Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tech Tip Tuesday: Speaking Practice for ELLs Using Google Tools

I'm so excited about this Tech Tip Tuesday because I have another great use for some Google Tools to share with you!

This tech tip was inspired by a concern that I heard from many of my teachers- when their students had to do the ACCESS speaking test on the computer for the first time this year, many students had never been recorded before and were timid when it came to completing the tasks. Many teachers were concerned that this would have a detrimental effect on students' speaking scores.* Please see disclaimer at the end of this post.

Therefore, I wanted something that could provide a similar experience, while also providing valuable practice with computer literacy skills and targeted academic language. I've devised a way that's Google-integrated and allows teachers to provide students with speaking practice tasks. The two tools used for this tip are Mic Note for Google Chrome and Google Drive. The app is seamlessly integrated with Google Drive so that it is easy to import and share notes and recordings. I'm especially thrilled because this allows you to also include a recording of the prompt being read aloud and visuals- just like students encounter on the test.

The video below walks you through the process of adding the app to your Chrome browser, using the app to create the speaking prompt, and then covers how students will import the note, record their response and then export to the teacher for grading. Please don't miss the important notes at the bottom of this post!

This downloadable document is a handy quick-guide to the process that makes for easy reference once you've figured it all out!

A few important notes:

  • When you share the main folder with students, be sure to check the box at the bottom (underneath where you type the email addresses) that prevents editors (in this case, your students) from adding collaborators and changing access permissions. 
  • After every student has completed a task, you may wish to make the folder private again to yourself, or transfer the student files out of the shared folder and into folders shared only between you and the student. This helps add a layer of privacy by preventing students from accessing one another's work.
  • When students open the drive from the invitation email, they will need to click the blue "Add to my drive" button in the upper right so that they will be able to find the prompt notes and save their recordings. 
Why this is great for ELLs:
Using this tip allows teachers to provide valuable practice throughout the year that accomplishes several goals:
  • Gets students accustomed to recording themselves on the computer
  • Provides targeted practice for academic language, and more practice is always better
  • Gets students accustomed to format of the speaking tasks they have to do on the test

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this tip! If you try it out and have questions, please email me! If you try it and love it, please also let me know!

 I am NOT an advocate of teaching to the test. However, there are many real-life applications for recording one's voice with a computer, such as creating a video or a podcast. Getting students comfortable with being recorded and talking to a computer is great because it opens avenues to multi-modal projects and learning.

On another hand, my teachers often mentioned that they didn't really know how to assess student speaking in the day-to-day run of class, as often "speaking practice" was in the form of collaborative discussions. Authentic conversations are great, but often can be harder to assess. Sometimes getting an individual sample can be easier to assess and can be more valuable for showing academic language growth.

I also feel like this activity can be valuable because I don't believe it is fair to assess students using a type of activity that they haven't done before. That's why we have other types of practice for the PARCC and other tests they take. I don't think we should spend an overwhelming time doing this "practice for testing", but I do think it is important to expose students to activities similar to those they will be assessed on in the end. If students are truly proficient, I don't feel that unfamiliarity with the task should hold them back from exiting ESOL services. 

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