ウィリアムズ英会話教室
茨城県 水戸市  (029) 305 4421
infrequent and not necessarily about teaching, but ...
05/04/2020


We first contacted students using Zoom on April 12th. The family lives in a town north of Mito. Our connection goes back at least fifteen years so they were an obvious choice to test online possibilities.

It was a brief, fun, messy meeting as we got used to not talking over each other and allowing for slight delays in the audio. We laughed at the virtual backgrounds you can use to mask your actual surroundings (and the way it can chop part of your head off as you move!) Zoom lets you appear to hover over a foggy Golden Gate Bridge, stand in waves lapping a tropical island beach or report from the International Space Station high above cities twinkling in the inky black of a night time Earth. Later, I selected photos of the insides of our classrooms for backdrops more conducive to the idea of study.

My wife managed all the heavy lifting and diplomacy of contacting students to broach the idea of resuming classes which had been disrupted since early March, this time with online meetings. A few clearly said they would wait for normal classes to restart. Others were keen but didn’t have WiFi at home. Many wanted to give it a go.

We now had to gather teaching materials from the classroom and work out which techniques and activities could be replicated online. All our classes use textbooks. We spend a lot of time with the children teaching them to read and write using Phonics. It provides a way to understand the relationship between letters on a page, the sounds they make and how these change with different combinations of letters. We play with these patterns in games and gradually get the students reading, the idea being that reading encourages independence.

Since most of our groups have one or two students unable or unwilling to join online classes we’re treating this as a chance to review older material. My set up has changed as I learn what is practical to present. I initiate meetings from the iMac and use my iPhone held in a clamped mini tripod as a camera. You can just see it to my right with a white cable coming out. This camera allows me to direct students to specific parts of the text book, present flashcards (the green clock face) and play board games. I roll the dice, move team markers and everyone can follow the progress after answering questions they ask each other.

I recommend hosting a class from a computer since Zoom allows you to share material much more easily than if you start from a tablet or smartphone. Audio, photos and pages opened in a web browser are all to hand. In addition, I use an iPad (purple case next to the keyboard), connected by cable and shared from the iMac as a virtual whiteboard. We play Pictionary, Alien game (Hangman) and various number games. I can also highlight grammar points or offer spelling hints. Zoom has its own white board but apps on the iPad offer more variety. As students familiarised themselves with their screens I encouraged them to draw too. Some students even bought pens you can use on screens to avoid the initial awkwardness of writing with fingers.

One alternative to Pictionary on the iPad is https://skribbl.io I've yet to test it with groups but interestingly it allows you to create private groups and use selected vocabulary lists. classroomscreen.com has some powerful features related to group management.

After a dreadful day of disruption when WiFi connections dropped two three times in each class and we were forced to restart meetings, we ordered a more robust and powerful WiFi router. I’m going to connect it directly to the iMac with an Ethernet cable and let its WiFi serve other devices in the house. That should protect the stability of our online classes which in these uncertain times are the priority.

There’s excellent advice about setting up wifi networks in this short ebook. www.takecontrolbooks.com/wi-fi/