The emergence of the computer as an effective teaching aid is providing many new possibilities for teaching English as a second language. Some schools have a computer lab with fifteen or twenty online computers that allow teachers who aren’t native English speakers to provide the students with a variety of English accents. Many schools, however, have one computer in each classroom. This article will discuss ways of organizing your classes for computer use in the classroom and for work in a language lab.
The Computer Lab
It is assumed that your class(es) will be assigned specific time periods for using the lab. This setup that offers the use of a number of computers seems like pure magic! It’s an exciting place for teachers and students because it provides so many new possibilities for teaching English. The students can follow ready made programs working at their own level or they can work together to create English skits, role-plays or stories.
Depending on the size of your class there can be a computer for each student or two can work at one computer. I found that it was usually a combination of both depending on the numbers. Two or even three students sitting together doing an interactive assignment can be very effective as they help each other with the language. The danger here is that one of them will do everything while the others watch.
A computer lab allows each student to work at his or her own English language level. Even if the teacher has a very limited supply of software, students can be assigned to different levels. The teacher can enjoy spending time with individuals and facilitating their progress. Programs that provide translations for the worlds two largest language groups – Spanish and Chinese can greatly facilitate learning.
One Computer in a Classroom
This requires more complex organization. Every student wants to use the computer – it’s a great motivator. In view of this it’s important that every student has an equal chance to use it as planned on a daily or twice weekly or weekly basis. One approach is to establish a timetable that leaves plenty of unassigned spaces. These will be needed for a variety of situations.
Rewards for Improvement or Good Work Habits
Students of all ages will work hard to earn time at a computer. Even for those who have one at home, the high interest level and personalized approach that is offered is special as compared to the large group classroom situation. The programs or assignments are a refreshing change from their regular routine.
Computers for Advanced Students
A computer can help to solve the problem of finding effective assignments for advanced students. It is often very difficult to meet their needs in the classroom situation. This is especially true when teaching English, if several students already know the oral work that the others need to experience.
Computers for Students Having Difficulty
The same situation is true for these slower moving students. Being able to progress at their own pace gives them confidence and success, whereas while working with the whole class they often feel discouraged and inadequate.
Whatever your situation, some of these ideas may make a difference to your day. Choose any of these suggestions and adapt them to your needs and your teaching style. Whatever you decide will be the best for you and your students.