Using Google Voice in the World Language class

We all have students in our World Language classes who are shy or very nervous about talking in front of the whole class. It becomes a challenge to help them develop appropriate oral communicative skills. Sometimes even answering a simple question like “¿Cuál es tu color favorito?” produces a strong reaction and inhibition from these students. What to do?

I teach before and after school programs. I see each class only twice a week. Even though my classes are pretty small (average 12 students) sometimes is still a challenge to have them all speak of produce some language. Specially with the older ones (in my case 5th through 8th grades).

I decided to use Google Voice for homework assignments. Most students have an easier time recording a quick message than trying to produce language in the classroom setting.

If you still don’t know what Google Voice is here you have a few helpful tutorials:

What is Google Voice?

Sign up options

Voicemail Transcription

Personalized Greetings

But the basic idea is that with Google Voice students can can call in and they can leave messages. You get an email from each message. You can email that message to the parents, you can download it as an mp3 files. You can even embed the recording using the html code provided by Google Voice.  You don’t have to worry about recording equipment or recording software for a computer. You don’t even need a computer lab at all. All students (at least in the US) have access to phones. You can turn Google Voice into your Language Lab!

Some suggestions from my experience:

1) Keep the assignments short. You have to listen to all of them after all.

2) Write out clear instructions, due date AND time.  Once I assigned a due date but I didn’t specified a time. Then I had student calling at 11pm of the due date to complete the assignments.

3) Inform parents of the assignment and explain to them that this is not your personal phone number but a number exclusively for oral assessment or oral exercises. Explain that to students as well.

4) Even though you can identify the callers by numbers, ask student to say their full name at the beginning of each recording.

5) Find ways to share some great examples in class to motivate student to practice before recording.

6) If necessary do a role play in class demonstrating how they need to do the assignment. Act out making the call, leaving your name and an example of the assignment.

7) If you are using the recording as assessment provide some feedback to the students. Otherwise they will not think it’s important and they will never know if you listened to them or not.

8) Since you can change the greeting, sometimes you may just want to leave a question in the greetings that the students need to answer. Surprise them and don’t tell them what the question is!

9) Do you want to test listening skills? Leave a long greeting message and give them a task about it.  For example: Listen to the greeting message and count how many times you hear the word “grande” in it. Leave a message with that number. OR “Listen to the greeting message and count all the fruits mentioned in it”.

10) Be creative! Let your imagination find other ways to use Google Voice and don’t forget to share them with me!  Leave a comment here of email your idea to mail@paulinobrener.com