Last year, one of my students introduced our class to Learn American English Online, a website that he liked to use on his smartphone to practice his grammar during breaks at work and at home. As I explained in an earlier blog post, this website includes seven color-coded levels of instruction, ranging from beginner to advanced. Each lesson is introduced by a folksy video that explains the relevant grammar point and includes a series of grammar quizzes and dictation exercises (with answers) that students can use at home for additional controlled practice.
The website is a great resource in a “flipped classroom,” because it allows students to preview a grammar point at home before coming to class to practice the use of the grammar in communicative activities.
This semester, I have also started to use another feature of the website for my beginning students. For each level, there are a series of reading activities that reinforce the particular grammar point of the lesson. Recently, for instance, we were practicing the use of the present continuous tense. So I downloaded the reading for that tense, and used it as the basis for a 30-minute paired running dictation activity. The students then worked with other pairs to compare notes on what they had written and made whatever corrections they felt were warranted after consulting with their classmates on vocabulary and spelling.
Once they had finished consulting with each other, I projected the text from the website so they could make a final round of corrections. I then asked them to find as many examples as they could of the present continuous tense in the text, and to ponder and discuss with their partners why the author had chosen that tense in each instance instead of the simple present.
Next, I had them rewrite the dictation text, substituting their own names for those of the characters in the text and changing the text to fit the facts of their situation. As a result, they also had to make whatever subject/verb agreement changes were necessary for accuracy (i.e., instead of “Matt is wearing a purple T-shirt,” my students wrote “Mauro and Rogelio are wearing gray T-shirts.”). I then had them practice reading their revised and updated text out loud to each other in pairs.
Finally, I showed them how they could use the audio feature of the website at home to listen to the text being read, first by “Teacher Paul” (the creator of the website), and then again by one of his students. Students who have microphones built into their smartphone and laptops can use the “record” feature of Learn American English Online to record their voice at home and compare their reading to Teacher Paul’s. The audio feature for the reading selections is a boon for those beginning students who rarely hear spoken English outside of class and whose listening skills are not yet strong enough to take advantage of the more advanced authentic listening resources available on the web (Voice of America, TED Talks, Story Corps, National Public Radio etc.).
Have you used Learn American English Online in your classroom? If so, how did it go? And if you haven’t yet, how do you plan to use it? Please share!