Written by Amélie Chiasson
We know our students can improve their second language learning through authentic situations, varied cultural experiences, and encounters with others. But how can we facilitate these learning experiences effectively when each of our students is unique? The following methods and tools will allow you to use pedagogical differentiation with the help of technology and visual cues.
Explaining Tasks and Lessons
A very effective way to help your students is to record your lesson and instructions. Some students take longer to process information, while others are very fast. With the lesson in hand, they can listen at their own pace, pausing and rewinding to ensure they understand. If you are interested in this topic, you can watch the video “La classe inversée” (video in French).
Engaging With Texts in the Target Language
Numerous tools are available to allow our students to interact, collaborate, create, and share through written text without being held back by potential limitations. Two options are offered free of charge: Google Suite’s Read&Write and Microsoft’s Text-to-Speech feature. These tools read written text out loud and can increase independence for students with special reading needs.
After the readings are completed, create discussion groups so that students immediately engage with the vocabulary used in the text and deepen their understanding. To keep track of their discussions, invite them to record important words, ideas, or concepts on an interactive Padlet.
During discussions, encourage them to use Talk Moves oral interaction techniques. By targeting one or two strategies per discussion, you can encourage students to actively interact in their exchanges.
Emphasizing Oral Language Production
When planning summative assessments, we often turn to writing activities. However, writing a text can be very limiting for some students with learning disabilities. It is important to offer students choice in how to express themselves so that all students can demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively.
Favoring oral language use over writing is an interesting and easily achievable choice for all students. Tools such as Read&Write as well as the Microsoft tool also allow students to dictate their text and even require a little practice on the part of the student, who must adjust their speed and pronunciation so that the tool transfers the oral language into complete words and sentences. Furthermore, this exercise can be seen as immediate feedback that can be very beneficial to the student. If the student realizes that certain words have not been transcribed as desired, it means that they must correct and improve. What a great way to make the student realize that the exercise is similar to an authentic interaction with a native speaker!
Once the student has dictated the text and revised/corrected it, they can publish it. The Book Creator application is a good publishing tool that remains a powerful source of motivation for students. Students can transcribe their text into an electronic book, create illustrations, and narrate it orally. The book can be shared electronically or printed to share with friends and family.
Students who are more comfortable verbalizing their thoughts can also use PowerPoint. This tool is an excellent way to combine writing, visuals, and speaking. On each slide, students can comment on their work or add information orally. They can listen to and repeat themselves as often as they like. If they are not able to self-assess effectively, they can ask a peer to listen and provide immediate feedback. This strategy is an excellent way to develop students’ cognitive self-regulation: they are encouraged to look critically at their own products and make necessary improvements.
We’re all familiar with blogs, but what about vlogs? Vlogs are a way of communicating through a combination of our voice, our body, and visual tools. The possibilities are endless and very motivating for students. Flipgrid is an easy, fun, and free tool to create vlogs. Many tutorials are available online to familiarize students with this tool. Your students will be able to create weather reports or news stories, write book reviews, discuss their favorite sports, and more.
Another way to give our students choice is by using VoiceThread. Students can respond to assignments in writing, orally, by video, or by uploading a document. Just as with Flipgrid, they can comment on their peers’ work, but with VoiceThread, they have the option to do so orally.
It is always important to remember that the ultimate goal of our second language courses is for our students to be able to communicate and interact with confidence in the target language. To achieve this, it is important to have a teaching and learning strategy in mind that involves them.
Teaching to Engage All Students
Whether you choose to teach inductively or explicitly, consider multiple modes of presentation. One creative option is to take a multimodal approach. Consider using music, sounds, photos, illustrations, advertisements, movie clips, or books in your instruction. Accompany your instructions with pictograms, music, film clips, or visual cues to create a collaborative learning community that provides a sense of belonging and encourages creative expression. These visual and auditory aids are great ways to engage your students early in the class and keep them motivated.
There are other tools besides those presented here to enhance your students’ communication and interaction. However, it is important to introduce one tool at a time and allow your students time to develop their skills and confidence with each tool before introducing new ones. Remember that your students will want to invest themselves in learning their second language if they are in a safe, motivating, and stimulating environment. Believe in them, have high expectations for all of them, and give them choices: they may pleasantly surprise you!