The Classroom

‘The least of the work of learning is done in the classroom’  Thomas Merton

Depending of course, on your blend…

While teachers are doing lots of work on familiarising themselves with Touchstone features and possibilities in the online world, questions are raised about how it fits with what we already do in the classroom.

In a blended mode of study, the time we spend in the same room as our students is still pivotal to their progress and engagement with the programme.   While it is certainly not advisable to ask students to do all the work online in the classroom, it is a good idea to use the system to do listening and video.  Seeing the same interface will help make the link in the learners’ minds between their experiences in class and their work at home.  Regular (but brief!) discussion of their overall progress will also help this.

Your classroom time is the key point of a unit of work.  Make sure your learners know that the quality of their participation in class as well as what they get out of it depends heavily on their online preparation and consolidation work.  Try not to rely too heavily on punitive marking schemes as this will just result in a box ticking superficial approach.  Emphasise instead the interdependence of classroom time and online time.  Set up activities so that learners’ success depends on each other as well.  You will need to think carefully about how you will mark this type of activity but make it clear that the learners are responsible to eachother and that everyone has a part to play.

A webquest

These can be done in class as an ICT based lesson or as preparatory ‘research’ work before speaking lessons.  For example, in Touchstone level 4, unit 12 is about careers.  Do Lesson 1 in class to open the topic.  Ask the students to do the vocabulary and grammar  work in Lesson B at home online and then to do some research about the jobs mentioned.  Give each pair a job to research.  Send them to a recruitment website and ask them to find out – 3 skills associated with the job, the type of experience the recruiter is looking for, the qualifications required and 1 interesting fact.  Make a worksheet for them to fill in with this information.  In class, ask students who looked up the same job to compare the information they found and see if it was the same.  If not they should add their partner’s information to their own.  Then shuffle the groups so that each new group contains one person from each pair.  Before you ask them to exchange infomation, the students who are listening need a reason to pay attention so give them a decision to make as a group.  They listen to all the information and decide which job is the most likely to make them happy and what they as a group will be doing in 10 years’ time.  They can’t have the debate about the jobs unless they have all the information so they have to listen to everyone in the group.

While they’re doing this, walk around with your notebook and jot down any mistakes you hear or good use of language and use it for feedback to the group later.  As task feedback, ask if the 2 groups came up with the same answer and why.  (Then you can tell them they’re all wrong because Teaching is the best job!).  As for language feedback, put some of the sentences you collected on the board and ask the students to correct them.  Make sure you feed back on how they agreed and disagreed politely and how persuasive they were and give them one or two extra sentences for that.   You can then ask them to do activities 8, 9 and 10 online and whatever workbook practice you feel appropriate.

If your institution has chosen to work entirely online, it is still important to replicate these focal points using online media, whether you do so using the web 2.0 tools available via the system or using Skype or even the telephone, this bringing together of ideas, review and relaunch at regular intervals will help to maintain pace and retain students.

Try a webquest and see how your students react.  For lower levels you need to give them easier questions to answer and be quite specific that you don’t need them to understand everything to complete the task.  Maybe try the shorter version in class first before asking them to do something similar at home.

As ever, let us know how you get on!