Stacey Hughes, former EFL teacher, is a teacher trainer in our Professional Development team. Here she uses course material from Network to explore how social media can be used in the classroom to motivate young adults learning English.
Want to get young adult learners really motivated? Then make the language they are learning meaningful by linking it to authentic English practice opportunities. One way to do this is to set up a social networking project in which students can apply the vocabulary, grammar and communication skills they have built up in class. In this blog I will first list some of the pedagogical benefits of using a social media project. I’ll then suggest a few ideas for projects before outlining how a social media project can be set up in class.
Why use a social media project?
A social media project provides English practice opportunities in an environment that is familiar. Many of our students frequently use social media already when they tweet, post questions or comments online, blog, share videos or links, and chat online. By linking this social media use to English learning, students feel that what they are learning is meaningful for authentic communication and they can personalise learning as they build a network of classmates and peers to communicate with. Social media also provides plenty of models for how language is actually used and endless opportunities to use critical thinking skills to evaluate sources of information. Finally, social media projects can show young adults how to apply social media skills to further their professional growth.
Examples of social media projects
Social media projects aim to get students to use social networks to perform authentic tasks or solve authentic problems. Smaller projects include creating a profile or uploading and sharing a photo with a comment. An example of a larger project might be researching to find a place to live or places to stay on holiday. The projects can be chosen to suit the language level of the student.
Below is a list of social media projects you can do with your students.
- Build a personal or professional profile
Students decide how much information to share and the best image of themselves to project, where to post the profile and how to share it so others can see it.
- Post a blog or comment
Students respond to another blog or set up their own personal or professional blog. They comment on and rate an article, product or event.
- Connect online
Students find an old school friend or a new friend in another country, join a group online that shares their interests, or collaborate on a project.
- Investigate something local
Students learn about a local problem, find out about local events, or contact an organisation in their community.
- Find out
Students find places to stay when travelling, find a job or a place to live, find a suitable restaurant – the possibilities are endless.
- Evaluate a website
Students decide whether the information on a website is credible or not, or if a site or posting adheres to accepted ‘netiquette’.
This may seem an odd choice, but there is a lot of language involved in learning the rules of the game and playing it well. Many games also have online forums and opportunities to link up online with other gamers.
Lesson plan for setting up a social media project
The following example of a social media project could be done over several weeks.
Use social networking to find a job
Level: Elementary and above
Aim: Students will research job finding resources and present their findings to the rest of the class.
- Lead-in: use an image or anecdote to begin a discussion about finding a job. Ask students if they have experience looking for a job and what resources they used to find one. Find out if they use any social networks (friends, family connections or social networks online) to look for jobs. This discussion could bring up some interesting cultural differences.
- Put students into pairs or small groups to brainstorm resources they could use to find a job. They should list a variety of resources, not just online ones. Ask each group to share their list with the class. Example resources include a career centre at school, newspapers, websites, professional networks, company web pages, jobs fairs, and personal networks (friends and families).
- Write the following questions on the board:
- Where is it?
- Who can use it? How?
- What kind of information is available?
- Do you get personal attention?
- Can you set up interviews?
- What employers use this resource?
- Ask each group to research the job-finding resources they have brainstormed and answer the questions. You may ask each member of the group to research a different type of resource, or each student could research them all. The research can be assigned for homework.
- If you are doing the project over the course of several weeks, ask students to bring in examples of new vocabulary they have found. Use these new terms to create vocabulary walls or a class wiki.
- Bring the groups back together to share the information they found. Ask them to create a group presentation. The presentation could be on a poster or could use presentation software such as PowerPoint or Prezi. Encourage them to use tables, charts or bullet-points for a good visual effect.
- Each group can practice their presentation in front of another group. Ask the groups to give each other feedback by posing questions: Was there anything you didn’t understand? Do you have any questions about the information that the group didn’t answer?
- Ask each group to give their presentation. Encourage groups to listen to each other, take notes and ask questions.
- As a follow-up, ask the class to write a short blog listing ways to use social networking to find a job. Ask each group to list 1-2 ideas, then collate these into one document. Share the document online and invite other classes in the school to read it.
(This project plan was adapted from Network 1 Teacher’s book, page vii)
The plan above demonstrates how a social media project can bring the real world into the classroom and make language learning meaningful for authentic tasks. It brings in a range of related vocabulary and grammar, and practices all four skills, but keeps the focus on the task. This focus is motivating and completing the task can give students a sense of achievement, especially if they then have a live audience to share with.