It has been ten years since I first used Speaking of Speech [SoS], and it still hasn’t grown old for me. I have been a speech and communication teacher for close to 30 years now, and when I came across the SoS text the first time, I fell in love with its playfulness, pair work, and emphasis on non-verbal communication (the “physical message”). I also liked the template-like formulas for transitions and discourse markers that gave low-level learners a sense of security and confidence in constructing a speech.
Although I am not an author, I have authored a dozen accompanying pages for my own classes that enhance the Speaking of Speech activities, and provide particular details for the classes I teach. In addition, in early 2008, I built an accompanying Moodle-based website for SoS that MacMillan is offering free to any teacher who uses the textbook.
First of all, let me explain the background of my school, so you can understand the problems we encountered. I lead of team of three teachers who do a one-semester English Speech-making course. All English majors are required to do this course in the second year of their studies. The classes range in size from 25 to 40 students each. I have to teach the 40 student class–a massive exercise logistically. So it is impossible to give individual attention to students unless we build in self-assessment and group assessment. In addition, I have little time to cover all points in the text during a 14-week, 90 minute-per-week syllabus. The website helps me streamline the textbook points and also provides a place for students to upload their speech projects and do reinforcement homework. As I built the website, I copied the textbook structure so that students knew instantly what they must do online each week. Here is a five point summary of what I have learned about combining the textbook SoS with online SoS activities. I call these points the five “Rs” of blended learning.
1. Recycling: Students like the flexibility of practicing and reviewing the concepts of presentation-making at home or in a computer lab 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your Moodle site is a never-sleeping speech teacher that can give quizzes with audio recordings. Their English improves because the same words and images are re-cycled online in easy quizzes.
2. Reflecting: There is a learning journal in the course. Students can post their thoughts weekly about what they learned and how they felt about lessons. We also build in periodic surveys using a “Feedback” module to gauge students reactions to the lessons and solicit suggestions for improvement. Teachers can give personal notes to each posting, or paste in boiler-plate encouraging messages if they don’t have so much time.
3. Recording: It is very important that students see themselves directly giving a speech. I have all students do individual video recordings of themselves speaking three times during a semester. They watch themselves and rate themselves on detailed checklist of points (rubric) that follows what was taught in class. Students do the recording with inexpensive webcams attached to their school computers. They can also record themselves by a digital camera or a mobile phone video camera.
4. Re-assessing: Students also learn by watching other students attempt the same project or the same speech. Student-generated content is wonderful to view and fun to give rating on, if those rating criteria are simple and specific. I have students watch 4 other classmates and rate them at least twice a term. This is done totally online through a custom-built module for speech-making, called the Project Module.
5. Recognizing: Here we recognize the excellence of students and congratulate or publicize the good works they have done. This is still in development, but it includes automatically sending congratulatory email messages when students complete a project or a stage in the project. It also includes website displays of good speech videos of other class members or classmates who did it in previous years.
You can see an example of the online Speaking of Speech site here: http://englishforum.sgu.ac.jp/sos/ Use this login: ID= sosteacher Password= sosteacher to view the activities.
If you are interested in using a similar site with your SoS classes, please request the package by email from Alastair Lamond at Macmillan LanguageHouse: firstname.lastname@example.org Technical note: requires a server with a recent Moodle version (1.8 or 1.9).
The emerging world of learning has no boundaries between paper and electronic media. I strongly encourage all teachers to try using blended learning packages, especially ones like Speaking of Speech–with both textbook and online website combined.