Blogging For a Capstone Language Course

Last Spring, I taught a class I called “World Tour and Literature in French”. This was a capstone course and a graduate course. Inspired by my dissertation advisor’s course, we read different authors from all over the world who wrote in French.

I remember taking this class my advisor taught and thought, wow!!! There is so much of my own personal experience with these languages! The relationship to French, Creole and English felt very personal to me. Since then, I wanted to include some sort of journaling to it. Since I started documenting my teaching, I decided to document my students’ journey via a class blog. My students participated voluntarily and for this purpose I have had the permission to share some of their work.

My hypothesis:

The journaling component is a great self-reflexive tool and since this was a capstone course, it would bring closure to a lot of undergraduate students.

 

Why I chose blogging:

I love blogging and thought, as opposed to the plain platform of discussion boards and them typing their reflections, I wanted a common page where they would share their insights and see their classmates’ insights as well.

 

How to set it up?

Blogging was made relatively easy with the platform we have here at NCSU. We use Moodle here and when opening up a Moodle space, I can also decide to create a WordPress site. This site can be private (viewing to your class only) or public. You’ll have to make your students being able to post and/or write comments. Here are the instructions to get your WordPress site set up at NC State.

 

What were some of the prompts:

  • Speaking about their own language and the French language and other languages they can speak. How do they relate to this language? Which one is their favorite to use and why?
  • Interview someone who speaks several languages, preferably French and another language and what their perspective is in terms of using this language?
  • Read out loud: Read an except from the literature we have read together and explain what this passage means to you, how you can relate to it, personally, emotionally, professionally..
  • Class lessons: what are some of the takeaways you are leaving our seminar with.

 

What students said about it:

 

“I liked how they were sometimes videos, but other times was just audio. The diversity made the assignments much more fun and not mundane.”

 

“I truly felt that this was an excellent culmination to my French studies at NC State and appreciate your instruction, Dr. Montlouis-Gabriel.”

 

“The blog was fun and well constructed. Really got me to appreciate literature and culture and self-reflect on my own use of this language”

 

Why it worked:

  • Students make the course material resonate with their personal experience and they get to share that with their classmates and I. They all had a fun/funny/sad/unfortunate story about the misuse of a word in a language or a difficult experience with the language. And  being able to speak about it, is key.

 

  • It takes the “me too!” tangents out of class and makes the texts a constant place for reflection. We tried to really focus on textual analysis and cultural aspects during class. And while anecdotes or personal experience are always welcomed in class, it can sometimes distract from our class objective.

 

  • This can be good for your introverted students! I gave students a variety of ways to share their experiences: voice recording (no video), video recording of themselves or typed response. A lot of them got creative using music and other resources for their blog posts.

 

What I learned and will do differently:

There are many ways you could have structured such a task, but this one was one for the books. I truly enjoyed listening to their inner musings about language and I thought this was the most fun assignment.

In the future, I will make a rubric available. As this was a trial run, again, the students made their participation voluntary, and I was grateful for their feedback along the way.

 

Here’s a sneak peak of the blogposts I was allowed to share!

 

 

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