What is Spreaker and how does it work?
Essentially Spreaker is a platfrom to record, share and search for podcasts. You can either use the iOS or Android App Spreaker Studio or the web console via the website spreaker.com. Listening to and downloading podcasts is free and no account is required. To create and share podcasts, however, an account is required for which you might need to give your email address. The spreaker desktop is extremely easy to manage. Using the web console, you can add sound effects as well as (licence free!) music to you recordings, the app on the other hand offers you a more limited number of sound effects but allows you to pause your recording which the web console does not do. In general, spreaker does not allow you to edit your podcasts, however you could edit it with garage band on Macs or with audacity on your windows computer and then upload it and publish it on spreaker. There are a lot of spreaker tutorials on youtube, but essentially it is very intuitive to handle.
What about data protection?
As with many US-based companies such as Facebook, Spreaker makes you accept the permission to use your information (basically podcasts and account info such as your email-address) and to also hand it to third-party institutions. No further explanation who these guys might be.
Spreaker traces your activities such as the podcasts you are listening to and might suggest podcasts to you based on your interests and activities.
To be on the safe side legally, you must ask for the consent of the teenagers and their parents if you want to use spreaker (or any other app /tech for which you have to set up an account) in class. Tell them about your learning aims and the reasons for using spreaker. If you do not get the consent of a student and / or his/her parents you might offer this student an alternative to participate in class other than using the desired tech/app.
One possibility for spreaker would be to set up a class account and to let the students create podcasts and publish them via this account.
How can I use spreaker in the classroom?
class news program
Make the class collect important news throughout the week and make them create news programs summarizing the week’s main events and developments in English. Before doing this you should as always confront them with real life examples of news podcasts such as BBC global news or BBC News Summary to acquire the vocabulary and the form of such a news format. These news items have to be carefully prescripted in a homework task and cannot be spoken spontaneously.
Turn a poem / a novel into a radio play
Turn a poem or a novel into a radio play using sound effects and different roles. This is already possible for very young learners as they can use parts of the language material offered by the original text. Use spreaker for this.
Put on a radio show
Make the students produce radio shows in which they interview (fictional) stars. It is huge fun for them to invent stars and put on such a show asking questions about what this person is famous for and asking them questions about their personal life.
Here you can download a lesson plan using spreaker and the material for this lesson:
Focus on …. speaking! (cf. Grimm et al. 2015: 130 – 133.)
Let’s start with German, “Sprache kommt von Sprechen”. The German sentence perfectly catches the importance of speaking in language class, making speaking the indisputable master of all competences (perhaps in combination with listening).
Humans a social beings and speaking is one of the main bounds that connects people. There are a thousand ways of speaking :
- defending a position in a speech
- meeting and chatting with a friend of a nice mug of tea
- asking someone for advice in a tricky situation
- telling an engaging story
Now, what does it mean to and how can we teach speaking best? To start with one has to understand the psycho-linguistic implications of the act of speaking itself.Basically it consists of four major phases (cf. Bygate 2011: 419-420):
- conceptualizing = you form a pre-linguistic concept (an idea) of what you are going to say in your head
- formulating = you put this idea into words / phrases
- articulating = you pronounce the sentences
- repair / self-control = you correct your utterances
Basically, there two types of speaking, monologic and dialogic. In the first one, you speak without interruption for a longer period of time to an audience. This can be a report, a talk, a statement, a speech, a story. In the latter one, you are transmitting ideas, thoughts, feelings, information to the person or two or more people you are talking to. You listen to their reactions and you react on things said before. Dialogic speaking might make up the majority of our daily spoken interaction.
In order to become a competent speaker of English, we need to teach the following:
on a linguistic level
- provide students with a lot of meaningful and engaging language material (preferably in spoken form)
- be a language model yourself
- make English the one and only language spoken in class (German must be the exception!)
- automatize language forms in mini-contexts and closed exercises (yes, pattern drill is ok for this!)
- make students talk English as much as you can (interviews, debates, role plays, double circle…) the methods are almost endless, check method guides for EFL teaching for ideas and do it!
- provide support systems (phrases, expressions) students can use during a task
- train auto-correction by giving feedback to spoken interaction of their classmates
on a communicative, interactional level
- sign-posting (give students words/expression/ strategies to indicate what is important, when a new ideas starts)
- fillers,e.g. well, in fact, actually… (sometimes you might need a break to rethink what you want to say)
- polite turn-taking, taking the floor
- intercultural misunderstandings (different levels of politeness / false friends / word connotations, taboo words)
- cultural speech acts (how to greet someone politely, how to ask for permission…)
One mantra, that goes for every speaking task in class is:
“language instructors should provide learners with opportunities for meaningful communicative behavior about relevant topics by using learner-learner interaction as the key to teach language for communication” (Shumin 2002: 208).
- Bygate, Marting. 2011. “Teaching and Testing Speaking”. In: Michael H. Long and Catherine J. Doughty. eds. The Handbook of Language Teaching. Malden, MA: Wiley- Blackwell, 412-440.
- Grimm at al.. 2015. Teaching English. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto.
- Shumin, Kang. 2002. “Factors to Consider: Developing EFL Students’ Speaking Abilities.” In: Jack C. Richards and Willy A. Renandya, eds. Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice. Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press, 204-211.