Using the ULAT in a Homeschool Co-op
In a traditional language classroom, meeting roughly 180 days a year, teachers have many responsibilities, but ample time within which to accomplish them. They do administrative work, present grammatical and vocabulary topics and provide explanations, reinforce knowledge, model skills, engage in class discussion, expose students to cultural information, facilitate cross-cultural interaction, provide students with time to work independently or in groups, perform evaluation, give feedback and exercise discipline.
All of those activities are important, but homeschool co-op teachers, likely working with their students no more than one day a week, don’t have the luxury that time affords the classroom teacher to perform all of the aforementioned tasks and even to cover all of the same learning objectives. Consequently, they must limit themselves to that of which their students have the greatest need. Ultimately, homeschooled language students’ greatest needs are for accountability, evaluation, feedback and oral interaction. The native or near native speaker of the target language is probably the only one in the homeschoolers’ lives with whom they can practice authentic conversation. Similarly, as most of their contact with the language will transpire between co-op sessions, they need someone knowledgeable of the language to whom they are accountable for how they have used the intervening study time at home and someone who can accurately assess their progress.
Using the ULAT lessons
Specifically, therefore, how can the co-op teacher be efficient with limited time and strategically use the ULAT? Here are a few suggestions. Homeschool co-op teachers should:
1. read the free ebook found on this site and entitled “In Other Words“. (If time is lacking, they should at least look at its last two pages which contain a synopsis of the book’s most important points.)
2. click on “schedule” to see a 30-week suggested course of study as well as suggested activities and assignments
3. prior to each class, have students study at home the lessons outlined in the schedule found in number 2 above (insist that students watch the video that begins each lesson as it will give them the instruction the teacher will not have time to provide)
4. use class time for the most important student need that only they can meet – oral interaction
5. set up a schedule to meet with students one-on-one at sometime outside of the class period for oral testing.
Oral interaction need not only involve open-ended conversation, but also the review of exercises found in the ULAT lessons, which were first practiced at home and which drill a particular sentence structure or vocabulary topic. The keys to encouraging oral participation are first-person sharing and accountability. These two elements are described in great detail in the ebook “In Other Words”.
Whereas written testing can take place in the group sessions, oral testing must be performed one-on-one to be meaningful and therefore takes more time than one can afford to attribute to it in the group sessions. Oral tests in the ULAT are very brief. Most of them take no more than two minutes and so a schedule can be set up so that students need not sit through others’ testing period and need only show up for about five minutes. Make their appointment overlap slightly with that of the student preceding and following them so that there is no “down time” in the testing process and thus to limit the amount of time testing requires of the co-op teacher. Oral tests in the ULAT provide both a proposed grading key and answer videos after each test. Grading oral presentations is more complex and therefore, again, reading the chapter in the ebook devoted to this topic is the best solution.
Schools and co-ops having a subscription to the ULAT may display the ULAT lessons on their classroom screen for all to see. However, user credentials (username and password) may not be shared with students. If students themselves access the ULAT on any device, whether in the classroom setting, at home or elsewhere, each of those students must have a subscription as well. Discounts for group subscriptions can be found by clicking here.