Integrating Computer Skills into Low Level ESL
how are you can I tell you the you are the best teacher I never met in past three years so I like your class and I would like to show as more about conputer and english pratice.
Hi Susan how are yuo.
My name is Olvin Claros. I'am one of the student in rancho santiago college. And I would like to say thenk yuo for all yuo taeching in the school. And I want to learn much more from yuo and I say thenk yuo againg. please answer my letter.
--- E-mail from former students
The question that I am most often asked about my teaching is how I started combining language with technology in my instruction. I am not sure where I began, but I do know that I am an ESOL teacher and not a computer teacher. Also, I believe that learning computer skills increases students' job possibilities, helps improve student academic skills such as critical reading and notetaking skills, increases critical thinking and troubleshooting skills, and develops a classroom community that is not possible in the traditional classroom.
I am currently teaching ESOL at Santa Ana College, School of Continuing Education, Centennial Education Center in Santa Ana California. At the school, we have seven levels of ESOL. I teach Beginning 1, the second level. The first level is transition and is similar to literacy level. My students are mostly Hispanic. About one-third are just out of the literacy classroom. My classroom is "blessed" with nine Pentium computers, all hooked to the Internet, a color printer, and a scanner. However, I have taught the skills that I describe in this article with only one computer available in the classroom.
Because of my belief in integration of computer skills along with language learning, the first thing I do is integrate all the computer skills training with the student textbook. This process can be followed with any text used, as most all the competencies that I teach are found in all beginning level ESOL texts. In the introductory unit of the text, I teach the basic computer literacy skills. I start off by teaching the students a few basic vocabulary words. See the lesson plan below for an example of a typical first class.
Computer Lesson #1
Turning the computer on and off
|1) Vocabulary - Use activities to help students learn the following vocabulary:|
|...shift key||...space bar|
|2) Write step by step directions on the board on how to turn
...Press the button on the CPU
...Press the button on the monitor
...Look for the green lights
...Click on Cancel
|3) Write step by step directions on the board on how to turn
...Click on the button in the top left hand corner
...Click on close
...Turn off the CPU
...Turn off the monitor
|4) Have students work in groups to turn the computers on and off.|
Once students understand how to turn the computers on and off and are familiar
with the keyboard, I jump right into word processing by linking word processing
with a unit on the family. After studying the unit in the text on family, I present
students with a model story about myself. See
Students then use this model to create stories about their own families. Word processing skills learned include inputting information, inserting a picture, and using "bold, center and italics". I teach these skills to my beginning level students by using a modified Total Physical Response Approach. In this method, students follow a series of demonstrated steps, then practice. Again, notes are taken on each step and students try to replicate the process during a practice session. The lesson plan I use is similar to the sample lesson on turning the computer on and off. I teach basic vocabulary and the steps for the process and then students practice in small groups. To see results of my summer school class, please see http://www.otan.dni.us/Webfarm/e-mailproject/beg1/beg1.htm.
Students have different levels of success at mastering the basics of word processing, as you can see from the variety of examples. We then do a similar project on a different topic. The second topic is the students' jobs. The process is the same: a model is given, students use the model to produce a story, and then the story is word-processed. Usually, the second round of stories is more visually pleasing.
After writing stories about the students' lives, we begin the food and grocery-shopping unit. I teach the students how to make tables and they use the tables to make a food price chart. Each student goes to the supermarket of his or her choice and carries a list of food chosen by the class. Prices for each item are noted and brought back to class. Students then make a chart listing the food item and the price. This is given to other students and a price comparison chart is developed. Because students already have a basic understanding of the word processor, teaching them how to make a chart is as simple as teaching the vocabulary for column and row.
Students feel great pride when they print out their tables and charts. Usually, they want to do verb conjugations this way as well. It is around this time that my classroom usually becomes a work in progress. Because of open enrollment, all students are at different stages. Since these products are extremely important to the students, they want time to work on them. So I usually have some students working on the computer while the class is going on. Movement back and forth between the classroom and the computers on the sides of the room is quite smooth. Students work independently on their project. When they are finished, they return to their seats and continue with the class. Another student will go to the empty terminal to start working on their unfinished project. The classroom has become a community with students moving freely as they do in their own neighborhoods.
Moving from food shopping, we then cover department store shopping. This is how I introduce the Internet to my class. I teach students about Internet addresses by showing them that [http://www.departmentstorename.com] will often find them in a store they are familiar with. I divide the students into groups and give them a store to research. Macys, Kmart, Target, and Mervyns are a few of the stores I have the students research. Next, I have them look for a store of their choice. Sometimes they find the store using the formula and sometimes they don't. When they don't find the store, I show them how to use Yahoo and do a search for the store. This begins a first search experience for the class.
So far, the last activity I have integrated into my beginning level class is finding information and pictures of their home countries. Since students have already learned the concept of searching from looking for department stores, I show them how to search for information about their countries. Again, I always use the same method, a modified Total Physical Response activity, to show students the steps. I then divide students into groups and have them help each other follow the steps.
I have been working on developing technology skills for low level students for quite a few years. I started by teaching computers to the students once a week. However, students didn't feel like they were learning English when I isolated computers from the instruction. They felt like they were learning computers and most felt that they needed a better background in English before learning computers skills. I cannot say that I was completely successful at that time. Once I started integrating computer use directly into the syllabus, the computer became more of a tool and students discovered how essential it is in their learning process. I no longer have students complaining that they aren't learning enough English. I now have them marveling at how much they can learn in only a semester's time.
Sample Beginning Level ESOL Syllabus
- Computer skill: basic computer literacy
- Computer Skill: Introduction to the word processor
- Project: Write a story about your family
- Computer Skill: using the word processor
- Project: Write a story about your job
- Computer Skill: tables and charts
- Project: Which supermarket is the cheapest?
- Computer Skill: Introduction to the Internet
- Project: Finding department stores on the Internet
- Computer Skill: Finding information on the Internet
- Project: Where are you from?
About the Author
Susan Gaer is an Assistant Professor of ESL at Santa Ana College, School of Continuing Education, Centennial Education Center. She is also the editor for a column in the California TESOL newsletter, CATESOL Online. She has written the teacher's manual for English Extra, Prentice Hall, and co-authored English for Success Books 1 and 2, Dominie Press. She has also written numerous articles for many notable publications. Her most recent was a Software Q & A for NCLE. In addition to writing, she has presented at most CATESOL and TESOL conferences. She is an avid and enthusiastic user of technology in her classes and has taught all levels of ESOL.
In Texas, Susan has presented at the Texas Adult Education and Literacy New Technologies Conference, the 1996 TEA Adult Education Conference, at a 1998 statewide TETN teleconference on integrating technology with project-based instruction, and most recently, an all day workshop for adult teachers participating in Project INTER-ALT (Interactively Advancing Literacy through Technology). You may e-mail Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org.