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Using the EFL Plaza in My Classroom

Paula Watson from Mexico

Paula is an EFL teacher who teaches at the Centro de Idiomas del Sureste A.C. in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Paula and student
Photo: Tod Ellsworth
Paula and a student

As a teacher, I am always looking for new and exciting ways for my students to enhance their English skills.

Therefore, I was thrilled when our Digit@l Programs Coordinator, Tod Ellsworth, told us about the EFL Plaza, a chat community on the Internet for individuals that are learning English.

I thought that this Internet site could be a wonderful teaching tool. Students would not only have the opportunity to practice their English speaking and writing skills, but also get to chat with other learners of English from all over the world.

After deciding to use the EFL Plaza in my classroom, I polled my students regarding their knowledge of computers and the Internet. Luckily, my students represented the entire spectrum of computer knowledge. Three of them had the Internet in their home computers; two of them had never been exposed to the Internet; and the rest of my learners had been in the Net but have no readily available access to it.

This wide array of computer knowledge among the class gave me the opportunity to use certain students as peer teachers. After explaining the "chat" concept to the class, I informed the learners who had Net access at home that they would be responsible for working together to teach their classmates how to use the service. What a magnificent opportunity for *real* communication in English!

Luckily, the school where I teach, the Centro de Idiomas del Sureste A. C., in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico has two computers with Net access. So on the appointed day, everyone had the opportunity to go online. Each learner took a turn at the keyboard. They were assisted by their peer teachers. My class chatted with learners in Malaysia, Australia, Lebanon, California, Montreal, Massachusettes and even Mexico!

Students were employing real verbal communication among themselves in the classroom, and written communication in the computer. My learners were even using unsolicited peer editing when they would verbally correct a classmate's text. For follow-up, the students were encouraged to write about their experiences for TOPICS Online Magazine.

The entire group appeared to enjoy the activity--especially if the increasing noise level was an indicator. All my learners huddled around the computer and constantly suggested what their friends should type next. None of them left the room when the bell rang dismissing them from class. I knew that the lesson had been a success when all of the students with Internet in their homes asked for instructions on finding the EFL Plaza on their own. By the end of the class period, I felt certain that fun was had by all, and a great deal of language learning had also taken place.

Contact: Paula Watson

Read what Paula's students wrote about their experiences in the chat room:
Students in Paula Watson's Class Learn to Chat Online

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