Internet and the Foreign Language Conversation Class

Lesson FAQ

General Questions About The Lessons

What kind of language student are the lessons designed for?

These lessons can be modified to work for a wide variety of students. As they are presented here, they are for college age students studying English as a second (ESL) or foreign (EFL) language and work best with intermediate to advanced students. With more teacher assistance in explaining vocabulary and using guided conversations, some lessons may be used with advanced beginners. As most universities have on-campus areas where students can use computers to access the Internet, it is not required that each student have their own computer or home Internet access to do these lessons.

Do these lessons need to be done in the computer lab?

Not necessarily. The computer lab can be used to help lower level students and those still new to the Internet with the worksheet. However, this does not leave much time for the final speaking activity if done in one class period. In this case it would be best to split the lesson over two class periods with the first period spent in the computer lab working through the worksheet and the second period spent on the speaking activities. The recommended method is to have students do the worksheets for homework. The students then come to class fully prepared to participate in the speaking activities with a partner or group.

What preparation is needed for conducting the lessons in the lab?

If a computer lab is used, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the site(s) the students will be using before the class. These are sites that you will recommend or that you anticipate the students will find most useful. If you have a chance to use the computer in the lab before the students arrive, navigate around the sites and/or pages to have them downloaded to the system's cache speeding access. This also serves as a test to confirm that the site is functioning properly at that time. If there is no printer available in the lab, it is necessary to print copies of the worksheet for each student before class. Depending on the lesson, it may also be necessary to make copies of the schedule blank, conversation help and vocabulary help pages. All pages will print out on A4 size paper when using a Netscape browser. It may be necessary to change the page font to Times to have the information fit on an A4 page for printing.

Should the worksheets be filled out on the web page?

No, they are not designed to be filled out online. The worksheets should be printed so each student has a hard copy to work with. This prevents information from somehow becoming lost, inaccessible or corrupted in some way due to a computer glitch. With some worksheets, students can be referred to the online page to click on the question numbers taking them to a help page that provides examples of how to answer the questions.

About the Travelessons

These lessons tend to work well with almost any class. The lessons can be used as they are or as examples of how to set up a worksheet. Teachers are encouraged to make their own worksheet using a place they are very familiar with to make the lesson more interesting for both themselves and the students since it becomes more immediate and real when the teacher can provide first hand knowledge and anecdotal stories about the area. Read through "Using the Internet in the Conversation Class" for more information.

What level can these lessons be used for?

Although the lessons can be modified to accommodate lower level students, they work best if the students are of an intermediate level in order to have meaningful discussions using the worksheets. Disneyland, California is the easiest lesson and can be done in the shortest time. The other travel lessons require more extensive net searching and higher order language skills when combining plans with a partner.

About the Food and Camp Lessons

Obviously the lessons work best if the class is interested in the topics. These lessons are examples of the types of things that can be done and with a little creativity the teacher can come up with topics better suited to their class and can change the final activity to suit the speaking abilities of the students.

About the Picture Lessons

The picture lessons require the teacher and students to make a MySpace account. The accounts are simple to set up. The lesson My Picture should be done first (before Picture Contest) as it guides the students in setting up a MySpace page. The students should be given advance notice to set up a page and to provide the teacher with the address or access information. Pairs can then be provided with addresses and the lesson assigned for homework. Uploading pictures is easy using the simple process provided by MySpace. If the teacher would like to exercise more control over the student posted material or content of the pages, he or she could act as the moderator by having students email their pictures to him/her as attachments and the teacher could then post the pictures on one common site with the name of the student listed as a caption under each picture. However, facilitating the online exchanges between pairs of students would require the teacher to invest considerably more time in monitoring and updating the information on the site. As an alternative, students could use their regular email to conduct the few exchanges required for homework. An easier alternative to using MySpace is to set up a page for picture viewing (as well as a variety of other exercises and activities) on a wiki. A simple wiki to use is called PBwiki and you can go to the site called "SeeSpeak" at: to view a sample of the PB Picture Contest lesson.

How is this different from bringing a photograph to class and talking about it?

Many students do not have photo albums, but most students do have digital pictures stored in some device. Also, being able to view their teacher's and partner's pictures online allows them to do the homework and come to class prepared to talk about the pictures. On the other hand, it is recommended that students bring a copy of the picture to class if possible, or the teacher can access the pictures and print copies for class, so the students won't have to work from memory. It is also useful to have some backup pictures for students to use in case someone did not do the homework.

What is the appeal of this type of lesson?

The student is given a lot of freedom within a framework that provides examples and guides them to come up with structured, but original conversations using material (pictures) of their own choice. This ensures high interest and provides the motivation to talk. This lesson can be used with lower level students with the Q&A activity and could help reinforce a previous lesson on describing people and talking about family and relations. The Picture Contest lesson will work better with more advanced students as it requires giving explanations and reasons.

What is the purpose of the homework?

The homework provides the students with an example to work from. It also encourages them to think more deeply about the pictures and prepares them to ask well-thought-out questions and to answer any questions that their partner might have. Doing the homework ensures that the students come to class ready to talk.

What do the students need to know when making a MySpace account?

The students can easily set up accounts by following the instructions provided on the MySpace site. With MySpace international, students can often find the instructions in their native language. The students should use their real name when first setting up the account so other students can easily find them, unless privacy is a concern in which case they may take the precautions listed below. Students will need to contact their partner, or classmates, and ask to be listed as a friend so they can access the page.

Will privacy be an issue?

Students can protect their privacy by using a nickname for MySpace instead of their real name as long as they make sure to inform their partner or class so they can be found for the initial contact. Once students have exchanged contact information, either directly or through the teacher, they can choose to make their MySpace page private so that only those with the information and/or those who are invited to join can view the page.

How can I set up a wiki page?

Wikis are fairly easy to use. PBwiki is very simple and the teacher can make their own page by simply registering and spending a short time familiarizing themselves with how it works by trial and error. Students should have no problem with using it as well. Look at the SeeSpeak page for an example.

About the Music and Sports Lessons

Like travel, interest in music is fairly universal. The same goes for sports, whether students actively participate or are spectators and fans. However, if a significant number of students have absolutely no interest in these areas, the lessons will have to be modified for those students where they research a song or a sport and spend time talking about what they have learned. Obviously they will not be able to participate in talking personally about their past experiences, but they could talk in the negative about not being interested and saying what they do, or are involved in, instead. To do this students will need a good command of English and therefore these lessons are probably not suited to lower level students when there is low interest in these topics. The Music lesson should be used after the My Picture lesson for the reasons stated above (see About the Picture Lessons). As with the picture lessons, it is a good idea for students to bring a copy of the subject matter to class. Students can bring the song to class on their iPod, mp3 player, or cell phone for review if necessary. The teacher could also access the songs and download in mp3 format to play if the students need to listen to them or in case a student did not do the homework.

About the Topic Talk Lesson

Since students are free to choose their own topic, this guarantees interest, but it also requires a good command of English and is therefore geared toward more advanced students. The lesson could be modified for lower level students, but as it becomes more structured to accommodate them there is the risk of diminishing interest as choices become limited.