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Possible Learning “Activities” for

Learning English online.

The activities that follow are designed under the following assumptions:

1. The online site has voice and video capability.

2. There is a text to speech component to all video.
3. There is member interaction / networking/ discussion
4. The site has a personalized play list / my page component.

Overall Learning Sequence

There are a number of possible “frameworks” or sequences through which the learning
activity can take place. They typically follow a 1. pre activity 2. activity 3. post activity

Several possible ways to present this would be;

ESA – Engage / Study / Activate (the current mantra in EFL / ESL)

PPP - Prepare / practice / produce (personalize/perform might be a 4th)

It would be beneficial for the learner to really simplify this into clear language.


The learner first “reads” the video. Text support of voice/audio.

The learner second reviews the video with some prompts/missing language etc....
The learner third, creates something new from the content of the video
The learner fourth, states their own feelings and has a conversation/discussion about the
video content.

Categories of Activities

The activities would fall into general categories and which would represent increasing
complexity and language “freedom” as the learner moves from mere repetition to more
self – produced and synthesized forms of language/thought.

1. Vocabulary
2. Comprehension
3. Sequencing / reordering
4. Creation
5. Discussion / Extension
All video or content should have a very brief introduction as previewing. This
facilitates the learning by channeling the learner’s mind towards the specific
concepts / images / language which will be necessary for the given topic. It should
therefore be TOPICAL or THEMATIC.

A possible example would be a photo and asking the learner...

Have you ever........ or When did you last .............

Both these prompts work with any topic and work well to get the learners thinking
about the forthcoming activity. This could be presented in a dreamy bubble or by
asking for a specific prompt....

1. Vocabulary

Each activity /video should have a Word Wall (what I use in my class, just a graffiti
place where students can put the new vocabulary they learned, up in plain view. ). If
this could have actual pronunciation, click and hear functioning – all the better. Also,
click to a dictionary explanation. This Wall could be either a personal one or better,
along the lines of a wiki where it is created and / or added to by individual learners.

Types of activities

A. Phrase match. – after viewing the video, learners are presented with a box where
phrases containing the new vocabulary are “chopped” in half. They have a time limit to
drag them together. Best time is posted to compare with the network as a whole. See an
example of this at this site – (both his Scatter and Space Race games
are excellent examples of way to both engage and learn vocab. and also make it into an
interactive game to challenge learners. ) [use eflclassroom as the id/pw and see my own

B. Mind maps / brain storming. Tony Buzan has made the term “mind map” into
something every educator knows. Using computer technology, on an interactive page,
learners can build a concept map and edit/correct other users. Or just create their own
unique one. It is simply starting from the middle with the “theme” and then creating
branches of thought ....... a very easy web 2.0 language learning activity/idea.

C. An alphabet chart / personal dictionary. – learners have a calendar like chart ,

each box represents the letters of the alphabet. Into these boxes, learners deposit the
difficult vocabulary and organize the content. Learners should be prompted to provide an
example usage for each word entry.

D. Click it down. Learners are given a list of selected words. They listen / watch the
content and then must click on the word when it appears/is spoken. They get points for
being correct and a bell or buzzer goes off...
2. Comprehension

Comprehension activities allow the user to review vocabulary. They can be very simple
Q and A or more complex. Learners should generate the questions and this is probably
the most effective way of using comprehension activities – it also facilitates question
making ability, an essential part of language and conversation.

A). 5Ws -- Learners are prompted with the 5ws and act as journalists to create the five
questions and to answer them. Other learners can answer their questions , creating further
content. And so on..... Doesn’t just have to be the 5ws. Also How long, How far, Which ,
Whose etc....

B) Picture prompts. Same as the above but learners are give “frames” from the video or
sound bites. They are then asked to comment using the 5ws. Who/what etc.......

C) Listening Prompts – the learner is given a selected portion of the audio and must
finish the audio excerpt either with their own voice or by text.

3. Sequencing and Re-ordering

This is a very powerful kind of activity which combines lower level knowledge and also
high level processing skills. Here begins the real “scaffolding” of learning and getting
learners to really “acquire” language through purposeful activity.

