Using Google Classroom with ESOL students: a lesson on Childhood

GC was used once a week over a 4 week period with Level 1 ESOL students. Motivation was high and once the various login teething troubles were out of the way, students found it easy and engaging to use.

Using a blended learning approach, students progressed to GC half way through the lesson as a way of consolidating and assessing progress, as well as practising new language. Students were grateful for the opportunities GC offers them to comment. When asked “How do you feel about the forthcoming exams? What do you need to work on?” this enabled them to self evaluate and flag up areas they felt they needed to work on or where they needed more support, hence also a useful tool for the teacher.

In a class on Relative Clauses, with the topic of Childhood, students progressed from discussion in the early part of the lesson, to listening to definitions of ‘a mother’, to writing their own definitions of ‘a father’. Face to face sharing of ideas was followed in GC by grammar practice, firstly using a quiz (created in Google Forms), directly relating to the topic, then more practice with an online cloze exercise (with the link uploaded to GC). The free practice stage of lesson involved writing about their own childhoods. This was scaffolded in GC . Students were asked to write in Word and consult the plan in GC (which proved a useful exercise in developing IT skills for many of them). The final text was uploaded to GC and ‘turned in’ for written feedback. This can be done directly onto the work and students can then resubmit. The extension activity (with picture prompts) was for students to write a set of definitions of everyday things (using the target language), for other students to guess.

Students enjoyed the interactive activities as well as the opportunity for more sustained, reflective work. With ESOL students it can be effectively combined with the face to face sessions so essential for this cohort. GC enabled students to work at their own pace, to assess their own learning and to give and receive feedback about their learning process. Some more digitally focused students really liked this way of working because they could use it outside the classroom and on their phones. With time and familiarity, I believe this will encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning and prove an important motivating factor for most of them.

IT skills among staff and students vary. Staff require training and time to familiarise themselves with ways of using GC. Regular access to up-to-date IT suites for students allowing them become familiar with using GC, will be key if GC is to become a useful teaching tool for all students.

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