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Are there unintended consequences to blogging?

It seems the target reader for ELT blogs like this one is on our minds lately (see Joanna Malefaki or Sandy Millin‘s posts). I have to admit that I’m a bit across the board on writing for a target reader depending on my topic at hand (ahh, the struggle with having your hand in several  honey pots, so to speak). Some questions do arise: Do we simply hurl our thoughts about classroom experiences, pedagogical principles, and language teaching debates into the vastness of the ELT social media sphere? Or do we tailor what we say to a particular reader? Generally, I’d like as many interested people read as possible and include their ideas, so I share posts on a number of social media sites with varying taglines or hashtags (e.g. #tleap, #cdnelt, #eltchat, #tdsig, etc.) across several days. But recently, I’ve begun considering what the implications are on perhaps my most unexpected reader: students themselves. 

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In a new term with a new group of EAP students eager to get things going, I’ve always found it a little jarring to jump right into course content (my course is Critical Reading & Writing) even though time is of the essence. Also, I understand the value of community-building activities early on, so I could do the usual type of warmer activity–like Find Someone Who (sidenote: I feel a guttural shudder at the thought)–to have new students get to know each other, but no thanks. While rapport is important, I’m not a fan of activities that don’t connect pretty clearly to EAP reading and writing. I also bore myself to tears when going over a syllabus on the first day. Instead, this year I tried to combine a first-day warmer with a preview of skills that will be introduced and practiced throughout the course.

My main consideration was to simplify a variety of academic reading and writing tasks that students new to academia may not really have been exposed to so that without too many barriers, they could complete them, take a peak at what the course is about, all while getting to know each other. I settled on an identity task in a series of interdependent steps.

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Photo via The Varsity, 2015

With a new academic year upon us and the campus buzzing with tons of first-year students (i.e. “frosh”), it’s making me think of my own induction into first year at university, way back in 1993: all the emotions involved with leaving home for the first time, the anticipation of new courses at a higher level than at high school, and the anxiety I felt with socialising with an entirely different set of people than I had known for the previous five years (yes, at the time in Ontario, high school was that long!). Plus, Frosh Week is infamous for its chaotic set of activities for first-year students. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t realise who I was and how I’d react. And so a little trip down memory lane ensues…

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