Using Wikis with English Language Learners

Looking for an appropriate collaboration tool to use with ELLs?

A Wiki is an excellent resource for students to develop skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.   Wikis encourage students to collaborate with each other without having to be in the same physical place.  It’s also a great opportunity for teachers to provide individual feedback on their students’ work.

There are many resourceful ways in which Wikis can be utilized in the classroom with ELLs.   Here are just a few innovative ideas:

Writing Projects - Wikis allow students to work on group projects for essays, reports and creative writing projects.  Students will be able to write drafts that can be edited by their peers and teachers.  For example, a student can upload a report while other students in the group can upload images and videos to the project.  A Wikispace can become a repository of work that will track an ELLs’ growth in writing by allowing the teacher to see every draft of a document.

Online Glossaries - Use Wikis to encourage students to create interactive online glossaries for academic vocabulary. Students can work individually or as a group to create, post and edit information.  Explanations of glossary terms can include native language translations, video clips, illustrations, audio recordings and web links.

Listening- Speaking Project – Students create their own audio clips by recording themselves reading their essays and posting them to the Wiki.  This project allows students to practice pronunciation and rerecord themselves as needed.  Students can then listen to each others recordings and share comments.  This Wiki activity permits ELLs to work at their own pace in a safe and low anxiety environment.

Discussion Boards – Teachers and students can upload texts, videos or images to further develop communicative competence in an online forum.  ELLs will discuss, develop and produce high quality texts while emphasizing language skills and technology skills.  They can create book clubs or study groups as a virtual class activity. Students no longer need to rely on e-mails to share their comments.

For more information on using Wikis and other Web 2.o tools refer to Empower English Language Learners with Tools From the Web by Lori Langer de Ramirez.

A Multicultural Perspective on Women’s Rights

Women’s History month is the perfect time to raise awareness that multicultural views and perspectives must be part of the curriculum all year around. Wow! By far one of the best group projects I have seen recently is about Women’s Rights, created by Larry Reiff, an English teacher from Roslyn High School, NY.

Using, Mr. Reiff has set-up an online forum for his students’ group based discussion on women’s rights around the world. Each group is assigned a video clip for viewing along with several thought provoking questions to discuss together during class.  When they go home each student must watch the remaining videos and blog the answers to their questions using Proboards.

Proboards allows teachers to set up free forums for their classes to interact on.  Mr. Reiff set his pages up so that the students could easily find their assignments by clicking on the tab that had their group number on it.  More importantly, the content of each video expressed authentic, real-life struggles and successes of women from around the world such as the Dowry Killings in India or the moving speech “Ain’t I A Woman” read in honor of the author and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

This is exactly the kind of rich multi-cultural content that ELLs and all students need exposure too.  When it is delivered to the students through tools such as Proboards and video,  the diversity of the world comes to life in the classroom, the content is more comprehensible and the students will remember it!  By the way, I discovered that Mr. Reiff is currently a participant in the Apple Distinguished Educator program.  Congratulations to him!

Learning…Driven by Technology or Instructional Model?

Today at the Celebration of Teaching & Learning Conference, the NYC iSchool discussed how it is changing pedagogy and is utilizing 21st century tools to differentiate and individualize instruction, as well as monitor mastery learning for high school students.

What makes this concept unique is iSchool’s approach to prepare students for college and to the global changes in the work environment.  Traditional classes are conducted along with increased virtual interaction, and self-selected coursework.

In addition to online courses used to prepare students for New York State exams, other learning opportunities include AP courses via Skype, and modules based on student suggestions that teachers create and offer as courses.  

Modules are interdisciplinary challenge-based courses. They last nine weeks. Modules are not like project-based learning which is mapped back to a curriculum, but are about real-life problem solving.

Technology supports the instructional vision of the school. Some of these technology tools include video conferencing, mobile devices, laptops, interactive whiteboards, Moodle LMS, and virtual desktops.

The school reports that students earn over 10 credits per year and that 45% of the students complete all five regents exams in their first two years.