Monday, April 15, 2013

Podcasts as ESL Listening Activities

It can be difficult to plan and implement an effective listening lesson plan for English as a Second Language students, especially adult students.  While there is a plethora of material out there that relate to activities that develop listening skills for young ESL students that are cartoon themed, or somewhat childish, it can be difficult to find realistic, or authentic, material with which adults can learn that will capture and hold their attention.  While there is always the option of going onto YouTube and searching key words related to the ESL skill or concept you are trying to teach, such as commercials or television show clips, there is another option ESL teachers should be aware of: Podcasts.

Podcasts can be easily created with a recording device or microphone, and access to the Internet.  Teachers can create their own to meet their specific needs that can be published for student access on the website, or to be downloaded onto the students' own mp3 player, or similar device, if they have it.  I was able to quickly find one podcast that would be a great resource for an ESL listening activity for adult students on the website ESL Pod.  The podcast is one of almost 1,000 available for free use.  The podcast, titled ESL Podcast 885- Talking to a Bank Teller, enables listeners to hear a common situation between a bank teller and customer conversing.  The interaction between the speaker and the bank teller is very common in daily life, one that adult ESL students should be aware of and have practice listening and responding to the common activities and conversations that occur inside a bank.  The speaker of the podcast is very clear and speaks very slowly, while explaining the situation and performing the conversation.  This podcast would serve as an excellent listening activity for students as it also includes a written transcript of the conversation, with certain vocabulary in bold font.  This would allow for students to practice the use of this situational vocabulary they would need to have knowledge of if and when they need a service at a bank. 

Many other podcasts are available through this website.  They are organized into certain categories such as entertainment, business, and so on, making it easy to navigate and find a podcast that meets the needs of your students.  This website along with many others are available at no cost to anyone who can find use, and even are created regarding hobbies or interests, all the way to others' political opinions, which can also play their part in many adult ESL lessons.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Making a New ePal!

 Four key words or terms that can be associated with the website ePals are collaborate, communities, social learning, and secure.  These four terms/phrases really help to describe what the website ePals has to offer when it comes to teaching learners in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.

This website serves as a platform for teachers, mentors, and parents to help motivate learners with authentic materials and learning experiences that is done through connecting learners globally with each other or mentors.  Teachers can benefit from the technology-related ideas ePals offers classrooms that can assist a curriculum or provide professional development topics to discuss or add to.  ePals' mission is "to support lifelong learning through collaborative experiences that empower and inspire".  ePals attempts to follow their mission statement through the use of Global Community, a free community that connects classrooms around the world, LEARN365, a K-12 email platform, CRICKET, which offers digital subscriptions of children's magazines, and in2books, a common-core e-mentoring program based around books.

As a future language teacher in the United States, I would be very interesting in using the in2books program to help my students develop their reading and comprehension skills among other literacy skills.  The idea of e-mentoring is somewhat new to me, so I feel this tool would be a great start to working with that strategy.  This program matches students in grades 3 through 5 with adult pen pals who read the same books and then exchange letters online about the book they read or questions they may have.  As a teacher, it's nice to be able to have a program like this where I am able to monitor the letters for appropriateness as well as be able to see my students' thoughts on a story they read or their ability to comprehend the story without flat-out asking them.  This also helps improve students writing skills as they learn to write letters and communicate online.

I would also be interested in learning more about the program called CRICKET.  This program though ePals offers fourteen children's magazines in the form of digital subscriptions that students can browse through according to genre or level.  I feel students would be very motivated to read more if they are able to choose from a variety of magazines and articles.  This would serve as a great resource for my classroom as they are available to students both inside the classroom and out. 


The most fun part about ePals is browsing through all of the "projects" that are available to join as a class.  There are SO MANY ideas that come to mind for classroom projects I could carry out through this website just I get just from browsing the projects already begun.  I found one project titled Class in Country of Georgia Seeks English-Speakers for We Are ePals Project.  This project got my attention because the idea of it is to have students improve their writing skills by engaging them in real-life activities, such as writing emails and arranging video conferences between the classes once a month.  I love this teacher's view of engaging students in meaningful and authentic learning experiences and feel as though this project aligns well with my philosophy of teaching language learners.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Luna's Dog- The Comic Strip

Here is an example of the use of the website!  This site is so easy to use to create your own comic strip, which is exactly what I attempted to do.  It has generic shapes, people graphics, text bubbles, and objects to choose from as well as comic strip layouts.  I decided to create a comic strip to use with young English language learners of the beginner level.  I titled my comic strip Luna's Dog, which contains very simple one-sentence dialogue for learners to read and follow along.  The comic contains six boxes and centers around a girl named Luna and her dog who she lost.  The dog is "hiding" (or really just placed) in relation to different objects.  The dog says a sentence in each strip that contains a preposition as well as an adjective.  This comic strip can be used to have students practice reading English for information, such as where the dog is in relation to objects that provides students practice with learning and using prepositions.  A handout or worksheet can also be created in addition to using this comic strip in a classroom.

