The following activities were originally authored by Lauren Rosen and published in Virtual Connections in 1996. While the availability of web-based materials has grown tremendously since then and the National Standards have provided a new way of looking at what we do, these very simple activities may be a catalyst to others of your own creation.
Travel to your favorite countries and visit parks, monuments, universities, or just about anywhere else of interest. Do you enjoy Antarctica, the Caribbean, or the Middle East? It's all in one place called City Net. Are you planning a trip abroad for your students? You will find everything from pictures of your favorite monument to information in the target language on the natural resources and art in your preferred country. This can be done with any age and any language level as most of the countries offer information in both English and the target language.
Description: Virutal Tourist is a great motivator. Upon linking, students can either select to view a listing of countries by clicking on the hypertext or type in the name of the place they would like to visit. Work your way through by selecting the country and city to which you would like to travel. Through these adventures your students are able to familiarize themselves with a variety of aspects of the countries chosen.
Assign students to be travel agents and clients. They would put together a travel package that would suit the interests of their clients. In Geneva, Switzerland, for example, you can even get contact numbers for airlines and hotel information. Have students call or fax for information: there are local numbers for some of the airlines in your phone book.
Try to make the imaginary trip planning as real as possible. Ask your students to consult with a travel agent or their parents to be sure they gather all the information that one would want when planning a trip abroad. Consider having students fill out passport forms, which you can acquire from your post office.
Traveling the world from your desktop is a quick and informative way for getting your students in touch with the world outside of their hometown. It may provide them with a broader perspective of the world and interest them in traveling to know how others live.
Evaluation Depending on the guidelines you set with your students, your method of evaluation will develop. Keep in mind that some activities, such as the travel agent one suggested, call for cooperative/collaborative efforts. Students should be rewarded for their responsibility to the group as well as the final product presented. If you are doing a series of imaginary travel experiences to allow students to know a variety of countries, you may consider having students create a photo album or scrape book of their world travels throughout the course of the year.
Allows you to visit the major cities of the world via metro and learn where to go and how to get there from your favorite part of the city. Recommended for first through third year language learning in upper elementary, secondary, or higher education environments.
Description: Subway Navigator familiarizes students with metro travel throughout the world. In addition, students will become acquainted with many of the important locations within the city they travel and their proximity/accessibility via metro. Instructions for traveling are in French or English. Despite the desire to provide all instruction in the target language, non-French speakers should keep in mind that culture can be taught in any language and ought to be an integral part of language learning.
The traveler picks departure and arrival stops on the metro system in the city of their choice. If you don't know the names of the stops, select from a list or look at the map. The program calculates the approximate duration of the trip, lists all the lines taken and the stations passed.
Have students report back the computed route and the monuments they stopped to visit on the way. For example, if you are traveling in Berlin, you may choose to leave from the Charlottenhof metro stop and travel to the Rosenthaler Platz station. The calculated route determines that it takes approximately 50 minutes. It lists lines taken and stops passed. Included on this particular journey are Charlottenburg Palace/Egyptian Museum, Grunewald for those who would like to see the forest, and the Zoo.
Assign students different journeys within a city. Do a journal writing on an imaginary trip or build a travel portfolio by visiting several cities. Have students create a travel brochure of cool things to see and do in a particular city and what metro stops are near by. This may lead into a mini-research project. The possibilities are endless.
Use the metro ride combined with Virtual Tourist as a springboard for activities that will incorporate language and culture. Although it only takes a few minutes to find metro routing information, this may lead to a project taking up to a month depending on how extensively you incorporate the imaginary trip into your curriculum.
Evaluation: Base your assessment on the guidelines you want to give your students for their city tour. Assess how students utilize the information according to the guidelines you create rather than their ability to print out a list. If you have students working in pairs or small groups consider their individual efforts as well. It is important to take these explorations and add context and real life situations. Outside of an expensive plane ticket the Internet is the next best thing to being there with its graphics and descriptive information.
World News Tonight
The Internet is a great tool for accessing present day news from around the world. Here's your chance to turn your classroom into a newsroom. Do you have students that remind you of Murphy Brown? How about Lou Grant? Make them a star on your own news show featuring world news in the target language. If more than one language is offered at your school, work cooperatively and make it a departmental project. This activity would be best suited for the upper level language learner as it involves fairly strong reading and interpretative skills as well as fairly fluid speech.
Description: By using the information in the news on the Internet you can create a televised newsroom in your classroom as an ongoing project. Check out The Paperboy online newspapers for a listing of papers by country. This will give your students a chance to become more familiar with the present day life abroad, build their public speaking skills in the target language, and help them become more familiar with current events. Not to forget, improve their reading skills and vocabulary.
Have your students view the present day news from a target language country online. Some languages have more than one newspaper online. If you do this as an ongoing project you may switch regions by choosing a different paper every month or two. If you are only spending a short time on this you may have some students reporting information from one paper while others are using a different one. This could work as a good basis of comparison for how events are viewed cross-culturally.
Have your students pick articles, working in pairs or threesomes. Assign groups to cover all aspects of the news, ie. headlines, sports, local culture, weather, etc. If they don't all have Internet access you could print the paper and have them choose from there or choose for them. The beauty of this is your stronger students can take on more difficult articles whereas your weaker students may be better suited to follow the weather or a cultural story.
Have your students read and develop verbal news reports on the stories they are responsible for. Create a newsroom in your classroom where the reporters take turns presenting the top stories of the week (biweekly/monthly) in the target language. Segment the show as in the real news. Videotape the presentations or if you are in a city where you have an educational channel that will televise for you, go for it. If you can, go on "imaginary" location, ie. stand outside to give the weather report or in front of a construction site if your students will be talking about something under construction (or recently destroyed), etc.
If you choose to use news from a variety of countries consider compiling the stories and create a home page on the net. Include the top stories that your students choose and create hypertext links to servers in the countries where the events occurred. You may also want to include a hypertext link to the original article on the net.
In addition to working on their reading and speaking skills, have students develop new vocabulary lists from the articles they are responsible for. You may want to discuss some grammar that the students often run across in their articles, as well. By following the stories across a few days span they will get a more in depth understanding of the viewpoint of the region the articles are written in. As we all know the news is bias, so you might want to discuss the difference between your countries bias and that of the target culture. The best part is you are using current events, not stuff that is weeks old from a paper you subscribe to, and of course it won't cost you a subscription fee if your school is networked.
Try to make the newsroom as real as possible. Ask your students to watch the news in the evenings to get a feel for how news is actually given. Have them watch SCOLA if you have access to it so that they can see what the newsroom of the target culture is like.
Evaluation: Depending on the guidelines you set with your students, your method of evaluation will develop. Keep in mind that these activities call for cooperative/collaborative efforts. Students should be rewarded for their responsibility to the group as well as the final verbal presentations. You may find it more important to judge how well they have communicated and how fluidly they spoke rather than each little grammatical error they may make. The reports don't have to be memorized; as in the real world the news isn't memorized either. If you do this as an ongoing project students can change roles so they all learn to speak in the target language, as well as prepare and post documents on the net.
Warschauer, M(ed) 1996. Virtual Connections: Online Activities & Projects for Networking Language Learners. University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 0824817931; (June 1996).