Sunday, 14 May 2017

BBC Learning English and Google for Education in a mixed skills language class

Have I already mentioned that I love BBC Learning English? I had a somewhat long break from using this fantastic site and now that I’m back to it, I clearly remember why it is such a great resource for teaching and learning English. I have many favourites on the site, The English We Speak and 6-minute-English to name but a few (in fact, I'm a big fan of all their courses).

Presently, I teach a group of immigrants with a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Their levels of EFL vary significantly from absolute beginners to intermediate level, which is why I ended up dividing the learners in two groups. However, the lessons happen at the same time and in the same classroom, so this requires a bit of planning so that each student would benefit from the course and improve their language skills.

What to do?
Picture by Papunet
I planned a programme for both levels and this is where BBC Learning English came into picture for the intermediate level students. Together with the students we chose two items from the site: an older series called The Teacher for learning idioms and Lingohack Words in the News for learning vocabulary. Both programmes consist of videos, which ensures that the students will get plenty of listening practice. In addition to informative (and funny, in the case of The Teacher) visual and audible resources, the material also includes a script for each video. This is particularly helpful for those students who need written material to support their learning.

Solution found!
Picture by Papunet
How a regular lesson could go when the students are practising vocabulary (they also study grammar during this course but that’s another story): I normally start with the beginners’ level students while the intermediate group already know the drill. They choose a set of idioms or news item to study, watch the video, listen and study the vocabulary. They do this alone, in pairs or in small groups. They then sign in on their Google Document (shared with the teacher) and report their learning process there: What were the idioms or vocabulary they studied? What do the idioms mean? In what kind of sentences the idioms or vocabulary could be used?

When we’ve had enough time with the beginner’s group, and they are engaged in their exercises, we then go through the findings together with the intermediate students. At this point the students also get practice in speaking. 

Google Docs is a great tool for documenting and sharing learning. Perhaps now that the students are familiar with the BBC site and the more self-directed way to find information online, we could try using Google Slides to increase collaboration and information sharing between the students. 

The idioms of the day

Do your students use BBC Learning English? Or, if you’re a student, do you use the site? What is your favourite course on the site? 

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