Who says learning academic language can’t be all fun and games?
Engage students in academic language and vocabulary with game- and project-based learning. Each headline below is a verbatim quote from an independent NSF-sponsored study.
"My kids love it! They see it as a game, but they are still learning!"
It's actually a whole array of games and activities, each of which fills an important niche in the academic language pedagogy. The games and activities use multimodal learning, peer collaboration, creativity projects and other strategies to engage students without distracting gimmicks like points or coins.
"...they get really engaged and don't want to stop!"
That's because students see themselves able to overcome the academic language barrier. It's a tremendously empowering experience. Game-based learning is a key strategy. It converts what would normally be an insurmountable challenge into a challenge that is both achievable and desirable. In the words of one science teacher, “For students who are behind academically or struggle with technology ... once they start playing [Speak Agent games], they get really engaged and don’t want to stop!”
"They are learning and sharing, telling stories and facts."
Storytelling is another tool that Speak Agent uses. It engages students not only in the games, but also gets them to engage deeply in the academic content. Narratives provide important context for understanding the nuances of complex concepts and multi-meaning words. They also help students learn how to appropriately apply vocabulary and syntax in varied situations. This is a critical step on the path to mastery.
"They're asking more questions, like what does a volcanic eruption mean..."
As the saying goes, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” We did not expect students to take this so literally: One third-grader actually made a model volcano out of clay after playing our "Investigating the Natural World" lesson! This reflects a truly deep connection with the content. Speak Agent enables this because it aligns to the classroom curriculum and ties directly into daily classwork and discourse.
Customizes Game-Based Learning to Your Academic Content
Students and teachers put the academic language learning strategies into practice through interaction with digital games, creative projects, and other engaging activities. Each game or activity is based on a template that districts, schools, educators, and organizations may customize to their needs. Each template supports multiple learning strategies and modes that are documented in a detailed activity guide. Teachers generally have broad flexibility over whether to use the activities in guided instruction, independent practice, or peer collaboration. Below is a growing list of games and activities found in Speak Agent. Each game has been tested for usability, feasibility, and efficacy in multiple studies.
|Word Gallery||This activity introduces students to new vocabulary using an interactive word wall. It can be used in teacher-led instruction on a whiteboard or projector.|
|Video||Videos provide important context for key academic concepts and unit topics.|
|Picture Pairs||This game develops familiarity and sight recognition of unit keywords through audiovisual practice.|
|My Voice||Students record their own voices and receive real-time feedback from a language buddy to build familiarity and fluency.|
|Read Along||This dialogic reading activity provides short leveled texts with narration, visuals, and customizable prompts that develop concept and content comprehension.|
|Tall Tales||Students fill in missing parts of stories by choosing words or phrases that match prompted categories.|
|Explain Your Work||This cloze activity helps students learn how to describe how they arrived at solutions to word problems, equations, proofs, and other work typical of STEM fields.|
|Scrambled Sentences||Students assemble sentence parts into the correct order by manipulating puzzle pieces to complete a short multi-sentence story.|
|Vocab Lab||Students analyze the nuanced meaning of new concepts by combining ingredient words to solve the secret word formulas.|
|Text||This is a tool for customizable read alouds or instructions with embedded audio support.|
|Word Spin||This multimodal composition project uses unit vocabulary in a three-step writing process. Students can pair up with an editor and share their work with teachers.|
|Story Spin||The whole class or groups use this activity to draft and edit multimodal stories related to authentic classroom content and apply new concepts in context.|
|Matching||This memory game aids in retention of the new concepts learned in a unit.|