Sunday, 1 December 2013

ESL Literacy learners proudly present "YES to HUMAN RIGHTS"...

During the celebration of the Human Rights Week, the teachers in our programs agreed to conduct inter class activities by preparing and sharing small presentations.  Although in the beginning I thought it would be relatively easy to accomplish due to the universal character of human rights, it turned out to be a challenging task in terms of boosting students interest and understanding of such an abstract concept. After brainstorming a couple of ideas in class (literally a couple as we had only two of them), we decided to record a short video of the students reading out some simple sentences based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of my co-workers asked me a valid question of what my reasoning was behind recording a video with my class instead of doing something more traditional. In this post I hope to answer this question.

Honestly, I had my doubts when I brought my laptop to class and proudly announced that we were going to do the most exciting project of the year. To be a complete success, my ESL Literacy learners had to READ and UNDERSTAND 20 what I thought simple sentences based on the ideas expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. My plan was to go through the sentences together and then assign each individual student  one line to rehearse for the recording. According to my plan we had to be able to do it in a day or two. The first hiccup was then I realized that  the text that I had initially planned to use was too complicated for learners to understand. Therefore, I had to simplify the sentences so what initially looked like “You have the right to live in freedom and safety” and “Nobody has the right to treat you as their slave” became “Yes to freedom and safety” and “No to slavery”. Once I had solved the issue with the content,  I did not have any more doubts of making a right choice of activity. All students in class tried to do their best at reading the sentence assigned to them. When I started recording individual students, the rest of the class were passionately rehearsing the sentences with their classmates who were about to be recorded or those who had to do it all over again due to some challenges with reading or pronunciation. I have never seen such an engagement from 100% of the students in class while reading. They were very excited by the thing that they were all, regardless their reading or speaking skills, contributing to our little project. Our first recording did not produce a quality product as I had not properly set up sound features. Therefore, we had to re record it the second day in class. I was afraid to announce it to my learners, but after doing it, I was relieved by an outburst of excitement the learners expressed as they believed that they could do it much better the second time. Actually, we had to record it three times: all my fault as I was pressing the stop button too fast and thus slashing their sentences at the end. In the end, all of the students have read the whole text as they had never done it before, and to be honest with you, I do not think that a traditional reading sequence would have produced the similar effect.

As for the technical part, as you will see, I used some very basic video recording tools. The reason for it is that I am pretty lousy with the video editing tools and I try to avoid any technology that is too time consuming or complicated to be used in a language class. When I finished the editing and publishing of our little video, which involved no more than adding background music and publishing the video on youtube, I put it on our class’ blog where all the student were able to see it. I observed them while they were watching it, and saw 15 smiles approving what we had created. The students will be able to access the video as many times as they want. Our little experiment shows how a slightly different approach to reading has made it an exciting experience for all those involved.


A little warning before you decide to do something similar. Please keep in mind that not all the students especially adults are enthusiastic about using any type of technology. They have to be prepared to do it. There are also some cultural considerations: some of the students do not want to appear on the camera. These things should be discussed and agreed upon the best way to undertake a class project.

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