Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lessons learned teaching children in a virtual classroom!

One of the last projects I worked on before changing gears a couple of years ago was a project teaching for rural Korean schools in the Microsoft live virtual classroom.  Five nights a week, I taught small groups of 3rd-6th graders.  The students were all in a computer lab and there was a teacher who translated for me.  It was quite challenging and at first I was hard pressed as to how I can make the lessons fun and effective.  The following are a few things I learned to do to keep the students entertained.

First, I made sure that we utilized the whiteboard throughout the lesson.  My first slide was always the same slide and the students were asked how they were and they would circle whether they were happy, sad, tired, fine, etc.  Then I would have a question and there would be a chart and the students would all draw their answers using the white board tools.  They then had a chance to use the vocabulary from the picture to answer the question.  The questions were pretty basic for beginning students, such as:
1.  How is the weather today?
2. What did you do over the weekend?
3.  What did you study today?
4.  What is your favorite thing to do?
5. What is your favorite sport.

Secondly, I tried to use the the webtour function so that we could utilize video and allow the students to work on activities.  I almost always began the class with what soon to be one of my favorite children's songs made by Peter Weatherall, a teacher in Japan, called 'The Hello Song'.  Although, I did utilize other videos, this one was my favorite and the kids would sing along.

Another site I would use while webtouring is a children's site for kindergartener's here in the USA called Starfall, which had some really creative interactive games the students could play.  The only problem with that site was that when a teacher allows webtouring, there is really no control and so I didn't know what the students were really doing, so I had to rely on the Korean teacher who usually told me when they were finished.  I could tell by the students' faces that they were engaged, however.

Thirdly, another site the I frequented, especially for the older students was Barry Fun English , which also has a lot of interactive games, but the students needed to be in teams.  For this activity, I would use the screenshare function of the virtual classroom.  There were language games similar to the Wheel of Fortune, Bingo and other popular games.  I really liked this site and even paid for a couple months subscription as it was so popular. Since I had a subscription, I was also able to download the powerpoint slides that illustrated the vocabulary associated with each game.

So, after two spring semesters of doing this project, I came up with some really great sites and activities to engage the students as they learned English.  The class sessions were only about 45 minutes a few times a week, so the main objective was for the students to learn a bit of English and also to become acquainted with a native speaking accent, which was a great success.  The class size was 4-8 so it was also quite manageable.
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