Moodle Forums for ESOL Students

A forum in Moodle

Internet forums allow users can post comments or questions for others to read. Other users can then add further comments or replies; they are often used to get answers to specific questions or to comment on and discuss a particular topic.

They also have potential as tools for language teaching. Forums allow students to communicate with each other, and also leave a record of their language use, which can be used to demonstrate learning and also areas for further work. I have found this to be a useful tool with my own students particularly in combination with websites that may be useful to them in their everyday life. Below are some examples of forums that I used with my students. I set up these forums using Moodle and have included a guide to doing so underneath, however there are a huge number of different tools and websites that can be used to do this.

Example forums – a) E1/E2 (Beginner/Elementary)
With students who have a lower level of English, I use forums as a way of getting students to interact with websites, and also to practise new areas of language.

1) Transport for London
The Transport for London website (www.tfl.gov.uk) has a very useful Journey Planner feature for finding routes by public transport between different addresses in London. I have found this an excellent resource for students to practise language for asking for information about public transport. I introduced students to the website by setting up a “customer service” role play where half the class sat at computers with the TfL Journey Planner open, while the other half had to choose a starting point (usually their house) and a place in London that they wanted to go to. They then asked their partners for the best route.

Once the students had practised the language orally, I asked them to use a Moodle forum to ask the class for the same information. Students posted the start and end point of their journeys; they then looked at one of their classmates’ posts and used the website to look up a journey. The students would then have to interpret the information given by the TfL website and write instructions for their classmates. I monitored the students’ language use in the forum and could print out pages from the forum for the students to correct the language on the page. Finally, the students could return to working orally, as above, with a different student to practise any points that they needed to work on. With these activities, I was able to get students to practice oral language for finding information about local transport, I could introduce the students to finding information on a website that was likely to be genuinely useful to them in the future, I was able to get students to look at the language structures used in questions and in writing instructions to get somewhere and I was able to give them some oral fluency practice.

2) Online Shopping
Students had been looking at language to describe items of clothing. For this exercise I set up a forum in Moodle, with the premise that the students had £100 (unfortunately not real money) to buy clothes that they liked. The students had to look at the websites I had provided, choose clothes that they liked and post them in the forum, complete with a description of why they liked them.

This allowed the students to practise using the vocabulary that they had learnt for describing clothes, it also gave them practice finding information from the internet. The students were genuinely interested in each others responses and so they got the opportunity to practise question forms and other language areas that arose in ‘conversation’. Again, I could print out the students’ work and get them to find errors for correction, etc. There was also the opportunity to develop students’ numeracy skills.

This exercise can easily be adapted; I have also used forums in a similar way with the Argos website to look more generally at online shopping. I have also asked students to find a present for someone in the class and to explain their choice.

Example forums – b)E3/L1 (Pre-intermediate/Intermediate)
Looking for work
With a higher level of English, students are able to express much more of their personal opinions through forums. I used a forum to encourage students to look for job vacancies, using a number of different websites.

Students searched the websites for positions that they were interested in. They then posted the link to the advert in the forum and described why they were interested in the particular position. This exercise helped students to interact more closely with a selection of the numerous employment websites on the net. Being able to describe the motivation in applying for a particular position is often an important part of finding employment. This exercise gave students the chance to develop these skills.

How to create a forum using Moodle

1. The first step is to turn editing on, using the “Turn editing on” button, usually in the top right-hand corner. If this button is not there, it probably means that you have not been given editing rights, contact your Moodle administrator to resolve this.

2. Next, select the “Add an activity…” drop-down menu in the section where you want to add the forum.
3. In the drop-down menu that appears, select “Forum”
4. In the “Adding a new forum” page that appears, add a title for your forum. This is what the students will see on their course page, so ensure that it is appropriate for them.
5. Next, insert the instructions for the forum. This is the text that the students will see when they enter the forum. We are going to add the weblink in this section.
6. To add the weblink: first, highlight the text that you want to be the link (ie. “this website”). This will be the text that students click on to get to the website you want to use.
7. Next, click on the chain link icon above the text entry box. Make sure that the text is still highlighted.
8. In the window that appears, enter the web address that you want to link to in the URL box (URL means web address). It might be easiest just to use the right mouse button to copy and paste the address from another window. N.B. Ensure that the web address starts with ‘http://’ – if it just has ‘www.’ it will not work.
9. It is a good idea to select “New window” in the “Target” menu, as this means that the website will open in a separate window. This means that the student will be able to see the forum and the website linked to at the same time.
Click OK to save the link.
10. You should now see that the text you highlighted has changed colour and is underlined.
The other options on the page are purely optional; you will not usually need to change them at all.
11. Finally, click on either the “Save and display” or the “Save and return to course” options at the bottom of the page. N.B. If you navigate away from the page before clicking on either of these save buttons you will lose EVERYTHING!
12. From the main forum page, students and teachers can contribute to the forum using the “Add a new discussion topic” button. If you wish to edit any aspect of the forum click on the “Update this Forum” button, which will take you back to the fourth step above.

A PDF version of this guide (with screenshots and everything!) is availablehere: Moodle Forums for ESOL Students

(You will have to register; but it’s a) a useful website for ESOL resources, b) FREE and c) they don’t ever seem to hassle you through email and the like… )

Los foros en Internet dejan que los usuarios pueden publicar comentarios o preguntas para que otros los leen. Otras internautas pueden añadir otros comentarios o respuestas, muchas veces se los usan para encontrar la respuesta para preguntas especificas o para discutir algun tema.

