To Become an Avatar!
When I have been working with students at summer school, that haven’t been approved in English, I find that the hardest part of the syllabus, is to make them feel confident speaking the language, both in conversation and in front of a group of people. My experience has taught me that when a student is able to orally communicate, their self- esteem and image of themselves as a language student, improves a lot. With my ordinary classes, the ones I teach during the school yea,r I try a lot of different things in order to encourage their speaking skills. We work quite a lot with drama in English and perform musicals, always in English and when they act they are so much less inhibited speaking the language. When they are playing a role of somebody else they tend to be more extrovert even language wise.
I have chosen to write about voki in my blog post since I have had so much positive response from students, both younger and older, when using this site. Voki you can access on www.voki.com and use as a free material to a certain extent. There is a cost connected to it of about $30 per year in order to be able to create accounts for every student in the class, but you can easily have one account that the whole group is able to use.
Voki is a site where you can create your own Avatar to represent you when you are speaking English. You can design you Avatar how you like with the help of a selection of different hairstyles, glasses, clothes and other accessories. When you feel your Avatar is ready to start speakin,g you can work with it in a couple of different ways. You can choose to record directly from your computer or your headset ( of course equipped with a microphone ) which is very easy to do. The students can prepare e.g their speech at home , record what they intend to say and have the possibility to change the recording because they might want to correct their pronunciation. They can also write down their speech and let the Avatar do the speaking and in that way get their pronunciation right. What they usually think is great fun is to change the English accent into Irish English or American English. This function also comes in handy when we are comparing different accents in class.
As a teacher, I find this site very inspiring to work with since it is very easy to maneuver, for me as well as the students and you can actually use it with students of various ages. Mainly I use it with the slightly younger students but it also works very well with older pupils who need the extra oral practice. The best thing about this, in my opinion, is that it is an immense help for those students who find it very difficult when they are presented with the task of making an oral presentation in front of a class or a group of students. They can sit at home or at school and make as many recordings as it takes to get it right and practice over and over again until they feel safe in what they are doing. If they feel uncomfortable by hearing their own voice recorded, as a lot of people do, they can change e.g the pitch so they will sound as somebody else.
You can have a lot of fun creating Avatars, both by yourself and together with the class or your group of students. I as a teacher can put forward new assignmen on the class blog “ disguised “ as an Avatar and they can respond the same way. The students think it is great fun and so does the teacher.