A major hurdle for ESL student’s developing language proficiency is academic vocabulary use. Using a fun and familiar language task, such as a crossword, as a form of alternative assessment, engages students in using both memory and problem solving/exploratory learning skills to solve the task. In addition, crosswords can scaffold students’ participation during the task as identification of known words helps students identify less familiar ones.
I created the following crossword using a Mac App called “Puzzlemaker Lite.” The task helps me study the terminology used in my language assessment class. I’m hoping to use the same software to create crosswords for a vocabulary and spelling class in NVCC’s non-credit ESL program.
While using “critical literacy skills in a digital world” may seem like just another new skill for students to master, it’s important for teachers and students to remember that they already perform similar critical literacy functions when they review non-electronic media, such as books, newspaper articles, reports, etc.
As teachers of any subject, but esp. of ESL, I believe we need to use the known to teach the unknown. I present this challenge (being critically digitally literate) to my students in terms of we are building upon their practices of evaluating the “person, purpose, and period (of time)” when researching/reading non-electronic media. I use this same mantra whether they are searching the Web, watching interviews from TV/YouTube, or listening to CD recordings.
In enabling our students and ourselves to be critically literate in the Web 2.0 world, our challenge is three-fold:
- realizing that we have the expertise to construct pedagogically sound instruction
- realizing that the skills students need to be electronically literate are often already used in a slightly different form/different media
- realizing that we can apply our own understandings/uses of digital media as an important step in the process of aligning Web 2.0 tools to our curricular goals.
This weekend, our Technology in English Language Teaching class at American University presented our major project of the spring: digital stories.
Final DS Poster_WATESOL_2011
Just finished viewing my listening, speaking, reading students’ debate on whether plastic surgery benefits outweigh the risks. I recorded the debate on a flip camera and saved the files on my ePortfolio using Evernote. Recording oral presentations helps me in ways similar to my ELLs listening to recordings; in that I play and replay as often as I need to until I’m confident I have found the items I was looking for.
I evaluated my students on a 3-point scale on the following items: clarity of argument, opening and closing statements, delivery, organization and research (planning), following debate rules, and time.
Apart from the fact that my students were totally invested, and did a great job in debating each other in front of an audience, the best part was an aspect that is often the “icing on the cake” for this type of pre-academic exercise. While watching my students’ debates, I began to notice how often they were using signpost language to signal agreement, disagreement, and sequence of points, in addition to topic-specific academic vocabulary.
The content vocabulary was great, but not unusual for this high proficiency level. The class had spent a lot of time preparing for the debate. They had researched the issue on the Internet, listened to interviews about plastic surgery, and conducted in-person surveys of other community college students’ opinions about plastic surgery and the perceived benefits of being physically attractive. I had also given them explicit instruction on signpost language, but their exposure to this was not as extensive as it was to the content of the debate. My reasons for focusing more on content than on form was to improve my students’ background knowledge in the subject, and therefore improve their fluency.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how often they were using the signpost language so necessary for debates to work both for the opposing team, but also for the audience who are evaluating them. My students were saying things like, “for these reasons,” “in addition,” “to the extent that,” and “this is why I believe…”
Wonderful job! I’ll post the video soon.
My 1975 class gathers for a post-debate photo.
Just watched the video from my students’ debate on the pros and cons of plastic surgery. My videography skills need a lot of work 😦 I’ll probably need to edit it a bunch to make the wobblies go away. The Flip camera is easy to use, but it has such a short depth of field, leading me to zoom in and out. Once I figured out how to stop doing that and just film it, the quality got better.