Thursday, 28 August 2014

“What’s the weather like today?” or a digital task-based lesson plan at a glance



This is a lesson plan I have devised for adult ESL low literacy learners at Phase 1 and 2 (CLB, 2000) aiming at developing digital, literacy and language skills for life by completing a real-life task online in a non-threatening environment supported by the instructor when necessary. While it can be argued that checking the weather online is not the most critical life task for adult learners, I believe that this lesson has some advantages for engaging and motivating them to work with technology: adults are naturally curios about the weather, it is a common topic for discussion that learners from around the globe would understand, it is often covered by the adult ESL curriculum (beginner levels), it has a great potential for transfer and offline use and it provides a rich diet of comprehensible input.




3 hours (regular time for hour classes) including 2 ten minute breaks
What’s the weather like today?


Real life task:
Use the web to check the weather (on the weekend or next 5 days) in the city where you live

By the end of the lesson learners will have
- checked and recorded current temperature in Toronto;
- checked and recorded weather conditions (e.g., sunny, cloudy, showers) in Toronto;
- watched and confirmed their recorded temperatures with a weather forecast video;
- checked and recorded the weather in their hometown if other than Toronto;
- discussed their notes with a classmate;

Competencies:
- getting things done
- comprehending information
- comprehending instructions
-sharing information

Digital Skills:
- locate and open a web browser
- access a website
- locate necessary information based on text, numbers and pictures
- use tabs to browse through text
- launch, pause or replay a video

Literacy Skills
- reading sight words (e.g., Toronto, weekend, Sat, Sun, cloudy, showers, sunny)
- navigate formatted text
- record information in a chart
- knowledge and understanding of the calendar

Numeracy
- understanding of temperature
- degrees C

Transferability:

Learners can use the same digital reading path to check the weather in different cities, at different times, outside the classroom, at home, teach their children how to do it by making a fun game, play a game with children at home, use when needed before planning a trip, etc.


Assessment:
Self-assessment checklist
Instructor’s checklist



Learners have already turned on the computers.

Learning activities:

10 mins
Activity 1: whole class, explicit instruction
Project the computer screen and ask learners to locate a web browser. Double click on the browser to open it. If used double click check with learners if they now how many times they have to click the mouse to open the browser. Ask learners to locate the search box. Ask them if they remember or have recorded somewhere the class website (http://literacyesl.blogspot.ca/). Ask them to spell it while you are typing it in the search box.  Direct learners attention to ‘.ca’ in the web address, ask for its meaning, and elicit ‘Canada’. Once the blog opens, ask learners to locate the weather box (on the right, blue box, a number, a picture, etc.). Prompt with questions and the cursor to elicit as much information as possible (e.g., What’s the weather like today? What is the city? What is the country? What is the current temperature? Is it sunny, cloudy, rainy, cool, cold?).

20 min

Activity 2 (Individually with instructor’s support):
Distribute the worksheet with digital task 1 (see attachment #2). Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with a classmate sitting next to them.

10 min
Activity 3: whole class explicit instruction
Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Get learners attention to the screen. Follow the steps from Digital task 2.

20 min
Activity 4 (Individually with instructor’s support):
Distribute the worksheet with digital task 2. Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with their neighbours or a learning partner.

10 min
Activity 5: whole class explicit instruction
Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Get learners attention to the screen. Follow the steps from Digital task 3.

20 min
Activity 6 (Individually with instructor’s support):
Distribute the worksheet with digital task 3. Ask learners to follow the steps and fill in the chart individually. Support where necessary. Encourage learners to check their notes with their neighbours or a learning partner.

25 min
Activity 7 (Pair work with instructor’s support):
Ask learners where they are from (hometown or country). Elicit the spelling of hometowns and write them on the w/b for reference. Ask if learners know what the weather is like back home. Instruct learners to work in pairs. Distribute the worksheet with digital task 4.

25 min

Extension Activity 8 (Individually with instructor’s support): Run open class feedback on the previous learning activity. Project the screen. Show the play video icon. Elicit what it means. Instruct learners to play the video as many times as wanted. While watching, learners pause the video and take notes of familiar words and numbers. After watching the video, they share their notes with a neighbour or learning partner and then with the whole class. Distribute worksheet with Digital task 5 for additional support.

10 min

Checklist: Project the checklist on the screen. Complete it together. Discuss how learners can apply what they learned outside the classroom. Suggest ideas (e.g., show your children how to check the weather, make it a fun game at home, check the weather before planning a trip).

