Are you looking for a way to keep your class projects, activities and ideas organized? Have you ever thought about creating an online professional portfolio?
The following blog post is an interview with Jennifer Weiler, an instructor at the Immigrant Women's Centre in Hamilton, Ontario. In the interview, Jennifer shares about her unique blog that features horticultural & seasonal classroom activities.
When did you create your blog, and what motivated you to create it?
I have been interested in creating things for many years. I knit, can my own fruit and vegetables, garden, take pictures, and have recently starting learning how to use a sewing machine. I took courses in horticultural therapy and wanted to incorporate some of the activities into my classroom. Before I started my own blog, I was following a small handful of blogs that prolifically incorporated seasonal activities. In 2011, I created my blog as a way to organize these projects, keep myself motivated in doing horticulturally based activities in my class, and to maintain an on-line portfolio of these activities.
What is the purpose of your blog?
The purpose of my blog is both to keep me on track with incorporating horticulturally based activities in my class as well as share ideas with my colleagues. I hope to inspire colleagues in using these kinds of activities in their classes.
Who is your blog for: ESL literacy learners, practitioners or both?
My blog is for practitioners.
What blogging platform did you use to create your blog? How difficult (or easy) was it to create your blog?
I used Blogger. I found that it was easy to create a blog on this software once I figured out how to upload pictures and change the formatting.
What special design or content considerations are there when creating an ESL literacy blog?
The first step is to determine your audience. You will use different design and content if you are publishing for learners or practitioners. Inspired by other blogs I have been following, I wanted to keep it photo based, with some text to set up the context. As my audience is literacy practitioners, I did not have to adapt any of my language or amount of text as I would have for learners. If I were to publish this for learners, I would likely use icons rather than words, or keep the links to common sight words my students would feel successful with. Also, the content would be more interactive or relevant to their needs and language practice.
What have you learned from creating the blog? What advice do you have for ESL literacy practitioners who would like to create a blog?
I have learned that it is important to have a focus /theme, but to also be flexible so that you do not limit yourself in the future. For example, when I started my blog I was only teaching literacy Foundation and Phase I. However, my class levels have changed since then, so I have incorporated the new and old in my blog. Since I have only a handful of LIFE students in my class, I have included the CLB levels into my ‘tags’ as well as the Phases. This way, I can reach a greater audience of ESL practitioners and keep my motivation.
Do you have any other reflections on blogging?
Anyone can create a blog. In higher levels, learners could also contribute and upload the material with some teacher support. Also, feel open about sharing your blog with others so that your ideas and message will get out to the people you want to reach.
Take some time to explore Jennifer's blog, Cultivating Learning. Then share with the online community about what classroom seasonal activities inspire you.