Leading the online college class
With many students working on computers at home, teachers are learning new ways of teaching their lessons. I recently spoke with English teachers about how they meet these requirements. Teachers seemed to agree on three issues they now face: how to get their students’ attention; persuade students to speak in English; and get them to work with their classmates while being in different places.
Choose students to speak
Wendy Coulson is an English language specialist at the United States Department of State. She currently lives in Mexico.
Coulson works with English teachers in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. She says they tell her that some students don’t speak in class because they think about their social position.
She advises teachers to use a âname wheelâ to overcome this. The free online computer program Wheel of Names allows a teacher to add names and then move a wheel to choose which student will speak. You can also add words or images to the wheel.
Coulson says she sometimes adds verbs to give students a chance to complete Sentences. She finds that they respond well to competition, such as playing games with verbs. They are more likely to speak when she is using the steering wheel.
âI just found out that it really works. Otherwise, they are too quiet. They are all attracted, and ready to do it. They really responded to this, because they are going [say] ‘Oh, it’s me, ok I have to talk!’ “
Kimberley Gamez teaches English at Centerville High School in the US state of Virginia. She uses Classdojo, a website that teachers can use to work with younger students. It helps the teacher to choose a student to speak.
Gamez says she also uses the Wheel of Names program.
âAnd I’ve learned that students find this way less threatening than just picking a student. They get down to it a bit more … “
Teachers get tired too
Many teachers say they are tired of being online for long hours during the school day. Lana Vikhnevich teaches oral communication courses in China. She learned from another teacher that she could record a video to play during her lesson and ask students to answer questions.
âBasically, I would record a short video again on the topic that we discussed andâ¦ then send it to the students, then send it to them. quiz linked to this video.
The thing is, maybe alone or in groups of two or three, they have to answer this quiz correctly, like 100%.
I also spoke with Bita Bookman, who teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College in California. She noted that it was difficult to switch from teaching in person to teaching online.
“ALS the courses are all about group work, right? How do Iâ¦ create this online? It was a fightâ¦ But I discovered Playposit. And it’s wonderful because it’s so interactive, it’s like students are attending a class.
Using the Playposit program, Bookman records short videos of less than 15 minutes each. Then every one or two minutes the video stops and the students have time to interact with it.
“This interaction could be a question … a conversation for students to to discuss with each other. They can write an essay type response.
Playposit is available in the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS).
Bita Bookman also says that she uses many discussion forums in Canvas. She said her students knew enough English to read instructions and do homework online. When she groups students together, she teams up more experienced students with more recent students. Experienced students then help explain how to use online programs such as Google Docs.
Two online teachers are better than one
Back in Virginia, Kimberly Gamez practices team teaching, a method where two teachers lead the same class. She told me that it is necessary to take the time to plan carefully together.
“It’s good to have a second person for this student who may have a technical problem or who cannot find the microphone or I can’t find a link.
Gamez also uses music to fill the air while waiting for students to answer questions.
“So, in fact, I used, in my slides, the background audio … for me, it makes me feel less embarrassing like it’s just music and it’s good that you take your time. I’m not just sitting here awkwardly waiting for you.
Talk and listen to classmates online
Lana Vikhnevich says one of her goals is to teach students to use fewer fills and pauses, or short speaking stops, when speaking English. She starts each online class with a short warm-up activity, like a tongue twister – a series of words that are difficult to pronounce quickly and correctly.
Her students check in on a phone to share with the class and teacher.
“I would give them the tongue twisters, and I would give them a prosodic characteristic to master, for example, the breaks, then they would record. They record all of their sentences, noticing how other peers record their sentences, again focusing on those prosodic characteristics. “
By comparing their recordings with those of other students, English learners gain listening training and research experience. patterns in the language.
“So basically we’re killing two birds with one stone, a little bit of talking, a little bit of listening, and again focusing on the prosodic characteristics in this particular case.”
I am Jill Robbins.
Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this story
phrasing –nm a group of words that expresses a statement, question, order or wish
to attract – v. to attract
to respond – v. do something in reaction to something that has happened or has been done
quiz – nm a short oral or written test which is often taken without preparation
ALS – nm abbreviation of ESL
to discuss – v. have a brief conversation with someone using voice or written words
microphone – nm device in which people speak or sing in order to record their voices or make them sound louder
embarrassing – adj. uncomfortable or uncomfortable
prosodic characteristic – adj. part of a regular or repeated way of speaking or writing, such as pauses, volume and rhythm
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