Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A student activity on Endangered Species

One good way to get students started discussing a topic is to have them work on texts from the online press. Here is the first environment-related activity I did with my students this year, on Endangered Species.

Endangered Species WebQuest

This activity asks students to suggest solutions to the disappearance of endangered species, with the study of an article from BBC Learning English and a WebQuest where they take the role of research scientists.

Part 1: On the BBC Learning English website, you will find an article called "China Dolphin Extinction" that includes a wealth of supporting material, including the text, important vocabulary explained in English, the radio news report students can listen to, and a teacher's lesson plan with several useful activities. I prepared a one-page version of this text with the vocabulary and five general knowledge questions, that you can download as a Word file or PDF file.

Part 2: The WebQuest: Students work in groups of two, taking the role of research scientists. They select one endangered species, visit a range of resource sites to help them describe their species and the risks it faces, then they use the ideas they picked up in class to formulate solutions to the risks facing their chosen species. You can download the student worksheet in Word format or PDF format.

Note that my students studied the BBC article in the classroom, not on the internet. While dealing with the general questions, we treated grammatical topics like cause and effect, obligation and advice, and comparisons that students need at the end of the WebQuest in order to formulate their solutions. We then had a debate around the (rather absurd) assertion that "Extinction is inevitable and trying to save endangered species is a waste of time and money." We also used two activities from the lesson plan on BBC Learning English. I suggest these activities as a useful lead-in to the students' work on the web.

Soon, I will be taking my students back to the internet to write online, on the Viva Virtual Village, about their ideas on endangered species. That will be the point where our students can exchange ideas, and really begin the E-Twinning project in earnest.

Cheers, --- Phil

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Saving Our Planet," a new E-Twinning projet for 2007-8

We're just beginning a new multi-site project encouraging student interaction and communication around the theme "Saving Our Planet", loosely modelled on the project "Our Way to Save the Planet" that's been on the E-Twinning website for the last three years.

What I'd like to set up is a project based in participating schools in at least four different countries. I've already got a tentative agreement from Justina Tracichleb-Lichosik in Kielce, Poland, and I'm exploring links with schools in Ireland, Andorra and perhaps even Morocco. Ideally, I'd like to get several other European countries on board, but that will depend a lot on answers to my emails.

I teach English in the Lycée Pierre et Marie Curie in Châteauroux, France, near Orleans and Tours. My students are mostly aged 16-18, and several of my other colleagues teaching English, Spanish, Italian and German are also interested in participating. I also have two colleagues in "collège" (lower secondary level) with students aged 13-15 who would like to join the project and who would like correspondents at that age group.

My students have already done classroom projects on saving endangered species and on questions of immigration that I thought might be good starting points for exchange with other classes in this project. Here is a list of some other topics I'd like to explore:

Topics: pollution, renewable energy and recycling, overpopulation, famine, natural disasters and international cooperation.

I'm exploring new communication tools, but one of the easiest to use is the Viva Virtual Village, and you'll find other messages in this blog about how to participate.

I envisage the communication and exchange to work like this: Students communicate in a common target language, English, and also in their native language, or an alternate target language, with each message. For example, a student in France would write in both English and French, a student in Poland in both English and Polish, while a student in Ireland might write in both English and in a second language they are studying, such as German or French.

I'm very open to other ideas about communication tools, and would like to explore possibilities for visio-conferencing, and perhaps in future more ambitious projects like Comenius and Socrates so that participating teachers and students can actually travel and meet each other.

For the time being we're just in a discussion and brainstorming phase, but my students are ready to start writing about some of these topics on Viva. I'm going to jump right in with colleagues in Poland and in other schools here in France, and hope to get our partnerships registered at the E-Twinning site as soon as possible.

Please contact me if you're interested or have other ideas to share. Although I've got many of my own ideas, I'd really like to work together with partners to develop a project we can all take a part in shaping.

Cheers, --- Phil at