If you've been following our blog, you've probably noticed that we often emphasize Extempore's unique ability to elicit spontaneous speech and provide one-to-one, student-to-teacher interaction. In this post, though, I want to highlight how Extempore can also facilitate meaningful peer-to-peer interaction, especially in classroom environments, such as those implementing project-based learning, where these interactions serve as key milestones towards language proficiency.


Project-based learning: A brief background

Project-based learning (PBL) is an approach to education that prioritizes inquiry, investigation, problem-solving, and collaboration to address complex, real-life challenges or issues. And although one could trace PBL's roots back to the philosophers of Ancient Greece in a sense, it's been gaining significant traction in many educational circles these days.

Many world languages teachers have adopted PBL in their classrooms because, as they might say, it provides a better platform for students to show what they can do with the language in real interaction, rather than traditional classroom approaches, which at times (perhaps inadvertently!), encourage students to demonstrate what they've memorized about the language. Successful PBL also emphasizes the ACTFL World Readiness Standards, one of which is Communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational).


Extempore and Project-based learning

If you're a teacher who has taken on PBL in your classroom, you've almost certainly had to consider how your students are going to demonstrate interpersonal communication. Some of the key pieces of interpersonal communication--whether it's happening in a PBL classroom or something more traditional--is negotiation of meaning and scaffolding between two or more students. But how will it all unfold? Will they speak in pairs or groups in class? Will they record themselves speaking outside of class and send it to you? How will you assess their communication? We think that Extempore is a fun and easy way for students to show you what they can do. It also provides an excellent platform for you to view their work and provide feedback as students work towards creating their final project.


Extempore's unique timing parameters ensure spontaneity thus giving you a better sense of your students' true abilities (and where they may need more guidance) when engaged in authentic negotiation of meaning. Here are some great ways to put Extempore to work in your PBL classroom:

  • Dramatizations/Role-plays: Give students a scenario (a marketplace, a restaurant, a train station, etc.). Then, with each student performing a unique role, ask them to solve a problem that might arise in one of those locations. Students could record a video response and submit their task to you for assessment.
  • Round table chats: Provide pairs or small groups of students with a series of thematically-appropriate questions that might prep them as they work towards their end-of-unit final project. They can record these discussions via a video response on Extempore and submit them to you for assessment.
  • Information gap tasks: Ask students to negotiate a task by soliciting information from each other. These sorts of activities are great ways to promote target language usage and help students to focus on correct target forms.
  • Map tasks: This is a specific type of information gap task in which students help each other navigate a fictitious town map to arrive at a specific destination. This may work well for a PBL unit focusing on city life or shopping.

If PBL is definitely for you or if you're worried that your students aren't getting in enough interpersonal speaking practice, give Extempore a shot. We think it'll help you be the best "guide on the side" around!

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