Many of the activities throughout this book support listening and speaking and meet principles of language learning and task engagement as outlined in Chapter 1. These exercises and activities are only a small portion of those available for teachers and learners. For example, One Stop English (see http://www.onestopenglish.com/) has many great ideas for speaking activities in language classrooms. Although not presented as CALL activities, most of them would be effective and enjoyable to do with online partners, especially using audio and video messaging and social networking applications. VW settings are also great venues for practicing listening and speaking skills. At the Sounds of English website (https://www.soundsofenglish.org/) and many YouTube channels (such as https://www.youtube.com/user/rachelsenglish), learners can work on their pronunciation and fluency skills with video support. For content-based listening, the movies at BrainPOP (http://www.brainpop.com/) are fabulous multimedia resources. The participatory discourses, social media applications, and VWs, especially MMOGs, provide great opportunities for engaging tasks that support authenticity, sociocultural interactions, feedback and scaffolding, and a balance of challenge and skill. Depending on your learners’ and your goals, contexts, and needs, computer technologies are available to enhance skills and practice lessons of all kinds.
► Teachers’ Voices
In years past, when I taught Language Arts, I would use music from School House Rock to enhance our lesson plans. For example, when we finished subject and predicates, we would learn and sing “Mr. Morton” (“Mr. Morton is the subject of my sentence. Whatever the predicate says he does…”). They would learn some songs and perform in front of the class. I thought it was very effective because of the catchy way they learned the rules. Sometimes, I would have students come back as eighth graders to my class and re-sing those songs. It may sound corny, but it works!
Are you willing to take the risk of putting students on voice thread? I have enough trouble getting the parents of my students to agree to let them use the Internet sources I have gathered—I know they would never allow me to arrange “chats” even for practice.
When I first received my computers, I tried having large groups at a time go to the computer to teach specific skills. I found that it was not effective nor was it efficient, and that I was slowly going crazy. There were so many questions and problems; I became frustrated, as did my students. Then I changed the format of my computer time. I first showed the whole class what they would be learning on my projector. I then got my class started on independent work. Then I took a small group of seven back to the computers, taught them the skill we were currently working on and that they had just seen demonstrated, and got through the task. I then allowed each of those students to teach the skill to another student, who taught it to another student, and so on. It was a wonderful way for me to check the students’ level of understanding on the computers, it gave the students an opportunity to show what they had learned in an authentic way, and it allowed me the opportunity to individually meet with students. It is a method that may not work for everybody; in my class it’s great. I think it just showed me that in using technology within the classroom, each teacher needs to individualize the management aspect of it to suit their specific needs and comfort levels.
I used e-pals.com to let my class meet other students from a different background which they learned about through our world geography class. Aside from some occasional Internet-related disruptions, I think it was a really good intercultural experience for me and my students. We even mailed a collection of our cultural valuables to them, and so did they. My students were so excited.