Some Teaching Ideas & Technology

I work for  a private university, Sabanci University, in Istanbul, Turkey. I teach English to students at all levels from Basic to Upper Intermediate in their foundation year to help them function better in their academic studies at their faculties. I always try to incorporate the latest developments in the field of language teaching to adapt my teaching methods according to the changing needs of the students better. I would like to share a couple of projects I have carried out in the last couple of years.

Recently computers have started to be more and more important for young people and I keep hearing elders and educators complaining about this over dependence. However, I believe, it is time to accept it and try to make use of this interest in our environments to stimulate their learning. Understanding the dynamics of the groups we are working with plays a key role in reaching our goals as educators. This is why I have started to use computers increasingly with my students in the recent years. I am going to share a couple of practices here.

1. Computers: Vocabulary Development:

The tools available on Compleat Lexical Tutor site help my students to acquire more lexical items and understand the texts they are reading fully. Some sources claim that in order to comprehend a text well written one needs to understand 95% of the words. Lexical Tutor enables students to understand 100% of the words so for online materials that could be uploaded to Lexical Tutor comprehension is not a problem even for the most difficult texts. Moreover, I ask my students to keep their vocabulary notebooks, where they store the newly learned words, online by using Academic Vocabulary website (Quizlet link). Vocabulary Notebook is a a good way of storing newly learned words but this link does more than that. After students enter the words and their meanings, it provides them with lots of exercises for familiarizing, testing and learning the entered stuff (in game format). Young people love computer games, and who doesn’t ?

2. Computers: Self Error Correction & Language Development:

I encourage my students to use corpus data and concordance lines (even with Basic students). Students love the idea of correcting their own mistakes or experimenting new structures without being dependent on their teachers. My favorite program is Corpus of Contemporary American English, which my students find very user friendly. You need to register before you start using it. Post list helps you determine what you want (adj, adv, noun, preposition) before or after the word or phrase you enter. The more you and your students use the program the more experience you will gain in using it.

3. Computers: Class Blogging

Recently, I have started blogging with my students to enhance their learning. It enables students to store their written documents and observe their own development. It encourages collaborative learning since students can read and learn from each others’ work. My students find the idea of publishing their work on the Net exciting. Being aware of the fact that others are reading what they have written, they are more in favor of editing their work numerous times by making use of the feedback provided by their teachers. This, of course, has immense effect on their learning process. In near future I’m planning to make my students contact with other students of their own age from different parts of the world. If you want to learn more about our class blog, you can visit us using the link provided.

4. Video Coaching:

Another project I carried out in 2007 with one of my colleagues was video coaching. Being a teacher who believes in the value of self-evaluation, I video recorded some of my lessons all year long. Then I chose some parts from these recordings to share them with some of colleagues and my students so that I could get some feedback on my teaching. I found this system more stress free than live classroom observations since it gave me the freedom of choosing the documents I wanted to get feedback on and the parties who were going to provide the feedback. More importantly, I could observe my own teaching and could analyze what went well and what needed to be improved. Since then, I have been trying to video record my lessons from time to time to keep myself informed about my own teaching.

If you want to learn more about this project you can read our article published in TESOL MIWS Newsletter, 2008 callBridging Classroom Practices to the Professional Development: Let’s Video-Coach, Shall We?

I hope the projects I have carried out have given you incentives to start your own projects. Please do not hesitate to comment any of the projects here. We can only grow if we share ideas.


Meltem Bizim