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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Graduate Students, Let’s Work Together!

*I am indebted to Dr. Dana Bultman’s own guidelines*

I am always happy to talk to NCSU Graduate Students about their work. First year M.A. students especially should feel free to stop by and chat generally. All students are welcome to set up a meeting via email. I advise students whose interests overlap with any one my research or teaching fields. The advice below is for students who are considering working with me. The clearer we can be about our mutual expectations, the more successful and productive your studies and developing career will be.

What you can expect from me as your chair or committee member:

  • I’ll respect your ideas, goals, personal and academic background, which initially I will invest time in getting to know and understand—so I can better advise you.
  • I’ll provide practical training regarding oral defenses and presentations.
  • I’ll advise you in detail on the technical, methodological and theoretical aspects of your research projects.
  • I’ll give you a realistic and clear evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of your written work in a timely manner. If you are still waiting for feedback after two weeks, I may have been struck by lightning or simply juggling; do send me a clear reminder!
  • Note: if I am a committee member, I will not evaluate chapters of a thesis or culminating projects until your chair has first approved a working draft.
  • I’ll assist you in disseminating the results of your research. Together we can consider appropriate venues for presentations, conferences and publications, and I will review your submissions beforehand.
  • I’ll encourage your professional development by being on the lookout for special opportunities, such as grants, internal and external fellowships, and will support you in the application process.
  • I’ll be there for you to count on whenever you get stuck, but it is not good training for a chair to micromanage a student’s progress or be relied upon as the sole source of authoritative information or empowerment.

 What I expect from you as a master’s advisee:

  •  To keep on top of the deadlines and requirements of NCSU’s Graduate School and be familiar with the information posted on our Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, clarifying all questions you have about policies with me and the Graduate Coordinator as soon as they arise.
  • To take (or audit) the relevant courses offered by the people you want to work with. Professors don’t usually jump at the chance to participate in the committee of an unknown student, so planning ahead and taking the initiative to get to know your resources and possibilities in the program is important. It’s also good to employ thoughtful “upward management” skills.
  • To commit to regular meetings (twice monthly) and to develop a written “master plan” for your progress in which you list goals, deadlines for each goal, and steps for achieving each goal.
  • To manage our meeting time efficiently by preparing a list of questions for us to cover, formulated in advance. I prefer that you send these in an email before our meeting, as our agenda. We will then discuss accordingly. Our standing agenda item will always be to review where you are in your plan.
  • To be able to consider criticism, and to disagree with me and argue your points with confidence. This will allow us to not waste time with niceties and get to the substance of your work.
  • You are the author of your thesis or culminating project. With this in mind, I recommend that you keep a log of the results of our meetings. This can be done via email, sent to me afterwards as a brief recap. It will serve us both as a written record of our mutual agreements. Without it, we just have our wild and windy memories.
  • To be self-sufficient, finding out about and bravely exploring unfamiliar resources, information, and ways of working from peers, librarians and other mentors outside of classes or meetings with me. Strong efforts should come from the student to fill in gaps independently and in conjunction with the networks and contacts she or he is building.

Feel free to email me and/or stop by to further discuss!