Suggestions for a text-based CALL lesson
The lesson plan outlined below is based on a computer program entitled Our House (which can be downloaded free of charge from the authors CALL site). The program opens with a blank screen, and the students task is to complete the text by suggesting words to it. Each accepted word will appear on its correct line(s) and in its correct place(s) in relation to all visible words, but without any indication as to the number or place(s) of the missing words. By typing help instead of suggesting a new word, students get different types of clues. The higher their score, the more specific the clues.
Tell the students that they are going to work on a text entitled Our House. Invite them to think individually about the topic for a short while and to prepare a list of all content words that they think will appear in the text.
After a minute or two, ask them to compare their lists in pairs or in groups of three.
Read out the text Our House to the students (twice, if needed). Next, ask them to tick all those content words on their lists that were in fact included in the text and to compare the lists with their classmates.
Ask the students to work in pairs with the program Our House and to type in the words. Every three minutes or so, ask them to walk around in the computer class for one minute and take a look at the words their classmates have got on their screens.
When the students have completed the text, invite them to prepare a number of questions about its content. The questions could be either Yes/No questions (Is there an attic in the house?), alternative questions (Is the house blue or yellow?), or open questions (How many bedrooms are there in the house?).
Arrange a competition where students ask each other questions about the text (with or without the texts still displayed on the computer screens). This can be done in pairs or in groups of three or four.
Invite the students to work in pairs, with one student retelling as much as possible of the content of the text without looking at the computer screen, and his or her friend listening and matching the retold version against the original text (which is still displayed on the screen for the listeners eyes only).
Ask the students to prepare individual lists of content words (a) that they expected to find in the text (but were in fact missing), or (b) that they did not expect to find in the text (but were in fact there). After a couple of minutes, ask them to compare their lists in pairs or in groups of three.
Ask the students to prepare (and present) short oral summaries about their own houses.
Our House (the text)
I live in a big yellow house near the main road. Our house has eight windows and two balconies that overlook a big garden. On the ground floor there are a kitchen, a hall, a living-room with many paintings on the walls, a dining-room where we have all our meals, a bathroom, a toilet, a computer room with lots of books in a giant bookcase that fills the whole wall, and a garage. In front of the house there are a garden, a swimming-pool, and a large, green fountain with fish.
On the first floor there are three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a small toilet. On the second floor there is an attic which has all kinds of old furniture. Behind the house there is a vegetable garden. We have a large basement too, with a cosy sitting-room and an open fireplace.
© Rolf Palmberg 2003