The ability to speak the foreign language in question can safely be described as the principal objective of learning foreign languages. However, it can often prove difficult to assess your pupils’ ability to speak the foreign language in the classroom, as time and numbers often conspire against us.
If you do find them time, for many pupils, speaking in the classroom involves being put in a very tricky spot. Not only do they have to say something of consequence in front of their teacher and fellow pupils, they also have to pronounce all those strange sounds correctly, while ensuring that they get the grammar right. Rather them than me!
As a foreign languages educator, Voki has provided me with a fantastic way to assess my pupils’ speaking ability, whilst providing them with a means to speak the language in a way they find both engaging and motivating, and that builds their confidence. Speaking in the foreign language is no longer stressful or fear-inducing, but rather an activity they look forward to.
Lesson planning with Voki
My pupils don’t use Voki in every lesson. Approximately once every half term, I plan a series of lessons that culminates in my pupils using Voki as a means of assessment. I generally follow this pattern:
- Our first lesson in the sequence focuses on revising the appropriate vocabulary and/or grammatical structures. At the end of the lesson, I set a relevant writing task for homework, with the aim of basing our Vokis upon this task.
- In subsequent lessons we develop the topic further and I return their exercise books with highlighted errors and corrections to their homework. You may prefer to do this digitally using blogs or wikis.
- Eventually, I will take the class to an ICT room and set the speaking task, explaining very clearly what the expected outcome should be. As Voki is available online, the task can also be finished for homework.
- Finally, I collect all the Vokis by email, import them into my own account and assess them. If you have your own classroom blog, you may want to publish your pupils’ Vokis in your blog for further peer-assessment, which your pupils could do by leaving comments for one another, as my pupils have done here in our blog.
As mentioned above, Voki can be accessed both at home and at school, facilitating the transition from teacher-centered, classroom-based learning to personalized learning in which the pupil begins to acquire individual responsibility.
Voki is a Web application, and the Web is where our pupils are spending more and more of their time. Voki is also inherently fun and engaging. All this serves a powerful motivator to our pupils and should not be disparaged.
Still, for me, one of the most striking and unexpected advantages of using Voki in the languages classroom is that it has made it possible for the quieter pupils to make their presence felt and be heard. In my experience, it has often been the case that it is indeed these pupils who have produced the most remarkable Vokis, often outshining their more lively and vociferous counterparts.
In addition to providing me with both a fantastic way to assess the speaking skill and with evidence of learning, all my pupils have gained confidence in their speaking ability as a result of using Voki in this way. Voki has catalyzed pupils’ interest in all things Web and has helped to increase my pupils’ self-assurance when it comes to speaking in a foreign language by allowing them to role-play and become someone else: a more confident self.
José Picardo is Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Nottingham High School.
Find José on Twitter: @josepicardo