How to give challenging pupils a voice

How do you give challenging pupils a voice in the classroom and ownership of their learning? Teacher David Terron describes a simple and effective solution below!

 


Over the years one of the main problems we have experienced in education is the huge effort that goes into getting boys to write, especially at secondary level ready for their Standard Grade English.

One that works for me is blogging. Four years ago I set up several blogs on blogger.com and used them to get my challenging boys to write.  The class had some very bright girls but also a small group of five boys who were disengaged. There was also an EAL pupil, a Spanish speaking lad from the very bottom of Chile in Punta Arenas. Mum had married an RAF serviceman stationed in the Falklands.  The grandparents and all his school friends remained in Punta Arenas. 

 

By being allowed and encouraged to blog daily, he leftmessages in English for his friends in Chile to translate and reply to as well as messages in Spanish for his family. His work rate, overall language skills and comprehension all improved dramatically. He is currently in S6 sitting Int 2 English. By blogging, retaining a link home to friends, family and his heritage the student became much more confident and his English language levels are at least a year ahead of where he would normally be.

 

In the same class there was a group of boys who were unwilling to write at great length or with descriptive sentences. After chatting to them about their favourite things we decided to set up a blog with football reports. These lads were given a clear set of guidelines to follow with the sanction of the blog being deleted if they did not follow the safety rules. Once agreed, they were given free rein to report twice a week on matches. Initially they worked in pairs, then individually as the competition became more intense about the length and quality of their reports!

 

Blogging engaged these lads, and they learned just as much about grammar, punctuation and how to write (and with their own styles). One lad was particularly challenging and disruptive, but he is doing very well now in S5 (Credit level at SG, Grade A/B estimate at Int 2 with Higher next year). The others left with better Standard Grades than expected. Obviously I can’t claim that blogging helped them achieve this; albeit I was their teacher for S3/4 as well... It does however, in my experience, settle most boys down into a disciplined routine of blogging in which they have to plan, draft and then edit/publish. I also used it as an incentive – get the work done with the rest, then they were allowed to disappear to the PC.

 

Why did it work? By giving them ownership – it’s theirs not yours. The group loved adding widgets, images and videos as well as audio match reports from radio stations. The thought that fans from all over the world might be reading their blog and leaving kind comments really enthused the group. In the case of my EAL student, his blog was commented on by people he didn’t know from Punta Arenas and a teacher from his old school very kindly sent a message of encouragement to him.

I have continued to encourage blogging; more so with the recommendation to blog that is part of the instructions for the new Higher writing folios. I had S6 girls last year writing blog posts thousands of words long at times as they wrote a full-blooded novel and honed their writing skills and style.

 

I strongly recommend you give blogging a go!

 


Let us know your thoughts on David's blog by commenting below!

It's easy to set up your own blogs at blogger.com - visit the site and you can create one in minutes!