In this third part of the series on “5 Steps to Incorporating Technology into your Foreign Language Classroom“, we will go through the process of finding and selecting the best tech tool to use in your lessons. Let’s get to work then!
How to select the best tech tool for each teaching purpose
There is nothing like seeing the process in action! Therefore, let’s take the lesson plan we were working on to choose the appropriate tools for. Here is what I do:
1. Use #AuthRes (Authentic Resources)
First, I integrate real and authentic resources (texts, videos, audio) into the lesson. The activities on the lesson we are working on are mostly about cooking and following recipe instructions. Therefore, we can use a cooking blog in the target language, a cooking video, an infographic, an audio file or a combination of these.
Here is an option on using #AuthRes in this lesson’s activities:
- Preactivity: show students a text in English to select the commands from. i.e. – Read the preparation instructions of this Buñuelos de Yuca Recipe. Write down the English commands being used, and explain why they are commands.
- Activity 1: use a collection of short authentic texts/images that contain commands in the target language, to help students analyze. i.e – This wall of imperatives can help them decide which pronouns can be used with commands.
- Activity 2, 3 and 4: Use real authentic recipes. Adapt text as needed (for proficiency level or to include specific material you want to focus on). i.e – Use the same Buñuelos recipe in Spanish for ‘tú’ commands (add some negative ones). Use another recipe for ‘usted’ commands Arepa con carne a la criolla, and one for ‘ustedes’ commands Ensalada de quinoa y edamame.
- Activity 4 (hands on work): Use a real recipe and real hands on work. i.e. – Your friends came over to eat your succulent creations. They love the food and are asking how you made it. Explain to them how you did it. Share the instructions. Use this video, the list of ingredients and the list of cooking verbs to create your instructions.
2. Analyze your SMART objectives
We had already created SMART objectives for this lesson plan. Now, take each objective and ask yourself this question – What can I do to this activity to make it meaningful, communicative and real?
With ‘real’ I mean, how can you enable students to complete the activity simulating a real experience of using the language? This is how we create authentic learning opportunities for students. An authentic learning opportunity constitutes authentic resources and authentic communicative activities.
What I do to make sure the activity enables authentic language learning, is try to place my students in a “real” Spanish speaking situation. I place them in a Spanish speaking country, or encountering a Spanish speaker, or text, etc. For example:
Drop your students in a foreign country of which language they are just learning. Now, imagine they are about to enter a place (store, museum, etc) and see a big red sign on the door. They notice people approaching the door, reading the sign and taking note of what it says. What should your students do to try to understand what the sign is telling them?
Let’s take the activities and SMART objectives we had created and decide how we can design an authentic learning experience. For this specific lesson, think about what would be a close to real situation in which a student would need to follow a recipe. Set them in a “near-to-real scenario”, like this one:
You have gone to a Spanish speaking country for 6 months as an exchange student. You are having friends over for a meal. You buy a box of ‘buñuelos’ mix. You get home and realize you have no idea how to use this mix. You turn the box over and read the instructions.
You have then realized that this food is not enough food for dinner, so you look up some other ideas. You decide to make ‘arepas’, a veggie salad and some ’empanadas’ as well.
Your meal was such a success that your friends want the recipe for the ’empanadas’. Create the recipe for them.
- Preactivity – identify commands in English. – Create a list of words found in a text. Outline what makes those words commands.
- Activity 1 – who do we give orders to? – Identify the Spanish pronouns that commands are used with. Use the commands wall to analyze and identify pronouns. In pairs.
- Activity 2 – identify ‘tú’ form of commands. – Using the ‘buñuelos’ recipe in Spanish. Fill a chart.
- Activity 3 and 4 – identify the ‘usted’ and ‘ustedes’ form of commands. – Using the other two recipes. Fill chart.
- Activity 4 hands on – write and record the recipe for your friends. – In pairs. A pronoun will be given to each pair of students.
- Activity 5 – exit slip of assessment. – If you want to keep an organized log of exit slips throughout the year and want students to be able to inform you honestly and freely about how they feel on the material they learn, you can use a tool here throughout the year to enable private communication and progress logging.
3. Select the tool for the objective and the skill
A meaningful use of tools allow students to collaborate, share, communicate, progress and reflect.
We should start by analyzing the skills they will be using in each step. For this example we clearly have:
- brainstorming, analyzing and comparing,
- selecting information and filling out charts,
- writing and recording.
Plenty of activities and skills to work on! However, this does not mean that we need to select one tool for every step. If you use one or two tools for the lesson it is perfect. Remember, it is not about introducing a bundle of tools, it is about meaningfully using them.
Since I teach grades 11 and 12, I usually think of tools that are going to be useful to my students in college as well.
Finally, we are down to the selection step:
- I want a tool that let’s students collaborate on brainstorming and fill charts (preactivity – activity 4).
- I also want a tool that allows students to create their written recipe and possibly record it. (Activity 4)
- Finally, I want a tool to assess their learning with an exit slip. I want to use this tool throughout the year to keep track of students’ answers.
To look for tools, you can research online for brainstorm tools, mind map tools, collaborative tools, etc. If you do a Google search with the terms “purpose + tool + classroom” (i.e: brainstorm tool classroom) you will surely find a tool.
You can also look through the Education Technology and Mobile Learning Blog. They keep a very useful and updated list of classroom tools categorized by teaching purpose.
So many tools out there, how to select one? Many tools do the same, so stick to one that you are comfortable with. Start simple. Once you select the tool, find a tutorial for it. Youtube has plenty of tutorials and you can search there just like you would search on Google. See:
Think about what you want students to be able to do with the tool that they could not do before.
Finally, I have decided to use:
- Google docs for brainstorming and charts (you could also use Padlet, MindMup…)
- A screencasting tool such as Jing or Snagit for the hands on part.
- Google forms for exit tickets throughout the year.
As a final post for this series I will share a list of tools categorized by language skill that you can start trying out in your classrooms.
In the next post we will see how this process comes to action and see the final version of the lesson plan.
Do you have a lesson plan that you want to work on? I’d be happy to help! Two heads are always better than one :)