FLEXI stage: time permitting or for more advanced learners

Learners practice weather terms, questions and answers using online flashcards (quizlet.com) posted on the blog: http://literacyesl.blogspot.ca/2013/05/whats-weather-like-today.html



Worksheets

Adult learners bring their own beliefs and perceptions about the use of technology in the classroom that certainly play ‘a role in how effective that technology will be in enhancing the individual student’s learning’ (Stewart, 2008:3). The lack of digital learning skills often leads to negative self-perception and disengagement in adult ESL literacy learners (ibid: 4) but can be ameliorated if these skills are explicitly supported and taught for learners to become efficient online (McLoughlin and Marshall, 2000: 2).  It has been found that the most gains in adult learning using technology happen when it is integrated with offline learning activities; the teacher is present and facilitates learning; and efficient routines ‘for shifting in and out of technology use’ are in place (Means, 2010: 287).
Learning activities (1, 3, 5) focus on the whole class explicit instruction of the steps learners have to follow in order to succeed on their tasks tracing a so-called digital ‘reading path’ to facilitate learning. Offline worksheets are also provided for learners to support them in individual activities and they can be taken home and used independently outside the classroom. From my own experience, learners enjoy reviewing the worksheets with a partner and due to their emergent reading skills use them as reading activities. While learners are working on the individual activities  (2,4,6,7), the instructor is expected to circulate around and provide support to learners who encounter difficulties one on one (Ibid: 293).
Scaffolding is a form of support that helps learners perform a ‘task that would normally not be possible to accomplish by working independently’ and it ‘engages the learners actively at their current level of understanding until the point’ where the support is no longer necessary (McLoughlin and Marshall, op cit: 3). Therefore, the teacher who provides appropriate scaffolding supports learners’ ability and confidence in completing the online tasks independently. The instructor is also expected to release the support gradually providing more opportunities for learners (activities 6, 7, 8) to engage in online tasks independently and ask for help when it is needed. In other words, learners “need to be empowered by the technology, not overwhelmed by it “(ibid: 5); therefore there is a need of a balance between support and autonomy. 
Balancing teacher scaffolding and learner autonomy is often a delicate issue but it can be achieved by carefully designing learning environment and materials that are based on the features of communication appropriate for the learners’ level of literacy and language proficiency.  While designing the offline worksheets (see attachments below) I followed the recommended features of communication (CLB, 2000) for adult ESL literacy learners such as font (size 14, Comic Sans MS), plenty of white space, a few simple instructions (3-4) supported by clear realistic images (screen shots). Goetze and Strothotte (2001) in their approach to help functionally illiterate people with graphical reading aids arrive to the conclusion that text has to be explained but not replaced by images. It is even recommended not to exaggerate with the image use in order not to create a situation in which reading becomes unnecessary (ibid). Learners can always ask the instructor, volunteer, librarian, a more advanced classmate or a family member to read it for them. I have included an image of a person sitting at the computer that has been consistently used on all the offline worksheets with the goal of developing learners’ understanding of the nature of tasks and gradually build their awareness of a variety of skills involved in digital, literacy and language learning. I have also tried to incorporate an element of collaboration where learners have to work in pairs to check and discuss the weather forecast in their hometowns (activity 7). I planned for a greater number of shorter activities based on my experience working with adult ESL literacy learners who often require a richer diet of activities in order to stay focused and engaged during the class. The purpose of the final checklist is to introduce a metacognitive practice and develop learners’ ability to think about their learning in the computer lab, evaluate their own performance and assess the value of skills that they develop.

#1-2



#3-4



#5 and a Checklist


Hope it comes in handy for some of you!


Bibliography:

Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks and Government of Manitoba, 2000, Canadian Language Benchmarks 2000: ESL for Literacy Learners. [Electronic]. Available at: http://www.language.ca/documents/esl_for_literacy_learners_april_2010_lowres.pdf [18 May, 2014].
Goettze, M. and Strothotte, T. (2001) An approach to help functionally illiterate people with graphical reading aids. [Electronic]. Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.14.9227&rep=rep1&type=pdf [May 18, 2014].
McLoughlin, C. and Marshall, L. (2000) “Scaffolding: A model for learner support in an online teaching environment”. In A. Hermann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching, Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching and Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. [Electronic]. Available at: http://www.c3l.uni-oldenburg.de/cde/support/readings/loughlin2.htm [19 May, 2014].
Means, B. (2010) “Technology and Education Change: Focus on Student Learning”, JRTE, 42:3, pp. 285-307. 
Stewart, D.P. (2008) “Technology as a management tool in the community college classroom: challenges and benefits”, Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 4:4, pp. 1-11.