A) Reorganize. Learners are given 5-8 frames from the video or audio. They then have
to put them in order and label them with a phrase or sentence detailing their meaning
(like a Table of Contents). Audio could be used here to prompt learners to retell the
story/video, in their own words and language. Instructions work well too, for any kind of
“how to” content. Learners could also be asked to reorganize sentences to sequence the
video. They could drag the sentences into order and a time component could be added for
further motivation (as per the vocabulary activities).

B) Time line. – this is a basic comprehension activity and after the content video,
learners are prompted with a line and enter the appropriate details in order. See Andrew
Finch’s stuff (I’ll mention him again later) at (these also relate to the
above mind mapping...) for examples of the use of timelines generated by the learner.

C) Make it Comical. There are many kinds of comic generators out there. Learners
could be asked to generate a comic of the video, adding language etc....they could then
share this across the “theme” or network. See the web 2.0 folder of links for many
examples – - in particular, This buzka folder also has
examples of many web 2.0 language activities/applications that could generically be used
on any content. Much like a comic generator.
D) Retell. I think this the most powerful and important of all archetypical language
activities. We are so hardwired for oral retelling and it facilitates language learning
tremendously. Learners are simply given the opportunity through keyword prompts or
pictures, to retell the story, make it their own and / or extend the story. Better if a voice
option is allowed here......Much like the function of

4. Creation – User Generated Content.

This type of activity is/has been often overlooked and bypassed by educators enlarge. It is
quintessentially student/user focused and allows for the highest level of language and
thinking skills. (note – “highest level of language skills” does not mean “high language
level” . A learner can be of low fluency but be using very high level language processing
skills. ).

A) Games. Learners can be asked to create easy to make games which they can share
with other learners. An excellent and simple example would be Andrew Field’s own
“Fling the Teacher”. Find some examples and download the “generator at EFL
Classroom 2.0 on the Practice page. Learners simply enter the question and the possible
answers. The “Generator” then makes the game for instant playing. All kinds of games
can be made and see his other games for some examples at
In particular his penalty shootout and walk the plank games.....

B) Subtitling. Learners creating their own soundtracks/texts about the content would be
an amazingly creative web 2.0 idea. Learners could take a soundtrack or a thematic song
and create a karaoke for it – to share with those on the network and other learners. They
could create subtitles for actual video like at Bombay TV

C) Stories. Learners could create their own online books about the topic using new
online technology such as that at Text to speech technology could be
integrated (maybe see ) so that learners could very easily make an
audio book. Book making would be a great way to develop user generated content and
buzz / sharing.

5. Discussion.

This is the end all of language activities and should allow the learner to freely use their
own “voice” and the language they’ve learned.

A) Comment – this is the typical way of organizing a discussion, along the lines of a
forum thread. It should have the possibility of voice and I would think that the model of
voicethread is the best one. Each theme could have a central picture where users can
comment in both text and voice. Also, learners could also create moderated communities
around each language learning strand.
B) Chat/video rooms. This I see as the future of language learning. Bringing together
native speakers and English learners into a thematic “room” for discussion on specific
topics. Flash chat/video technology is such that this could be a very profitable add-on.
Users pay a flat yearly/monthly fee to participate in rooms which offer discussion on
Music, Movies, Books, Teaching, Sports, TV, Travel, etc........There they can find other
language learners as well as native speaking “experts”. This would allow the full
extension of the learning process into the “infosphere” as I call it.

Obviously, all these ideas have to be filtered, streamlined and judged on their
technological “doability”. Also judged on their cost effectiveness and for issues of safety
/ privacy.

The ideas above reinforce the ethos that any successful language learning site will be

a) great content
b) learner control / experience
c) community

A language learning site that is international in scope should bring native speakers
(supply) into contact with English Language Learners (demand). If it is done in a very
understated and engaging manner, this can be very successful. Essentially, replacing the
teacher with interesting native speakers and replacing the classroom with an online
learning space.