Teaching ESL by way of conversation, a common practice in face-face-instruction, is becoming highly motivating to ESL students in e-learning. I hear from teachers I work with and from my own teaching experience, ESL students show high motivation for conversational English in e-learning despite its current drawbacks. With Internet-based instruction only a decade old and emerging e-learning technologies currently experimented among which audio-video have just started catching up, there are challenges: slow video streaming, at times fuzzy and interrupted frames due to insufficient Internet data transfer speed, students’ low-end computers, language deficiency and insufficient training to communicate via audio and video.
However, for all these drawbacks in e-learning, even static web pages with conversational content are attracting ESL students today. Considering this observation on ESL students’ high motivation for conversational instruction, ESL teachers can use conversation to teach language mechanics effectively and, most importantly, help to increase opportunities for the student to speak English.
Below you will find a framework for conversational ESL instruction. This framework entails two parts: an overview and a dialog. The overview part is a short paragraph for the ESL student to grasp the topic. The conversation part consists of a dialog written for two speakers, the student and teacher. To make the most of this conversation, the student and teacher role play alternately in the online class. I have found the following pedagogical benefits of teaching by way of conversation in e-learning. Learning English by way of conversation:
-increases student motivation to improve spoken English
-provides immediate feedback to the student to correct errors and make improvement quickly
-provides meaningful context for the student to focus on and learn new concepts
-presents a model for the student to see both formal and informal usage of English
Below are the step-by-step instruction to prepare a conversational lesson:
1. Write a short overview paragraph on a topic of interest to your students.
2. Write a short dialog for two speakers.
3. Generate questions on the topic from the overview. Depending upon online class length (45 -60 minutes), 3 questions are sufficient for the lesson plan. While teaching, more questions on the topic and language mechanics will occur from the student and instructor.
4. Explain the vocabulary. Make anchored hyperlinks for the vocabulary.
5. I highly recommend making podcast lessons using this format if you have the means and time to do it. For tips, see Creating ESL Podcast for E-Learning. Even a vocabulary podcast is welcoming to ESL students.
6. In the online class, role play alternately with your student.