Two Nice Classroom VoiceThread Activities

I have come to find two very nice examples of possible uses the website VoiceThread has to offer in a language classroom.  The first VoiceThread activity was completed by Ge Xu and centers around the idea of how television shows may or may not facilitate language learning.  It shows four examples of popular television shows and simply asks a question to both native English speakers as well as non-native English speakers.  I thought it was a good use of VoiceThread to introduce a topic of the role tv shows playing while learning language.  It activates students' thoughts on TV shows they enjoy and connects them with thoughts on how watching TV effects their own language learning.

A second good example of a possible use of VoiceThread during a language classroom activity was an activity that centers around the idea of hobbies done by Kayla Douglas. This activity allowed students to comment on what their favorite hobby is and why.  It's a great way for students to get to know one another, and I like the use of a collage of pictures of items that are associated with hobbies.  The pictures enable VT users to use the pencil tool as well as the comment tool to record comments about which hobbies they enjoy.  This activity would enable students to use new vocabulary used and use phrases such as "I like" or "I enjoy".

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Bubblr Tool

My first time using Bubblr left me with many ideas for using this digital storytelling website in my future language classroom.  I decided to create a short, seven slide story containing just a little bit about the cultural background and a couple traditions carried out within my family.  I decided to title the story All About Me, and would use it in a classroom as an example of what I would like students to create in order to share a little bit about their cultural backgrounds with their peers and myself. 

Creating a story such as this example story does not require a lot of complex language or narration.  It is an activity that can be adapted for each individual learner's level of English.  This can be done by asking higher level English speakers to use certain vocabulary and/or tenses within their story, for example.  An objective for this type of activity could be as follows:

Students will be able to: state where they are from using the present tense; identify and share three facts about their family; write one questions directed towards a peer.

Not Your Normal Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment, used to pass information from generation to generation or for simply passing the time before television, the internet, and other technological advances came about.  An interesting spin on storytelling can be described as "Digital Storytelling".  This type of storytelling "combines a narrative with digital content, including images, sound and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional component", as stated in the article titled 7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling on the website This type of storytelling encompasses any type of storytelling, such as persuasive, historical, instructional, and can even be created as an interactional story that requires readers to choose the next path the story takes or choice a character makes.  The options available for digital storytelling are limitless.

Wooly hat story
 Photo by Rael1

That being said, thinking about how digital storytelling can be applied within language instruction is almost overwhelming due to all of the possibilities it has to offer for students.  Digital storytellers can use free websites like Flickr, for example, to share their cultural identity with a classroom to promote a community of learners who are open to learning about other cultures, beliefs, or values.  Using pictures paired with his or her narrative, for example, promotes ownership of their creation.  This project would be very meaningful for them as students assemble a meaningful story for a specific purpose.  It would be very eye opening and a great learning experience for both the language teacher and peers to listen to a person's story and/or cultural background as it is brought to life by digital storytelling.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Garbage Game

Overall, I've had a pretty productive day today.  I woke up, ate a good breakfast, and created a garbage plan for New York City that was submitted for approval and pleased many people.  I was able to do this by playing a "serious" type of game called The Garbage Game. While I navigated through this game on three different, I thought of some ways it could be used by students outside of the classroom, perhaps as homework or for practice.  This game asks the player to make a series of decisions regarding what to do with waste found in NYC, with lengthy descriptions of the problems NYC faces daily and yearly regarding the volume of garbage and waste it produces.

This is a great way for students to achieve the objective of defining the following vocabulary words: recycle, reuse, sanitary; as well as identify the processes of waste reduction that can be followed in NYC as well as other places in the United States.  This activity would be extremely beneficial as it teaches academic language through content, in this case Science.  Learning objectives could be assessed by the teacher by asking students to submit a printout of the results of their decision making as a "city commissioner", which could then be assessed in class.  A high reading level would be necessary for students to complete this task on their own outside of the classroom due to the lengthy descriptions of each stage of the game.