Recorded Speaking Activity (RSA): Pedagogy, Implementation, Evaluation and Creation

I had the pleasure this past weekend to co-present about the Recorded Speaking Activity we do at my institution. Check it out below!

I presented earlier this year at TESOL International about the benefits of using Google Drive for collaborative activities, and incidentally, this is a demonstration of those benefits, as my colleagues and I used Google Slides to create this presentation together. I don’t think I posted my TESOL International presentation on this blog, but I gave a similar presentation at Three Rivers TESOL 2016.

Three Rivers TESOL 2015 – Collaborative Projects the Easy Way Using Google Drive

This is a companion post for my presentation at Three Rivers TESOL on 11/7/2015. In the live workshop, we will do hands-on activities with Google Drive. This post contains some introductory prose and a link to a “how-to” document for setting up Google Drive projects for your own students.

Students collaborating using Google Drive. Photo: Charlotta Wasteson, CC BY 2.0
Students collaborating using Google Drive. Photo: Charlotta Wasteson, CC BY 2.0

Have you ever assigned a group project such as a panel speech or a group presentation? If you have, you know that the logistics tend to get messy. In my experience, students in a group often each create their own PowerPoint files and then try to paste them all together into one group file. This requires a lot of emailing and effort, and the final product usually looks inconsistent and shabby due to varying slide designs, fonts sizes, and so on. Plus, if one or two students aren’t pulling their weight, their poor or missing work may come as a surprise to their fellow group members on presentation day.

But what if all the members of a group could work on the same file at the same time?

Google Drive is a free online office suite created and maintained by Google, Inc. The program is accessed via a web browser (on PCs/Macs) or via mobile apps (iOS/Android). Where Google Drive differs most substantially from Microsoft Office is that it makes collaboration very easy: everyone working on a project can edit the same document at the same time, and built-in commenting and chatting features enable the collaborators to coordinate their efforts. The online nature of Google Drive also means that teachers do not need to “collect” work. Rather, teachers have permanent, ongoing access to the document and can monitor student work live as it happens.

See here for instructions:

Using Google Drive for Collaborative Student Projects

The above document contains all the instructions you need to get a project up and running. It’s certainly a bit simpler to set projects up if your institution uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE), but this is not a prerequisite. As long as the teacher has a Google account, the teacher can create the projects and enable students to work on those documents without needing to log into a Google account.

Give it a try!

Downloading temporary offline copies of web videos with 4K Video Downloader

Up-front disclaimer: This post is being written to fulfill the terms of a promotion.

As an ESL teacher, I often show authentic videos in my classrooms. For example, recently, to complement a textbook unit whose theme was marketing and advertising, I showed an authentic video from YouTube in which a marketing consultant talked about the challenges which DVRs have introduced to television advertising.

However, I’m wary of trusting the reliability of video streaming websites. Buffers can freeze, connections can drop, and intrusive unskippable advertising can rob the class of 30 seconds or more. With those issues in mind, I prefer to download videos in advance rather than streaming them directly from the source website. Of course, this works most easily when the rights holder of the video provides a download feature and explicitly allows and encourages people to download copies for offline use. If I want to show my class a lecture from, for example, I can easily download it as an MP4 file for lag-free, bufferless, 100% reliable classroom viewing, because all TED talks are Creative Commons licensed for free distribution.

However, even when rights holders do not provide a download feature, it’s fair use to download a temporary copy of an authentic listening passage for classroom use. YouTube, the 800 pound gorilla of the online video world, does not offer an official downloading feature– presumably because many of the important rights holders of content on YouTube (such as music labels) forbid video downloads for commercial reasons. This is understandable, but the one-size-fits-all approach stymies educators’ fair use rights.

There are plenty of unofficial programs and web browser extensions which enable educators to download videos from YouTube, but my personal favorite is 4K Video Downloader by OpenMedia LLC. It’s a lightweight stand-alone application, which is great. By comparison, most other video downloader programs are installed as browser extensions– and I prefer not to weigh my web browser down with a bunch of extensions and plugins that aren’t needed 99% of the time.

Beyond the fact that it’s a quick, streamlined application, what I like about 4K Video Downloader is that once I’ve configured it to my desired settings (video resolution, output folder, etc), all I need to do is paste a YouTube link into the application to begin a download. From there, the program does its job quickly and reliably every time.

The advertising in the program is minimal, so I haven’t paid for the ad-free version. However, given the current free license promotion, I thought it would be worth it to say a few words about the program.

4/3/2 in the 21st Century: Formative Assessment of Fluency through Digital Recording

Hello, Three Rivers TESOL! See below for my presentation and related resources.


Maurice (1983) pioneered a 4/3/2 fluency activity for intermediate to advanced learners in which each student speaks on the same topic three times in shrinking time frames: four minutes, three minutes, and finally two minutes. Shrinking the time frame places pressure on students to use time economically by avoiding hesitations and increasing fluency of speech. While Maurice’s original activity had students speaking with partners and involved little teacher or student assessment of performance, the ubiquity of cheap digital recording technology (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) enables teachers of the 21st century to reconstruct the activity as a formative self-assessment with teacher feedback.

In my version of the activity, students watch a humorous short film full of concrete, reportable events two times (Eggleston, 2000). Students then record themselves narrating the events of the film for two minutes, after which they listen to the recording to notice their hesitations and self-assess their fluency. Students then record the same narration in one minute thirty seconds, followed by listening and self-assessment. Finally, students record the narration in one minute and again listen and self-assess. Students discuss and reflect upon their experiences, especially on the extent of self-perceived improvement. The teacher collects the final recording in order to review it and provide written feedback targeting hesitations, word linking, or other fluency-related performance targets.

Works cited:

Here are some more videos appropriate for this activity:

Four short videos to help your language students improve their fluency