Whether you have to teach remotely or you just want to use technology in innovative ways…
Keep focusing on teaching language for proficiency! It doesn’t matter how many great new platforms, apps, and sites you use if they don’t increase learners’ ability to express themselves, understand others, and negotiate meaning in the TL. But if you are looking for ed tech that will help you deliver instruction, click here for suggestions organized by purpose: Technology for Online FLT.
Recommendations for Unexpectedly Online Teachers
This presentation was made in Microsoft Sway. MSU students can get it from the Spartan365 page: spartan365.msu.edu.
This post lists apps, tools, and platforms you can use that come directly from current world language teachers who were already tech-savvy before learning all went remote in March 2020:
Tech-Savvy World Language Teachers Recommend…
Keep Communicating in All Three Modes
The suggestions below are intended to help you keep motivating your learners to engage in authentic communication. Remember that reading, listening, writing, and speaking are all communicative skills!
When we teach for proficiency, comprehension of every word and production of perfectly accurate speech or text is not at all necessary for most objectives. The difficulty of a task is not determined by the input. It depends on what you are asking for and what you demand from learners. Sometimes exposure, effort, and a little bit of comprehension can be enough, especially if it keeps them coming back for more language exposure!
See the ACTFL Performance Descriptors (2012) or Can-Do Statements (2017) if you need more details on these modes of communication. More on those on this page: Language Teaching.
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Providing material to read is relatively easy compared to other modes. Locate material that is compelling as well as comprehensible.
Suggestions: Current events written for young L1 readers, infographics, sites with health advice, parallel articles available in L1 and L2, song lyrics. Not just graded readers!
How will learners show you that they understand what they read? Try short comprehension quizzes followed by longer responses that require critical thinking or personal connections. Also consider using reading logs and vocabulary journals to track and reward their effort.
Consider how you can teach your learners to locate level-appropriate texts, to look up unknown words and concepts on their own, to compare articles on the same topic in their L1 and L2, and to use powerful tools like Google Translate and Reverso Context in productive, acceptable ways.
The main points to keep in mind for building listening skills right now are: 1) They don’t have to understand everything. 2) They should always listen to the same L2 audio or video a few times. 3) You should let them know what you expect them to listen for.
Suggestions: Short news reports, podcasts, videos on YouTube made by vloggers the same age as your students, how-to videos.
How will they let you know they understand? Try some of the same strategies as reading, but also try giving a graphic organizer, asking them to circle words or pictures when they hear the words, letting them fill in the gaps in a transcript (try H5P.com for making gapped-text activities), or having them record a summary in their own words.
Mainly – teach them patience! They won’t understand everything the first time. It will get easier. Encourage lots of low-stakes listening – songs, movies with subtitles or with closed captioning in the same language, etc.
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Remote teaching often means that what we used to do verbally now has to be written down. Take that as an opportunity. Provide a balance of writing activities: Some should emphasize meaning and relax standards for accuracy – think lists, journals, blogs, discussion posts, labelled pictures, messages for real or imaginary keypals, etc. Others should emphasize planning and revision and allow opportunities to get level-appropriate feedback on language use and improve – think letters, short articles, infographics, PowerPoint slideshows with images and text, tutorials for a peer, collaborative web sites (or wikis), etc.
In a face-to-face class, students need to serve as good presenters and good audience members when they work on their presentational speaking. Now you can ask students to use all sorts of tools to record audio, to make videos, and to share their creations with each other and even on a public site (with discretion).
Try the Audio Recorder tool from H5p.org, the voice memo app that comes with smartphones, video editing tools included with most laptops (Macs have QuickTime and Windows users can download Movie Maker), Otter.ai as an app or website to record and transcribe audio, or other options for recording and streaming from companies like Techsmith (the link goes to a help page from their site).
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In remote teaching, we might think that live meetings with the whole class are our only option for working on interpersonal skills. In addition to that, try: small group tasks where they solve a problem or complete a webquest together and then report back in the L2; writing and recording dialogues, as a way of practicing for spontaneous speech; recording responses to questions that you ask in a series of videos (try ANVILL for recommended tools for this).
If you decide to use a tool like FlipGrid that allows for posting a video and responding to others’ videos, think about the prompt and what kind of response you expect. Is it more like a conversation or more like requesting a presentation?
You won’t find NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements for Interpersonal Writing, but you do it all the time, and your students can, too. The kind of writing we do for social media, emails, text messaging, etc. needs to be learned, too. You can set up opportunities to practice that include only your own class or give incentives for them to interact with peers in the L2. Remind them about safety-consciousness on the web, though!
Try giving students a prompt and asking them to respond with a tweet or with a photo and a 50-word caption. Consider giving them a small-group activity to complete using a Google Doc and the associated chat function. Or just use a social-media style app for interaction, and occasionally give them some guidance on the phrases and style they can use in that medium.