible problems with uninvited guests.

I ask students to exchange their log with another student in the class for one week. The borrower writes their entries into the owner's book as they would normally write in their own, commenting on the owner's work or on comments or questions that I have written. On the regular submission day, the students submit their borrowed log, and I read the entries as I normally would. On class day I return the logs to their owners. They have the logs for a week, and the process is repeated.

My students have tried this for several weeks, and have been pleased with the results so far. I will write more updates.


Betty C. said...

This sounds like an interesting alternative to setting up a class blog, wiki, etc. It is nice to hear something from a teacher who actually has technology issues in his classroom -- sometimes I get discouraged when I hear all the great things other ESL teachers are doing with computers in the classroom. I have access to a language lab, but it's not always available, and how worth it is it to go just to write a few lines?

I'm far from anti-technology in learning, don't get me wrong! But I work more on encouraging students to use online ESL or authentic English resources OUTSIDE of class, and use them in class as resources and time allow.

Anyway, I ran into your blog through a Twitter RT and hope to keep up.

Daniel said...

I'm with you. I'm not anti-technology, but I'm also not interested in tech for tech's sake. It is really a hard balance, isn't it? Like you, I can almost never get access to computers. My classes are all scheduled at the same time the computer classes, and I find that if there is a cell phone option, my students are happy to try, but without it, they don't want to spend the time in the computer center for English.

Thanks for reading.