- Keywords: Moodle, Voicethread, speed, practice, recording, transcribe, error correction
- Learner English level: False beginner to advanced
- Learner maturity: High school to adult
- Preparation time: 30 minutes
- Activity time: Approximately 180 minutes
- Materials: Student posters, computers, headsets
Students often let out a melancholy groan in a class when the teacher announces today’s topic is going to be about something mundane like holidays. It is often the case, however, that when pushed to give more details (in other words, more in-depth output) about such subjects, even more advanced students struggle with appropriate vocabulary and form. According to Swain (1995), output serves three main functions for language learners. It prompts them to test hypotheses, allows them to notice gaps in language use, and acts as a spring board for metalinguistic awareness. The purpose of this activity is to create such a situation where students are pushed to speak outside their comfort zones and in turn reflect on where it is they fall short.
Step 1: (Optional) Set up a Moodle page for your class and add an assignment link for students to upload their transcripts.
Step 2: Have students create a Voicethread.com account to use for the recording section of this activity.
Step 3: Link your students’ accounts on Voicethread.com with your own by adding them to your friend list. Create a class thread and send out an invite to all members to contribute (with editing privileges).
Step 1: Choose a topic relevant to your students’ lives, for example, family, future plans, and so on. Develop schema and establish key grammar and vocabulary through the use of warm-up activities. Then set out guidelines for a poster talk. For example, it will be 2:30 in length, include five designated talking points, make use of specific grammar and/or vocabulary.
Step 2: Have students create personalized posters about the topic on Microsoft Word consisting of images only. This can be homework. These posters will act as visual aids to support students in the practice stage to help them organize their ideas into an orderly fashion.
Step 3: Have students practice by pairing them up and having them talk about their posters under timed conditions. This is very useful as it makes students aware of the importance of speed, clarity, and time management. It is important to note that the scripts should not be used as the key objective of this activity is to have students speak naturally about the topic.
Step 4: Instruct students to log in to Voicethread.com and upload their posters to the class thread set up beforehand. Then have students record and rerecord themselves speaking until they are happy with the quality of their work. This may take around 25-30 minutes.
Step 5: Have students listen back to their recordings and transcribe themselves onto a new Word document. Then instruct students to go through it and highlight any parts in which they feel are not correct or they feel could be improved on. Afterwards, have students copy and paste the transcript below the original and try and make corrections to it, this time highlighting their corrections in another color.
Step 6: Finally, put students into groups where they read their transcripts, show their repairs, and offer each other advice on how to improve their work. Finally, students upload their transcripts onto Moodle to be checked and graded.
Once the teacher has gone through the transcripts, common errors can be noted and a quiz activity can easily be created to reinforce the reflective theme.
This activity has proven to be effective with different levels of L2 learners. The no-script, time-restricted, and content-intensive boundaries set for the poster talks makes even the most ordinary topics challenging. Yet, students’ ability to delete and rerecord their talks until satisfied creates a low-stress environment and an enjoyable, reflective learning experience.
Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.) Principles and practice in the study of language (pp. 125–144). Oxford: Oxford University Press.