Virtual tours as a tool for ESL teaching

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Virtual tours are a marvellous way to take your ESL students to distant lands and places of interest which most of them will probably never get the opportunity to visit in the real world. For a trainee or novice ESL teacher, a virtual tour is an enjoyable and useful ESL teaching tool. Here are a few tips about what you should consider when using this teaching tool.

  1. The virtual tour must have an ESL learning objective. The novice ESL teacher should not take the students on a virtual tour purely for the sake of enjoyment. If you decide to take your students to a zoo, one of the objectives could be to name all the different animals that they will see: this learning objective would be appropriate for an A1 or A2 level class.
  2. Select a virtual tour that is appropriate for the students’ CEFR level.  Don’t take students on virtual tours to places where their level of English is inadequate to express what is happening, for example: if you decide to take your students to a car assembly plant, make sure that their level of English is adequate enough to be able to describe how the cars are assembled. This would probably be a C1 level tour.
  3. Prepare the students before you take them on the tour. Before you take them on the tour, discuss any essential vocabulary or expression that might be required for them to do the ESL learning objective. If you have several specific learning objectives, you should think about preparing worksheets which can be completed either ‘while touring’ or ‘after touring’. If you decide on a ‘while touring’ worksheet, keep it short so that you do not spoil the students’ enjoyment.
  4. Set a time for your virtual tour. Don’t take the students on long tours that take up the whole lesson: if it’s a long tour, break it up into two or three small tours spread over as many lessons. Before and at the end of each tour, you will have to leave time for tour related discussions and classroom work.
  5. Decide where you want to go. On occasions, the ESL teacher will decide where to take the class; however, it is also great fun for the class to be able to decide where to go. Here are four places that might be worth touring: – http://www.visitlondon.com/discover-london/london-virtual-tourhttp://www.eyerevolution.co.uk/virtual_tours/tate-modern/ http://www.google.com/earth/index.htmlhttps://www.google.com/maps/views/streetview?gl=us A virtual tour can be a stimulating and motivational learning experience both for the ESL teacher and the students, but it should not be forgotten that each tour must have an ESL learning objective: don’t use virtual tours just for the sake of enjoyment or for filling in spare time.

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