Want to inject a bit of life into your class with technology but don’t know where to start? Or are you put off by the amount of choice and limited by time and technical know-how?
If so, this article is for you. We have identified 5 easy-to-use technologies to spice up your TEFL classes and get your students enjoying learning English using IT. Each idea requires minimal set up and know-how. It's also free to use.
We are assuming that there is 1 PC or laptop with internet access in your classroom and that your students will have internet access at home. We have also also pointed to a few offline related activities for optimum exploitation. Also, most of our activities are suitable for adult classes, but some could easily be adapted for teens or even younger learners.
OK, let's go.
1) Intervue Me
Check out this really useful video response site called Intervue me. Basically, with just a click, students can enable the webcam on the computer to record themselves. It works really well if you post up a question and then have students respond to it by video, giving them valuable speaking practice, and you the opportunity to review their comments. Note that videos can be viewed by others.
Idea for use in class: in pairs, students write and refine a response to your question and then come up, a pair at a time, to record their response to your set question.
At home: students listen to their classmates’ responses, vote on the best response or the most entertaining for feedback in class. You review the response to ensure corrections for word use, pronunciation and fluency.
Extra: a good extension idea is to use it for practising reported speech - e.g. ‘Julian said he liked relaxing holidays’.
At Yvond (previously Animoto), you and your classes can create your own animated stories and dialogues. It is quite easy to do. Firstly, choose the setting from one of the Yvond templates, then select your characters and type in or record your character's dialogue. Once it is complete, click 'View' and your students will be able to see their videos. Very easy. As it is web based, students can use it from home as well.
In class: students prepare a dialogue (maximum of 10 exchanges) around a theme or language point of your choice.
At home: Students make the animation incorporating their prepared dialogue. See my example, which took 5 minutes.
Extra: if they have chosen to type in the dialogue, the words will be spoken by an ‘actor’s’ voice. This has a slightly unusual intonation since the individual words are spliced together. Get students to role-play with the correct intonation. Excellent for pronunciation and fluency development.
Most people have heard of the free telephone service that Skype offers via voice over broadband internet. It's free to download and Skype-Skype calls are free. However, have you considered how useful a tool it can be in a classroom?
Idea for use in class: have an English speaking friend or relative call on Skype during one of your lessons and allow your students 2 minutes each to ask questions of them in English. My daughter did this in her Arabic class and it really bought the language to life.
At home: they prepare questions to ask in advance. Think of typical questions for a person who comes from that country. Refine in class in pairs and by guessing how the relative/friend might respond ahead of the call. Only those who have prepared get the chance to speak on Skype!
Extra: Conference calls are a great feature of Skype. Divide your class into 'Skype' groups with 3 or 4 in each, set questions for discussion each week and encourage them to meet at home via Skype to discuss. Have a regular feedback slot in class.
4) Word Clouds
This is just so fun and visual we had to include it. We also think it is the easiest of the 5 technologies to access. With Word Clouds any text you type in can be rearranged at the click of a button to create 'word clouds' with higher frequency words given prominence on the page.
Ideas for use in class and home: students prepare a short list of things that are important to them or that they enjoy doing and then type this into Word Clouds. They rearrange the list in a style to suit their personality. Get students to save their work to the Word Clouds gallery (with a class reference code so the class work can be easily found).
One for adults, this, but can be quite effective if your students are into social media. Everyone knows Facebook and we can harness its power, allowing our students to connect socially. (Be aware that FB has a minimum age restriction).
Start a Facebook group for your class/school. OK. If you’re not a FB user, there is a little more to it than ‘click and go’ but once set up, you can use it as an interactive forum, a place to extend studies and even 'socialise' in English. It will require monitoring, and an effective group needs the administrator to be consistent, not just leaving the the odd response or post. Otherwise students will get bored and leave.
Ideas for use in class and home:
*Post homework on the Facebook group. This requires students to log in and interact.
*Set questions via the 'Ask question' button at the top - this allows you to run a simple survey. Get students to explain their choice and award a prize for the best response.
*Find a good video on YouTube, or post your own. Have students view it and then answer simple questions about it. This enables them to practise English listening and writing skills.
*Get students to give you ideas for materials for homework - or to post an interesting clip (in English) on a theme your group chooses. Ask them to explain what is good about it.
*Start writing a group story - where each member has to write the next sentence of the text. Or share jokes, poems and new articles.
*Post a Phrasal verb and see who can get the most uses out of it, e.g. to give up.
Extra: elect a sensible, keen FB user from the class as ‘admin’ who can monitor and will take a lead in posting comments as well as you and get ideas for great free TEFL sites to link to in your FB posts.
Enjoy using technology in your class! If you are using some already, why not share your ideas below.
http://www.nikpeachey.blogspot.com/ More ideas from ELT /technology guru Nick Peachy
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