When we look at the ESL business and the major breakthroughs that have taken place, one of the biggest would be the photocopier, which has allowed teachers to simply and easily provide student with a worksheet in a matter of seconds. The other significant breakthrough is the Internet.
For over a decade, teachers have been using the Internet as a resource for lesson plans, searching for jobs and to communicate with other teachers and to find out background information on potential locations and employers around the world. The Internet is also currently in the potential position where it poses a threat to many ESL positions, given the rising interest in teaching live over the internet using applications such as Skype.
However, it is the students who are the ones that can benefit the most from the Internet, and it is the teachers who should be harnessing this invaluable resource and incorporating it into their class. The Internet is a great tool that entertains students, while providing subtly educating them requiring them to use a mixture of the four skills of listening, reading, writing and speaking.
This article takes a look at some of the unique and creative activities that teachers can incorporate into their lesson plans while students build on their English skills using a complete range of multimedia available on the Internet.
How You Can Use The Internet In Your ESL Classroom
Gain Invaluable Research Skills Through Unfamiliar Topics
One of the major skills that are required throughout life, and especially at university, is researching a topic that is relatively unknown. The Internet is a great place to look to obtain background information and formulate a picture of the background of a topic that is relatively unknown to a student. I like to assign my students a topic, such as ‘volcanos’, and give my students the task to find out the different types of volcanos that exist, and to explain some of the similarities and differences between the different types. This activity provides students with the ability to practice a number of skills that is involved in the research process, while at the same time giving them useful reading and speaking practice. To create an interactive element to the exercise, students can form pairs or groups in order to discuss the information that they come across, and then present their findings to the rest of the class.
Internet Treasure Hunt
This is a great activity that can be adapted for students of all ages and abilities. Create a worksheet with a series of questions for students to research and find the answers. Students can work individually or in groups in a race to see who can successfully navigate the Internet to find the answers to the questions.
As an increasing number of students are beginning to attend foreign universities, the need to present information in a variety of forms other than essays is becoming more and more widespread. Dossiers are a common form of presentation styles of assignments at universities throughout the world. I like to assign my students with a country to research and find out certain information, preferably a country that is not too familiar to the student. I generally ask my students to find out information about a country, such as population, religion, food, system of politics, environmental issues and current news items, and present the information in the form of a dossier. Rather than focus on the structures of writing, a dossier looks at the student’s ability to research information, focusing on the ability to summarise and dissect a large sum of information. Students also enjoy collecting the information and presenting the information in a colourful and creative way.
I am a big believer that students should know what is happening in the outside world, and one of the best way for the students to practice their English and find out what is happening in the outside world is to make use of the Internet and take a deeper look at the news happening around the world. I like my students to bring in an item of news once a week and to discuss it with the rest of the class, adding their own opinions and possible solutions to the situation. This activity can potentially turn into a classroom discussion or debate, and gives the students control over the material used in class.
While Facebook and Twitter may initially appear to be a distraction to the learning process, teachers can easily harness the popularity of social networking and use it to their advantage. I like to encourage my students to find what we used to call a pen pal, and write on a regular basis. An email buddy gives students the chance to personalise the structures and grammar used in class and put it to practice on a personal level with someone that they can grow close too and become friends with. They can develop this relationship over a period of time and report back to the class over time and talk about the ups and downs that happen in their email buddy’s life.
Ah yes, the age old school activity where we used to go to our local shopping centre and ask members of the public various questions, which the answers we will correlate at a later stage. Well, as technology has advanced, students can conduct their surveys on the Internet. I like to give my students a topic and then get them to conduct an online survey. The survey could be about any topic at all, and students could conduct the survey with their friends using social networking websites such as Facebook. Surveys are great for students to analyse responses and provide a short writing that allows the students describe the findings. This is an important skill that students will need later on when undertaking task 1 of the writing component of IELTS.
So, there you have it. In addition to checking whether you have been paid, bitching about your school anonymously on the forums, or even finding a girlfriend, the Internet can turn your class into ESL gold that inspires your students.
By dragging your students away from the traditional classroom and into the computer room, they’re learning a number of important skills that are essential when learning English, all under the guise of entertainment.