Some of you might wonder why I plan 10 minutes for the very first stage of the lesson — Welcome/Sound Check/Overview. As in RL, many students are not punctual. So, instead of starting with an activity or discussion in the first minutes and having to explain what’s going on again to newcomers, I use this time to give an overview of the lesson. Latecomers can still see it up on the board. Sound check is an essential part at the beginning. As I said before, you do not want to have been talking for minutes until somebody asks whether the lesson is in voice and that they cannot hear anything. This would mean interrupting the activity, trying to help that student to set up sound, and repeating the activity.
A lot of time lost again at the beginning. We had to wait because there were only two regular students + one who hadn’t come to class often and a guest. None had prepared anything for the tour. I used the time to have the guest introduce himself and went through overview and language.
This lesson’s aim was to really get students speaking. The “tour guide” practised their fluency and taking longer turns and the “tourists” (hopefully) listened attentively and asked questions. I planned to stay out of the way as much as possible and only gave some support to the “tour guide” in local (text) chat when necessary and prompted the “tourists” to ask questions and helped get the conversation going when it went quiet.
I did not pre-teach any specific language here except a quick review of what we had looked at before. As it was a review, I had students read the sample sentences. This took too long because the student I had chosen was the weakest and had problems using the talk button. He pressed the button too late or started speaking too early so that we couldn’t hear the beginning of the sentences. I showed him later how to use the talk button more effectively. I chose a weak student because I wanted to give him a chance to speak without being afraid of making mistakes. He could read the sentences and it was a review so he had heard them many times.
At this stage, I did a quick pronunciation exercise with “can” but didn’t spent much time on it and instead provided the same sentences on the course website together with a voice recording to which they can listen as often as they need.
The field trip
Two students agreed to take us on a tour without being prepared, which brought up the word “spontaneous”. The first tour was to a car exhibition with some beautiful modern and old cars, some quite expensive but we all got a copy of a free car. There was also a racetrack but unfortunately we did not have the time to try out our free cars. The “tour guide” did a good job explaining the place. He was new in SL but his English was good (too high for this group actually). The most interesting fact for everybody was that petrol in Saudi Arabia costs only about $ 0,20 a litre. We talked about whether the students like cars and some gave us information about their cars.
During the tour, a new class member joined (he was late) but had no voice. I helped him to set it up but he still didn’t participate because it was too difficult for him. I assume, this was partly due to the fact that we were in the middle of the activity.
The second tour guide took us to Turkey in Second Life and gave us a tour of the famous Sultan Ahmed Mosque better known as The Blue Mosque in Istanbul and a shopping area. Although, this student is one of the weakest in the class, he was able to explain things very well. His main problem was understanding some of the questions.
Transition and other technicalities
Teleportation between the places worked perfectly and no time was lost here. However, there was the “usual” Saturday evening lag and it took a while until the avatars had rezzed. Navigating becomes also more difficult when there is lag. Other minor issues like people sinking into the ground or chairs are a normal part of life in Second Life 🙂
Eavesdroppers and onlookers and problems with these
During the field trip, like in RL, there were other people in those places, especially Turkey was very crowded. Some were curious what was going on, joined the tour and asked questions. One person, especially, stayed with us and he even turned up in my house where we met to talk about the tour. One of the students must have given him a teleport. Unfortunately, this person was disruptive. While we were talking about the tour, he was walking around and jumping over us like mad and talking (French). I asked him several times to stop that and that I would mute him otherwise, which I eventually had to do.
Final stage — Feedback
In the final stage, students unfortunately didn’t say much, although I tried to get a discussion going. They did however like the places and during the tour there were questions asked. The best speaking practise was for the tour guides.
At the end, I gave some feedback using the notes I had taken on a notecard during the tour.
In this lesson, students had a lot of freedom and I did not interfere much. I was a “tourist” and was on the same footing as the other student “tourists” and really learned something from our tour guides. The lesson plan is basically only a frame leaving a lot flexibility and space for students to talk. This worked out fine and I am satisfied with how the main activity — the field trip — went.
As usual, keeping the lesson plan very flexible is extremely important. I still have to learn to be stricter with guests and new students. The reason why I am not that strict at the moment is, however, mainly because it is a free lesson and the first for all the students. I do not want to disappoint anybody.
This was the second time that I ran out of time a bit at the end and finished the lesson ten minutes later. This could have been avoided with a bit of a faster pace in the first stage without needing to leave out anything. Maybe then, the students would have relaxed more and a better discussion might have arisen from that.
Update, 1 Augsut 2008
Level was right, they learned a lot of new words and practised speaking a lot. They liked all the activities and think homework was useful. What they liked most about the activities was that they learned a lot of new words. They also liked visiting interesting places.