Thursday, July 31, 2014

Teaching Speaking for the TOEFL iBT with Technology

How do you prepare people to speak to a computer? Sure, our students are used to talking through a machine

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Seriously, do any of your students not have a cell phone? 
but how many of them are used to talking to a machine?

CALL, EAP, Edtech, M-Learning, Monitoring, Speaking Skills, TOEFL iBT, Vocaroo, Google Drive,
Hello? Is anyone listening?
Well, needless to say, the only way to get students used to speaking to a machine is to have them speak to a machine. But how?

Enter Vocaroo.

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Vocaroo is a free website that allows users to record and share their voice recordings.


How long can a recording be? 
According to Vocaroo, there is no time limit. Additionally, since the longest TOEFL speaking question response is one minute the length of the recording shouldn't be a problem.

How long are recordings stored for? 
Vocaroo says "messages will expire after a few months" so, if you want to keep your messages for longer periods of time, you should download them (more on that later).

What equipment do I need? 
All you need is a microphone and a device with an internet connection and you are good to go. How does it work?

Get a computer with a headset

Now I know you don't need to use a headset with most laptops but since your students are going to take the TOEFL, they need to know what it is like to use a headset. If you school is a test center, it would be great to use the same computers and headsets for practicing as are used for the official exam. Why? Because, as is commonly known, when students are familiar with the test conditions, they tend to do better on the exam itself since they're not stressing about the environment.

Provide students with the questions

Finding quality TOEFL materials, especially Integrated Speaking questions (3-6), can be challenging to say the least. However, there are some good books on the market (I'll be sure to put the ones I like in the Resources section soon); however, for the independent questions, be sure to check out Jason Renshaw's collection of questions here.

After you give the students the question, and give them the appropriate time to prepare, its time for the magic to happen.

Have Students Record Themselves

This process is ridiculously simple: 

Students press "Click to Record" and start speaking

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Like the picture says, click on the red dot to start recording.

When you shout "TIME!" students stop speaking and press "Click to Stop" 

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Again, pretty self-explanatory, no?

Save it

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So far so good.

Students publish their response

Here is the fun part: now that the students have their response, what are they going to do with it? There are, in fact several options.

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Choices, choices, choices.

As you can see in the picture above, students have the opportunity to share their response in several places. They could: 
  1. Email the link to the instructor or a classmate
  2. Tweet the link and use the class hashtag
  3. Create a "Speaking Portfolio" in Google Drive by copying the link into a Google Doc (for more info on using Google Drive in the classroom, click here). 
  4. Share the link on the classes' Facebook/Google+ page (If you don't think your class should have a social media page, read this). 
  5. and more. If you think of other ideas, please leave them in the comment's section. 
Finally, now that you have your students responses, you can either evaluate them yourself using ETS's Scoring Rubric or have the students evaluate each other' responses. 

Happy Teaching! 

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for a useful post! I like using Vocaroo with my students too, although not all of them feel enthusiastic about recording themselves. However, eventually they admit that this type of practice is quite beneficial. I've started blogging as part of professional dvelopment course and I enjoy doing it (http://english-teacher-exposed.blogspot.com). If you had a Follow button, I'd press it :) Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Inna! Thank you very much for your kind words. As I'm new to blogging, I have yet to work out how to actually insert a follow button. However, I have added a subscribe button for the time being. Good luck with your blog and happy teaching!

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  2. Thanks a lot and good luck to you too!

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