Note: the following is a guest post by Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat…
As online teachers, you are already used to the online world and all that it entails. So, the world of blogging is not going to necessarily be alien to you. Some of you may already be edubloggers, while some of you may be contemplating starting.
In this post, I want to show you why I think blogging is an excellent way of reaching out to learners and acquiring new clients by sharing my blogging experience with you. I also want to show you how to go about starting your blog and engaging your readers.
There are many reasons why teachers blog. So, the first thing you need to do is to:
Ask yourself three questions
Why do I want to blog?
- Do you want to use your blog as a marketing tool?
- Do you want to use your blog as a way to develop professionally?
- Are you looking to create a Personal Learning Network (PLN)?
- Do you want to share teaching ideas through your blog?
- Do you want to acquire more clients through it?
- Do you want to help learners improve their English?
My experience: I started my blog in 2013 with the primary goal of creating and developing my digital footprint as an independent teacher. I needed to acquire new clients, but how was I going to get new clients if they didn’t know anything about me? The only way I could build a reputation of trust and professionalism online was by creating good-quality content for learners. Blogging was the easiest and cheapest way for me to do that.
What do I want to blog about?
- Do you want to blog about teaching ideas, share lesson plans?
- Do you want to share learning tips with learners?
- Do you want to set yourself up as an expert in one skill set like grammar, writing or as a generalist?
In my case: I wanted to write about anything and everything to do with the English Language and English Literature. That could be random musings, my teaching experiences, topical issues and so on.
Who is my audience going to be?
- Teachers or learners?
- If learners, adults or teenagers? What levels – all or targeted? Business people?
Me: I decided to focus solely on adult learners both for Business and General English but not exam preparation.
Creating the template
You’ve got the above three questions answered and now it’s time to create the template. Let’s assume you’ve decided your audience is going to be learners. You need to engage your readers whose L1 is not English.
Put yourself in your readers’ shoes: Just as we tell our learners to think of their audience when presenting we need to keep our readers at the forefront of our minds when we write. So,
- keep your posts brief – long posts are off-putting especially for learners
- think visually – use pictures, good spacing, colour-code vocabulary and explain what the colours refer to (blue – collocation chunks; red – phrasal verbs)
- keep your explanations short and simple- if you don’t understand them, no one else will!
- use plenty of examples that are easy to understand and visually clear especially grammar posts
Variety is the spice of life
Write about a variety of topics such as grammar, literature, listening skills, idioms, learning tips, current events, topical issues – basically anything and everything, well almost everything! You might want to steer away from PARSNIPS.
Variety makes your posts and, therefore, your blog more engaging and interesting.
Language is everywhere
So make sure you show your learners where to find it. It could be in jokes, films, videos, a caption, while out shopping, jogging, at the gym.
Think of a topic and explore the language that emanates from it. It could be while you’re doing your tax return and think of sharing vocabulary related to taxes or you’re at the hairdressers’ and decide to share that experience and vocabulary with your readers.
Use a conversational style with your readers so they can experience how the language flows seamlessly.
Make it real; make it resonate.
Share your personal experiences; by doing so you allow your readers to see the real you. I often share my experiences, sometimes painful, with my readers. I use those experiences to highlight language relevant to the topic. For example, I wrote about my father-in-law’s funeral and with that post I shared the vocabulary related to funerals and bereavement. I received comments of condolences from my readers and also thanks for sharing language that is not normally taught in ELT.
Write about real issues. This follows on from the previous point. Learners need this language whether it’s about gardening, tax returns, ethical shopping, books. I tend to avoid politics, religion and sex but I am more than happy to talk about gender equality and human rights. These issues are not found in coursebooks so it’s your chance to be different.
Share your students with your readers
Teaching experiences or a recent lesson make great post subjects. Blog post ideas often get formed while I am teaching a student. For example, I was working on interview skills recently with a client and that prompted me to share our lesson with my readers. It was a huge success (it was even shortlisted for the Teaching English British Council Blog Post Award for October 2015).
Teaching anecdotes, in other words, stories that come out of a lesson can be a great source of inspiration.
Your students’ ideas could be another excellent source. I had one student who told me that she learned a lot from watching Jamie Oliver’s videos and shared what it is she liked about the chef. This triggered a series of three posts on cooking, food preparation and dining.
- Be yourself – let your personality shine through. Your readers want to find the real person behind your words
- Engage your readers with humour through words and pictures
- Let your blog help you discover your creativity, make you a better teacher and reach out to learners everywhere.
I hope these tips are helpful. Thank you for reading and happy blogging!
A freelance teacher and blogger, I teach Business and General English to adults online and offline through full immersion courses in the UK and Business English workshops abroad. I use my blog, English with a Twist, to reach out to learners and teachers.
Over to You
What blogging tips can you share?
Leave your comments below!