Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many of you were already using Moodle with your students. This may have been for providing students with extra resources or for letting them know about assignments in case they missed a class. However, you may not have tapped into the potential of Moodle to allow students to interact with one another and put into practice their language skills. This was natural since communicative activities were already taking place in the classroom. These days, though, as meeting up face to face has become impossible, many of you are looking for ways to replicate that interactivity in an online format. To achieve this, one idea would be to set up a discussion forum in your Moodle classroom.
Here are 6 simple tips:
✔ Set up a discussion forum in Moodle. The video at the end of this post will show you how.
✔ Decide on a topic for your students to discuss. This could be something related to what they are studying in their course materials, for example, or general topics such as hobbies, music, cinema, books, or whatever you think will spark their interest.
✔ Write a question for your students to discuss. Ask them to post a main contribution and then to read the contributions from their fellow classmates and to reply to at least two or three of these.
✔ Consider whether you’d like to provide a model response for students to follow.
✔ Just as you would do in the classroom, make sure you are present in the discussion. This could involve one or more of the following moderating strategies:
Giving your own opinion on the topic
Summarizing what students have said so far
Pointing out a particularly interesting post and asking a follow-up question
Posing thought-provoking questions (or playing devil’s advocate) to promote further discussion
As you would do in the classroom, in your role as moderator, make sure to step back a bit and let the students take center stage. Be careful not to monopolize the discussion. Avoid responding to each and every student’s contribution as this may undermine student-to-student communication and result in students participating less.
✔ Remember to provide language input or corrective feedback at certain points in the discussion focusing on grammar, vocabulary, expressions, etc. In these posts, you may decide to do one or more of the following:
Point out common errors you have seen in students’ contributions (e.g. we don’t say “I’m agree” because…).
Point out good examples of language used by particular students.
Respond to students’ questions about language.
Ask students questions about language (e.g. What’s the difference between “He’s just gone” and “He’s just been”?, correcting one sentence with several errors which are typical of the level, etc.).