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Give Them Homework They
Using Online Forums to Teach Writing
Natasa Bozic Grojic
What’ll We Be Doing?
•First I’ll tell you something about my
•Then we will look at some practical ideas
for writing activities
•Finally we’ll look at some issues
•There’ll be some hands-on activities
•There will be free resources and links
Your Dreams Out the Window
If you could see
anything out the
“view” would you
choose? Think of
to your teaching
classroom, or your
everyday duties at
Did your dream involve any of the
•Motivating your students to do more
•Exposing your students to authentic
reading and listening materials?
•Helping your students practice their writing?
If your answer is “yes” to any of the
...then stay with me.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I
believe I have asked some useful questions.
My Teaching Situation
•I work with busy adults.
•No grades, no way to “force” them to do
The Global Supermarket
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by David Blackwell.:
How do I share my online resources with
•Both the students and I access the
resources from home
•When it comes to technology, I teach
“mixed ability classes”
•Tools that are easy to use
•Forums encourage conversation
How do I motivate the students to write?
To answer this, I had to look at their
reasons and excuses for not writing...
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by jDevaun:
Can’t write:( I have
•Give them something to write about (an
image, a video clip, a text)
•Tell them to keep writing and not to worry
•Make the tasks short
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Paul
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Photomatt28:
•For my teaching situation, the platform I want
them to write on has to be easy and
straightforward to use
•It also needs to encourage discussion
•I use Yahoo Groups for discussions and a
PBWorks wiki as a support site
•I often add a Facebook Group to this mix
•To create a tasty meal, use only the best
cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by toholio:
to describe, tell a story, speculate...
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by seier+seier:
•What is strange or unusual about this picture?
•If you could see anything out your window, what view would you choose?
•If you could see your dream come true when you look out that window, what
would you see?
•Have you heard of the expression “My ship has come in”? What would that
mean for you?
Search Tools: Compfight
If you are planning to embed the image into your website,
don’t forget to set Compfight to search for Creative
Commons licenced images.
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by PatrickYHC: http://flickr.com/photos/patrickyc/7849458552/
How did the
trolley end up in
the wood? What
here? Write a
You can l i nk back t o any
i mage on t he web, not
j ust CC i mages
That way you can f i nd some r eal l y
beaut i f ul i mages
f or your di scussi on f or ums.
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by
Search Tools: Flickriver
If you decided to write
a story using this
picture, what kind of
story would it be?
Thriller, horror, love
story...? Would it
have a happy ending?
Listening followed by writing.
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by trindade.joao:
Time 10 Questions
In their own words: "A selection of
reader-submitted questions on
TIME.com serves as the basis for a
candid interview with each
10 Questions for Sting
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Scott Ableman: http://flickr.com/photos/ableman/1883979655/
From 10 Questions for Sting
Some Ideas for This Video:
•Watch the interview and write down the questions
•Come up with 10 new questions for Sting. What
do you think his answers would be like?
•If you had to give an interview, what would it be
•Which famous person would you interview for the
10 questions site? Write 10 questions for them.
•Write 10 questions for your teacher and interview
•Pamela Meyer – How to Spot a Liar:
•Sir Ken Robinson – Do Schools Kill Creativity:
•Angela Mayers – You Matter:
•Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech:
•Great because they can be used in many
different ways and adapted to various levels
•What would you do with the following clip?
Write down some questions you would ask
your students? At which stage of the course
would you use it?
The Tree - Activities
•1. Why did the boy try to move the tree? Surely he knew he wasn't strong enough for
•2. Why was the boy first joined by the children? Why did they look so happy?
•3. Discuss: "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are
the ones who do.” How would you define the boy? A born leader? A crazy kid? Or just
someone who felt that he had to do something?
•4. Why did the people join the boy?
•5. Give the clip a new title.
•6. If you had to define the force that had moved the tree, what would you say? Was it
the boy's initiative? Or the team spirit of everybody else? Both? Something else?
•7. Can we always change the circumstances in which we live, or are we sometimes
•8. How important is team work in today's society?
•9. How important is team work in a language classroom?
•10. Do you feel that you are a part of a team in your classroom? Why/not?
•Now retell the story in the first person singular, pretending to be one of the people you
saw in the clip.
•Video at YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
•These can be much longer than the ones
you do in class. Since they are written for
native speakers, they tend to be more
difficult too. You can help your students with
a vocabulary list if you feel they need one.
•Reading for gist, skimming and scanning
can be practised.
•Both fiction and non-fiction can be used.
•These texts can follow the students’
interests and expertise, as well as the topics
in the textbook.
•Students should feel free to suggest their
own texts and topics.
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Thomas Hawk:
This was the topic that was done extensively
in one of our B1 textbooks. We extended it
even further with online reading activities. We
“travelled” a lot during that course.
cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Tambako the Jaguar:
Let's imagine you can stay in any of these unusual but
Which one would
you choose? And why? What would you do there?
Is there a hotel you would never stay in? Why?
Tools – Storify storify.com
•Lets you create “stories” by putting together
text, video, tweets and images. And you can
add your own comments in between.
cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by lachicadelfagot:
Planning A Trip to London
Our generous school has decided to send one group of students to a trip to
London. You were selected as the best group.
There is one catch, however. Everything you do in London, you have to do
So, plan carefully...
Each student will be responsible for one day of your stay.
Plan what you will do in the morning and what you will leave for the
afternoon. Where will you go in the evening?
Browse through the websites listed here and choose carefully.
Don’t forget to comment on what other people have chosen. Do you agree
with their choice? Or would you prefer to do something else?
•Conversations are slow. What takes a
couple of minutes in the classroom, might
take days, even weeks in a forum. Learn to
What You Might Do
•Ask for a lot of feedback
•Encourage everyone to participate
•Talk in private to the people who are not
•Discuss forums in class
•Let them suggest, change, share
•Don’t interfere too much
•Learn to step back
Mistakes – to correct or not to
•Don’t correct in the forum
•At first, just let them write
•Send them their mistakes in a private email
•Provide additional exercises
•Help them learn how to auto-correct
•My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
•My blog: http://lunas994.blogspot.com
•My eportfolio: http://www.netvibes.com/lunas994
•My class wikis: http://coffeetimecentral.pbworks.com
•Links from this presentation: