Blogging with ELL Students

I’ve been working with Mike Cimba in his General Life Skills class at Barton Secondary School. This is a class that not only struggles with English, but finds themselves faced with difficulties attempting to understand each other’s disparate native languages.

We have set up a Group Blog to allow for contributions to conversations initiated both by the students and by the teacher. Utilizing the power of Google Translate, we have added a widget on the side of the blog that allows the students to translate the English posts into their native language.

But then… the eureka moment occurred quite organically halfway through the class when one of the students wrote a post in Portuguese, and another student rendered it in Arabic so that they could understand it. Suddenly these two students, who had shared a classroom for months, could communicate with each other.

Well, almost. Portuguese is written using a standard QWERTY keyboard. So the the Arabic speaker can read, but still cannot communicate back to the Portuguese speaking student.

Adding an Arabic keyboard (or any keyboard that doesn’t use the standard Western alphabet) is difficult in Windows XP, not to mention the expense of needing to have access to all of the different keyboards that might be necessary within a multilingual classroom.

Enter iOS (the operating system for iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad devices).

In Settings > General > Keyboard > International Keyboards we have access to a huge number of keyboards. Enabling the Arabic keyboard as an example, we can then go into the WordPress App (a free download) and enable posting using that enabled International Keyboard.

This will enable these students to connect in ways they never dreamed possible.

Have I mentioned how much  I love blogging in the classroom lately?


Published by jarbenne

Jared Bennett is the Student Information System Consultant at Hamilton Wentworth District School Board.

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  1. Thank you! I was just looking for a way an Arabic student could write with out having to buy a key board! Perfect!

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