I am currently completing my first practicum in an elementary school with two 6th grade intensive English groups. When I started teaching there, what stroked me the most was how good the students were at communicating in English all the time.
But then, I also had the chance to observe second, third, and fifth grade ESL learners, and trust me, from then on I perceived the class speaking English hundred percent of the time that was pictured in my ESL Pedagogy class as a kind of utopia. Having the student who are not embarked in any kind of intensive English program to speak English all the time IS a utopia. At least… for what I observed.
But this was not a surprised to me. I myself come from a region in which English is not spoken AT ALL. I remember that, in my English classes, I would never speak a word in English… even to the teacher. I guess speaking English appeared to us as a bit ridicule since we knew we could talk French with our friends and that speaking English just never happened outside the classroom. English was to us similar to a foreign language. We learned in school, but never did get a chance to apply what we learned unless we went on vacation where English was spoken.
I really began to have an interest in speaking English when I was first immersed in an anglophone milieu. Well… Let’s say I had no choice but to speak English. Anyhow, from this point on, my English began to improve. Speaking English became real.
This is what I would want to elicit from my student. I want them to feel like speaking English IS real. I want them to aim at English proficiency. But for this, I need to make communicating in English REAL. To do so, I figured that I could have my student talk with some native English speaker with an amazing video conferencing tool that will put any distance barrier down: Skype. Indeed, with the use of Skype, I can imagine numberless of possibilities which would provide opportunities for the students to experience real communication in English.
Skype, as many of you may know, is an online platform on which it is possible to have video conversations. It is as if talking on the phone, but people can see each other while talking. Moreover, you can have a conversation with anywhere in the world, at any time of the day, and it’s free! All of what is needed is to create an account on Skype.
Basically, if I was to use it with my students, I would contact native English speaker which are available to have conversation with student during class time. I would ask native English speaker i know, or for someone who does not have any native English speaker contact, I would loo out for someone on Skype community.
With these conversation, students would have the opportunity to experience real conversation with a native speaker which, at the same time as developing the student’s cultural knowledge, will increase the student’s motivation to use English in the classroom and improve the participation rate. Instead of having the teacher talk all the time, it would be the students talking most of the time. Skype is a great tool to use in order to practice communicative skills, which I think is as important if not more than practicing grammatical skills.
In the context of ESL, it is also easy to find complete classrooms to make conversation with. For example, I could match one of my Quebec classes with another classes elsewhere which is trying to learn french as a second language.
Skype is a great tool to use in order to practice communicative skills, which I think is as important if not more than practicing grammaticskills.