Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting Students to Speak English Outside of School

Not so long ago when teaching newcomers, I discovered that it was easy to get my students to practice their reading, writing, and listening skills at home.  They eagerly completed the writing prompts, filled out their reading logs, and shared reviews of English television shows that they watched over the weekend.  Finding a way to ensure that they practiced speaking English while living in non-English speaking households was another task-until I discovered Google Voice.  I signed up for a (free) local number and assigned weekly speaking prompts for my students to record on the voicemail (note: the service can be set up so that the students can simply leave a voicemail and no telephone actually rings).  While nervous at first, the students grew to enjoy the assignment and it quickly became my favorite one to grade. Here are some tips to help you get set up:
  • Research and select the best service for you.  The two most popular services are Google Voice (www.google.com/voice) and Microsoft's Skype (www.skype.com).  Both services can be linked to your e-mail account.
  • Survey the students to find out how often they have access to a telephone.  In my case, the majority of the students had one parent with a cell phone that served as the family's sole means of communication.  Although that parent worked odd hours, we agreed that a week was sufficient time to complete the assignment.
  • Choose a local number if available.  A long distance number may cause some of the parents to question who their child is actually calling.  It will also ensure that a student who has access to a landline phone is able to complete the assignment without the family incurring long-distance charges.

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