Using the ULAT for Remote Instruction
In a traditional language classroom, meeting roughly 180 days a year, teachers have many responsibilities but, if efficient in their work, they have enough 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 those who teach at least a portion of their class remotely, likely working face-to-face with their students no more than one or two days a week, do not have the luxury that time affords the daily classroom teacher to perform all of the aforementioned tasks and even to cover all of the same learning objectives. Consequently, they must prioritize, selecting the most essential.
Ultimately, students’ greatest needs are for instruction and modeling, practice, live oral interaction, evaluation, and feedback. Whereas the ULAT itself, independent of the teacher, can provide instruction and modeling through its instructional videos and practice by means of its extensive exercises, the teacher is needed to give students the opportunity to engage in live oral interaction, to perform testing and to provide feedback.
Six suggestions for effectively using the ULAT remotely
Specifically, therefore, how can the remote teacher be efficient with limited time and strategically use the ULAT? Here are a few suggestions.
1. PRIORITIZE ORAL INTERACTION WHEN MEETING FACE TO FACE
If the remote instructors have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their students in the classroom, priority should be given to oral interaction and, specifically, in engaging their students in oral participation activities. Successful acquisition of the ability to read and write reposes upon the prior establishment of a strong foundation of listening and speaking skills. Reading and writing can easily be performed by the student independently and, as will be explained further in this document, the testing of all four skills can occur securely in a remote setting. Even oral interaction can transpire remotely but, of the four language skills, speaking and listening are most dependent upon the teacher’s presence.
2. HAVE STUDENTS STUDY THE LESSON PRIOR TO MEETING WITH THEM
Prior to each class, have students study at home the lessons you assign for that class. If an instructional video exists, insist that students watch the video as it will give them the instruction the remote teacher will not have time to provide.
3. HOLD STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE AND PROVIDE MOTIVATION FOR ORAL PARTICIPATION TO TAKE PLACE, EVEN IF ONLY REMOTELY
Oral interaction, particularly early in the students’ language learning experience is indispensable. Students who do not become comfortable with frequent oral interaction in the first year of study will almost invariably never attain fluency.
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”. (If you have never read these two chapters, it is strongly encouraged that you do so at this time.)
Obliging oral participation in reviewing the lesson’s exercises requires holding the students accountable for their participation in that most of the exercises, though critical for developing good sentence structure, are not intrinsically stimulating for the students. First-person sharing, starting with the teacher and then extending to the students, draws students into enthusiastic participation as they share aspects of their life with the instructor and their classmates. For the review of the lesson’s exercises, teachers will want to share their screen with their students. For open-ended conversation, it will be important to simulate face-to-face communication, although teachers do well to simulate open-ended discussion by initially sharing their screen and showing their students photos that reveal something of their life (i.e., a PowerPoint presentation of them going about their daily routine or photos providing a “guided tour” of the teacher’s home or their town, etc.).
4. PLACE THE RESPONSIBILITY ON STUDENTS TO BE PREPARED FOR REMOTE TESTING AT THE MOMENT THAT YOU ARE
It is assumed that teachers are making use of one of the multiple video and audio conferencing apps available to meet with their students online. The ULAT leaves it to the instructor to select the most appropriate.
Teachers face two great challenges when it comes to remote testing – the efficient use of their own time and the integrity of the testing process. If one fails in the first of those challenges, teachers will almost invariably become “burned out” by the sheer quantity of time they must spend online. Failure in the second results in the invalidation of the test result and allows students to short-circuit their preparation for the test and, therefore, their learning.
To limit the amount of time that teachers must spend in testing their students, the first requirement is more attitudinal than procedural. Teachers must understand that they are in charge of the testing process and convey clearly to their students the obligation to be prepared to be tested precisely when the teacher chooses. If students are allowed to hijack the testing process by asking the teacher to wait until they are ready, that short delay, multiplied by the number of students a teacher must test, will result in extensive time lost and teacher frustration. Students who are not prepared to be tested on command should be seen as having failed the test. At the teachers’ discretion, they may allow the student to be retested later, but with the understanding that the student’s score will be lowered for their failure to be prepared at the designated moment.
Practically speaking, here are suggested steps to guide the testing process:
a. Have students log in to the app in small alphabetically-ordered groups of four or five at a time and five minutes before the test is scheduled to begin.
b. Admit the students to the meeting.
c. Randomly select which student will go first. This might be done by the roll of a dice or some other random means.
d. Select the appropriate form of the test.
e. Allow the waiting students to listen to the student’s test and to learn from the teacher’s brief feedback.
f. Give the command for the student to begin and start the timer.
g. Immediately move on to the next student in alphabetical order, select a different version of the test and repeat step 6.
g. Upon testing the last student, admit the next group of waiting students to the meeting for testing and at once continue until all your students have been tested.
5. MAKE USE OF THE SECURE TEST FORMS AVAILABLE ONLY TO TEACHERS
The second of the great challenges for the remote teacher is that of protecting the integrity of the testing process. Obviously, with its four forms of each oral test and its three forms of each written test, the ULAT already goes to great pains to protect the testing process from cheating. Nevertheless, over the coming year, it will be going even beyond these measures. At the end of each lesson containing a test, you will find the image of a teacher, which serves as a link to the same number of test forms to which only the instructor has access. (Check your profile on the ULAT to ensure that your membership level is listed as “Teacher”. If so, you will be able to access these secure tests.) As indicated in the testing table of contents to which you will be directed, remember to first hide the URL of the secure test page before displaying it to students whom you will test.
6. READ THE FREE E-BOOK ENTITLED “IN OTHER WORDS”Finally, effectiveness in setting priorities and efficiency in managing a classroom, remote or otherwise, will be augmented if teachers 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.)
Additionally, you can find below a series of reflections on how one might thrive in the midst of an unanticipated remote teaching experience:
A reminder regarding subscriptions
Teachers having a subscription to the ULAT may display the ULAT lessons on their classroom screen for all to see. However, the teacher’s 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.