También tiene mucha potencial en la enseñanza de lengua, dejan que los estudiantes se pueden comunicar entre ellos y crean una constancia de su uso de la lengua, eso muestra su progreso y tambien señaliza cosas para el desarrollo. Para mi es un herramiento muy útil con mis estudiantes, especialment en conjunto con sitios de internet que les pueden servir en su vida cotidiaria. Acá hay unos ejemplos de foros que ya usé con mis clases, yo los hice con Moodle, pero hay varios sitios y herramientos que se pueden usar para eso.

Ejemplos – a) E1/E2 (Principiante/Elementary)

Con estudiantes quien tiene un nivel más bajo de inglés, utilizo los foros como una manera para hacer que los estudiantes realmente explotan la información que se puede conseguir en internet y también para practicar nuevas areas linguisticas.

1) Transport for London

El sitio de Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk) tiene un muy útil herramiento llamado ‘Journey Planner’  para que la gente puede encontrar la forma más facil de ir de un lugar en Londres a otra, utlizando el transporte público. Para mi, esto es perfecto para que los estudiantes practican expresiones para encontrar información sobre el transporte público. Introduje el sitio a los estudiantes, armando un diálogo cliente-asistente, donde la mitad se sentaban frente a los computadoras con el sitio abierto mientras que los otros tenían que encontrar un punto de partida (normalmente su casa) y un destino a donde querían ir, luego preguntaban a los ‘asistentes’ el mejor manera para llegar.

Una vez que los estudiantes habían practicado estas expresiones en forma oral, les pedí que se usan un foro en Moodle para pedir la misma información. Los estudiantes escribían el punto de partida y el destino para sus ‘viajes’ y miraban a las preguntas de los otros, usando el sitio para encontrar la forma más facil para llegar, luego interpretaban la información del sitio para escribir unas instrucciones para sus colegas. Yo controlaba el uso del inglés de los estudiantes en el foro y despues lo imprimé para que los estudiantes corregían lo que habían escrito. Finalmente los estudiantes podían volver a trabajar oralmente con otras colegas para practicar los punto que necesitaba mejoramiento. Así los estudiante podían practicar lengua oral para encontrar información sobre los transportes locales, les podía introducir a la idea de encontrar información en un sitio que les podía servir, podían practicar las estructuras para hacer preguntas e instrucciones en inglés y les podía dar un poco de practica de fluencia oral.

2) Compras en linea

Estabamos practicando expressiones para describir prendas de ropa y para esta tarea hice un foro en Moodle, con la idea de que los estudiantes tenía £100 (virtual, desafortuanateamente) para comprar ropa que les gustaba. Tenían que mirar a los sitios que yo les di, elegir prendas que les gustaban y escribir en el foro, con la razón por que les gustaban tanto.

Esto hizo que los estudiantes practicaban usando el vocabulario que habían aprendido para describir la ropa, tambien les dio practica en encontrando esta información en la red, estaban realmente interesados en las respuestas de los otros entonces podíam practicar las preguntas y otras areas linguisticas que salieron el la ‘conversación’. Otra vez, podía imprimir el trabajo de los estudiantes y asegurar que fijaban en sus errores, además de eso podían practicar matemática tambien.

Esto se puede adaptar muy facil, usé foros así con el sitío de Argos para explorar más el tema de las compras en-linea, tambien se puede hacer que los estudiantes buscan un regalo para una colega y explicar por que lo eligieron.

Ejemplos – b)E3/L1 (Pre-intermedio/Intermedio)
Buscando trabajo

Con un mejor nivel de inglés, los estudiantes se pueden expresar mucho más de sus propios opiniones en los foros, en un ejemplo de eso usé un foro para que buscaban puestos de empleo, usando distintos sitios.

Buscaban puestos que les interesaban, luego ponían la dirección de los anuncios en el foro y explicaban porque les interesaban este puesto en particular. Así ellos practicaban buscando y leendo información sobre puestos de empleo en internet, y tambien como explicar su motivo para solicitar el puesto, un punto clave en la busqueda del trabajo.

Stop Press – Video Tutorial from e-blahblah.com

PS: Here’s a great video tutorial I found from Sandra Pires at Westminster Adult Education Service (who has a fantastic blog at http://www.e-blahblah.com

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9 thoughts on “Moodle Forums for ESOL Students

    1. Thanks for that, I really need to get into Nings – I’ve signed up for quite a few, but I haven’t had the chance yet to explore them fully – do you use them with students? Or to get ideas from other teachers?

  1. Wow! Lots of great ideas for ESL/ELL students. I teach in a dual language school so these will definitely be a blog I continue to follow. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. I get frustrated when thinking about Moodle. It’s not the app itself, just the whole malarkey that goes with it at my college. They promote it endlessly with training sessions, indicate it’s going to be the future for us by limiting our shared drive space, yet they don’t give us the keys (figuratively) to get in and experiment. I would definitely use Moodle, but without having good access and an opportunity to work with it, I will never get au fait with it.

    I think what you’re doing there is great, especially the step-by-step walkthrough – something I always need myself when presented with new web tools 🙂

    1. Yeah, I think the key to using Moodle is to just grab hold of it and play with it, and think how it would be useful for your students. Generally it’s an uphill struggle unless you have fairly regular access to an IT suite. I’m lucky, at the college I work at, we have an ESOL IT room, so I pretty much had to come up with ways to exploit that.

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