by Andrei Shafourin
A previous post summarized some great ways to use technology in the classroom. In this one, let’s focus on how modern technology can enrich the learning process for your students outside the classroom.
TECH-ING UP THE DRUDGERY OF VOCAB WORK
Learning and retaining new vocabulary is always a challenge. It is, of course, important to encourage students to keep a vocabulary notebook to keep a record of new words and expressions. So is reviewing them by making up example sentences. But let’s admit it, those are hardly the most exciting activities. Technology can compensate for that somewhat by making it a little more interactive and a little more targeted.
Using a website like quizlet.com to learn new vocabulary can be one way. Doing a search on the website will show that it has word lists already put together for many ESOL textbooks. Not all of them unfortunately, so you might have to make your own for your class. That may be a bit tricky in a multi-lingual class since you probably don’t speak all of the languages that are your students’ first languages. The solution to that could be to ask one student for each language in your class to volunteer to prepare the word list for their language for the current lesson. The great thing about that is once there is a word list for each lesson in the book, it doesn’t have to be done ever again for that textbook!
Word lists from Quizlet.com can be very easily imported to an app called Anymemo (anymemo.org). Now, the great thing about this app is that it uses a ‘spaced repetition’ algorithm to help the user get the most out of their vocabulary work and get over the toughest words and phrases. Another great thing is that it can use your phone’s speech synthesis capabilities to say those new words out loud as well, so your students can repeat and practice their pronunciation. This will engage the aural and motor memory, too. Anymemo is only available for Android smartphones, but there is an app for the iPhone called Anki App (www.ankiapp.com) that has the same functionality, including imports from Quizlet.com. It is also available for Android and Windows smartphones.
Those wordlist can also be used on the Quizlet website during language lab sessions.
CONTROLLED PRACTICE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Now, your students probably know about the Ventures Arcade online activities (http://www.cambridge.org/us/esl/venturesadulted/venturesarcade/) that they will have done in the language lab (if that’s the book you use). The activities are part of the Ventures course book package. Something else that’s excellent about them is that they can be accessed from any computer connected to the Internet, so students can use them at home to practice the material recently covered in the classroom. It’s interactive and engaging – and your students don’t need you there to correct or help! They get the results instantly unlike workbook activities (which are also important). Reminding the students at the end of each class that they could do this at home is a great idea. You could even put it up on the board as extra homework alongside the workbook pages.
If your students are struggling with a particular structure or grammar point you could even use online activities that are part of other courses but cover exactly the same (usually) grammar topics as the book you’re using. Below are some sources you could use for that:
OUP’s Headway Intermediate – https://elt.oup.com/student/headway/intermediate/?cc=ru&selLanguage=en&mode=hub
OUP’s Result Intermediate –
OUP’s New English File Intermediate –
All the other levels are also available.
Just as an example, you might select “Grammar” as the Language Point and “Show All” to see how many interactive activities are available for just these 3 courses. You’ll also see how easy it is to find something to practice the exact structure you may be teaching or reviewing this week.
Personally, I prefer sending those links to my students via email. They always appreciate the extra motivation from getting an email encouraging them to practice this week’s material in a different setting!
Another way I’ve used email with my students is to share a particularly interesting podcast I’ve come across that ties into what we’ve recently talked about in class.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that while reminding your students about all these activities is important, it should also always be clear to them that all they are is additional, extra materials. It is amazing that they manage to find time for English class in their busy lives. You don’t want to discourage them by overwhelming them with expectations to do more than they can. That said, however, there will often be some students who’ll be doing all of the online activities you email to them and always looking forward to getting the next portion!