At the beginning of my teaching career, like most language teachers, I gave students hundreds of spreadsheets to practice vocabulary and grammar. Unfortunately, the majority of my students rather than keep the spreadsheet for review purposes. In addition, I was expected to create several review sheets for upcoming tests. If you are like me, the idea of throwing away important resources that are useful study guides is quite confusing, not to mention how many trees were chopped down to produce paper for educational purposes. There had to be another way to solve this dilemma besides recycling.
I would find an alternative method for students to use exercises that did not require a whole lot of paper. The answer came to me from our school’s IT instructor, who introduced me to an interactive site called Quia.com, an online site where I was able to create game exercises for students to train on a daily basis either at school or at home. I rated students every 60 minutes they spent online weekly. This was easy to do because the program included a timer that showed how many minutes each student spent on a particular exercise tailored to the textbook we were using.
The Quia website (pronounced Kee-ya) contains a calendar where students can find exactly what homework and classroom tasks we want to touch on, and when to do the work. Each student is given a username and password for online class exercises and quizzes. Students get instant feedback on how well they did it or what grade they got on a quiz.
You can also provide feedback to your students and check out detailed reports on where students are having the most trouble, as well as point out which of them require extra help.
I’ve heard several excuses as to why language instructors avoid vocabulary computers, and many are valid reasons, but not impossible to solve. For example, one instructor said it was too much trouble to create online exercises, but what if you had a site where millions of teachers share their completed activities?
Quia includes multimedia settings such as adding photos, your PowerPoint presentations, audio and video to a great interactive quiz or drill. I upload my PowerPoint presentations so my students can go through a previous lesson before a test or quiz. Students can review PowerPoint presentations in the resource room or in the comfort of their own homes. The website contains various language keyboards where students can write accents correctly over the words they are learning. In other words, the games are not just for fun, the students actually have to write a word which consequently helps with vocabulary retention. Students can even download flash cards to take home.
When it comes to website search for projects, Quia provides a section where you can add links to specific educational resource sites such as online dictionaries, museums and blogs that other teachers created for this purpose.
Another teacher argued, saying “When you take students to a computer lab, they wander out to banned sites”. Good point. In response to this: Check with your school’s IT technician to block these unruly websites. Schools are required to do so, and school administrators expect their teachers to keep tabs on unruly websites. Second, place yourself in the back of the classroom facing screens to make sure students are connected to an assigned site.
Bringing students to the computer lab or bringing a cart full of laptops involves responsibility. Computers are expensive to maintain and are considered not only beneficial but also a privilege. And as such, students are required to understand their part in sharing such a privilege by acting responsibly. Check the following guidelines for computer room labels:
Write rules about computer etiquette and write them. If you are unfamiliar with such a procedure, go down to writing or financial class and introduce yourself to the instructor. Ask your colleague for help. Chances are the director of the writing room has these rules placed on the wall.
At the beginning of a new semester, make copies of these rules in paper format and distribute them to your students. Read the etiquette rules aloud and have students and parents sign the forms and ask them to return them to you. Any student who does not abide by the rules is simply prohibited from using computers: Instead, give them a paper assignment.
After working and creating exercises online for three years with Quia, it dawned on me that most of my students retained vocabulary and tested significantly better in French. Additionally, while most of my students were busy online, I identified those who needed help and were able to help them at a station that I created at the back of the classroom for one-on-one instruction.
I highly recommend this site to teachers. It helps to reduce paperwork and from waiting in line for the copier to be released. Once your exercises are set up, they will stay online for years to come: giving you time to prepare for lesson planning or produce more visual presentations for your class, such as PowerPoints or SmartBoards. Click on my blog to try a sample page with this amazing online tool.