Guest Post- Prof. Domingo, University of St. Thomas

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Prof. Irene Domingo is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Saint Thomas, in St. Paul, MN. She has been using Extempore in her class for the Fall Semester and has been kind enough to write about her experiences:

This past semester, for the first time, I used Extempore in my Spanish grammar class. Every day, I dedicated the last 5-10 minutes to the Extempore activities. Students packed, took out their mobile devices and headphones, and spent some qualitative time practicing their oral abilities by themselves. The format I used was very simple: students were prompted to respond to one question I had either written or recorded online previously. This question was always prepared in a way that it compelled students to use the grammatical structure we had been reviewing in class. As I explicitly made clear from day one, the main goal of these oral activities was for students to review the target structure while getting increasingly used to speaking for longer periods of time without interruptions or hesitating. If they were studying the subjunctive, for example, I would ask them to talk about their wishes for the upcoming year. Students knew the application gave them the chance to re-record their answers as many times as they needed in order to get their grammar right but that they had to speak non-stop for as many minutes as the prompt specified. This configuration allowed them to take the time to think, prepare, and monitor their output while making them accountable for their own progress. At the same time, and thanks to the online and individualized setup of the application, their practice was devoid of all the anxiety that speaking in public causes in many. As a consequence, I was able to assess their oral skills more accurately. When I provided them with feedback, instead of giving them a grade, as the application allows you to do, I sent them tailored comments about the length, speed, fluidity, naturalness, or grammatical correctness of their answers, often praising their effort so that they slowly felt more at ease using Spanish orally. These activities, as I realized at the end of the semester, were especially useful for the students who participated the least in the classroom yet were willing to improve their conversational skills for they got and used the chance to build their confidence when speaking in Spanish at their own pace and, as a consequence, felt more prone to speak in public as well.

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University of St. Thomas campus in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Source: Wikipedia