WikiEng: Wikipedia for Learners of English
Roy Boardman, Italy
Roy Boardman is a lecturer in English for International Relations at Naples University. He is interested in all aspects of language and literature teaching and teacher training. He has written coursebooks and experimental materials. His current interests are creative language teaching and learning. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
First things first
Opportunities to use the language
Keeping up the motivation
Instruction tools and activities
Writing an entry
Evaluate the entries
Task- based teaching has been around for quite a while now, its components being present in many of the activities developed over the years of Communicative Language Teaching.
Here is a task I have used with groups of intermediate and advanced learners to increase their awareness of what is involved in foreign language learning. It is addressed directly to the learners, but most teachers would prefer much of it, especially the introduction to the task, to come from them.
The task is suitable for classes of any size, though it was originally designed for very large university classes (80 or more).
You have been asked to create WikiEng, a Wikipedia specifically for learners of English. The idea is not simply to make a version of Wikipedia easy enough for elementary and intermediate students to read with understanding. It will be a complete English learning tool, satisfying all four conditions for successful language learning.
These conditions are:
To learn a language, students must be exposed to examples of the real written and spoken language. Many students get this exposure by watching films in English, using websites in English, listening to and singing English songs listening to the BBC World Service, or spending time in an English-speaking country.
Your WikiEng must provide exposure and tools for making the examples comprehensible.
It is impossible to learn a language without experience of using the language for real purposes such as exchanging ideas and information, getting things done, having someone to interact with in speech and writing.
Your WikiEng must provide ways of enabling students to use the language.
You will not learn a language unless you want to – you must be motivated.
The activities in which students will be involved when using your WikiEng must be interesting or entertaining enough to make them want to use it to learn more English.
Your Wikipedia must give opportunities to think about the forms of the language: its lexis, grammatical structures and so on.
The final outcome will be pages of WikiEng with a menu of the learning activities and tools available.
The following activities leading to completion of the task can be done as whole-class, group, pair or individual activities.
In what ways can your WikiEng provide exposure to samples of authentic English?
Here are a few ideas to give you a start.
- Every user can write entries with links to genuine English websites. Reading the websites will give useful exposure.
- For exposure to the spoken language, entries can be accompanied by links to YouTube, for example.
In discussion, think of more ways to give exposure. Do you consider that reading other students’ WikiEng entries is a good way of getting exposure? Is the fact that the entries would come from many different nationalities important?
Writing entries for WikiEng is one obvious way of having practice in using the language. Do you consider the following to be possible drawbacks?
- The English of the entries will not be “perfect”. What could you, as the editorial group, do about it? Could it be an advantage in some way?
- The style of English used by different nationalities is different and often identifiable. So you would have entries in Indian English, Spanish English, and so on. Is there a way of making this a way of enriching other students’ use of English?
- Apart from the usual articles, what other forms of writing could there be?
- Would it be useful to have a creative writing section –poems, stories, plays – as well as the usual information-type entries?
Do you have any ideas on how WikiEng could be used to give practice in speaking the language?
How could you motivate students to contribute to WikiEng? Would any of the following attract them?
- Their work will be redrafted by other contributors of different nationalities.
- They will learn by practising writing in English.
- They will follow editorial guidelines. These will teach them to structure their writing.
- The tools provided by the Wiki will be an invaluable resource for learning English at all levels.
What other motivational factors can you think of?
Here are some possible learning tools and learning activities that could be incorporated into your WikiEng. Discuss them and add others you can think of.
- Online dictionaries
- Grammar reference
- A thesaurus
- A translation facility
- Recordings of the articles
- Finding synonyms
- Writing WikiEng entries
- Listening to recordings (links)
- Recording your own voice reading your entry
- Adding to existing WikiEng entries
Read and analyse some Wikipedia entries on topics that interest you. Note how they are constructed. There is a menu, so divide your entry into sections, each with a heading that will appear on the menu.
Choose a topic you would like to write about, and write your WikiEng entry.
Exchange entries with another member of the class. Read and comment on his/her entry.
Then experiment with the tools you have decided on, and invent and try out some activities.
This is best done on computer and sent by email to all members of the class. During your next lesson, put all the entries, tools and activities together as the beginnings of WikiEng.
Please check the ICT - Using Technology in the Classroom – Level 1 course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.