Computer-based language learning is getting more and more popular. The advantages are obvious:
- students feel motivated by the game-like language quizzes and exercises
- the interactivity and the opportunity to learn and have fun at the same time
- Teachers can use computers to prepare new materials both printable and interactive
The Web provides teachers and learners with a wealth of interesting ESL websites featuring innovative lesson plans, WebQuests, grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening. Surfing the Net is great for authentic reading practise and writing is a natural response to Web reading. You can find authentic writing tasks for all levels of English: from filling in simple registration forms or sending holiday greetings to huge projects where the final product is a website created by the students. Engaging in these authentic tasks makes writing meaningful.
If you feel you'd like to have a try and create an Internet writing lesson for your students but don't know where to start, you will find some useful links below.
Examples of Internet-based writing activities:
Personalized storybooks from BillyBear4Kids
For children. The children fill in a form by writing the names of the characters from the story. Then they read the interactive story.
Self-made films on the D.FilmMoviemaker website
Students choose a plot and characters and write the dialogues. Then they can e-mail the film to their friends or to the teacher. Note: you may need to install Macromedia Flash 6 plug in to do the activity.
Interactive stories, written by their readers.
The students read the story page by page. At the end of each page there are two choices for what to do next. When the students reach the end of the part that the readers before them have written, they can create the next page of the story.
The story program is freeware and is downloadable from http://www.valeriemates.com/story_download.html. To use it with your students follow the instructions on the Interactive Story web page.
E-mail messages - students can send e-mails to their pen-pals, their friends, the webmasters of the websites they visit or to their teachers. You can find an example business e-mail and notes explaining its features on the MED Magazine.
Guest books - while visiting websites students can write comments and opinions by filling in the forms in the guest books.
Registering and creating accounts - it is very useful to learn to register as many websites allow only you to get full access to all materials after registration which is usually free. View example
Interest groups - you can encourage your students to join a special interest group where they can find people who share their interests and hobbies. Recommended for advanced adult learners. View example
Creating CVs by following the online template on www.monster.co.uk Recommended for advanced learners. Requires registration (free).
Asking for specific information - on the Yahooligans website your students can type their questions in the "Ask Earl" template and the answers are published on the website.
Ask Jeeves for Kids is primarily an educational site that your students can use for homework help and research for school projects.
Participating in international projects such as the International Writing Exchange (IWE) courses which can give your students the opportunity to study English and exchange ideas on general and controversial topics with others from many other parts of the world. The courses are intended both for classes of students with their own teacher, and for individual students without a teacher.
Culture Capsules where students cooperate with their peers from a different country and create a Web page which describes either a famous person, a place or a process from each student's country. View example.
Joining penpal clubs: Example (Check all sites before your young students use them)
A simple penpal matcher - your students can write to email@example.com and the program holds the e-mail until the next person sends an e-mail. Then, the program swaps the e-mails, sending the first e-mail to the second student and the second e-mail to the first student.