Hi. My name is Mardiana Idris and I have been teaching the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) to pre-university students in a public school in Malaysia for nearly ten years now. MUET is a test of the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing), largely used for university admissions. When I first started teaching this subject, I noticed that my students were not confident in speaking English and they found it challenging.
One of the ways that I get students to practise the language is by filming them speaking and then upload the videos on a private YouTube channel for self-assessment and peer-assessment.
I find this technique useful and engaging for my students. So here, I would like to share my 10 tips on how you can use it too.
1. Seek students’ consent first
My students were initially reluctant and generally worried when I suggested making videos of them speaking and then putting their videos on YouTube. However, after explaining the rationale and the procedure, students agreed to participate and most of them seemed excited to start filming their speech.
2. Create a private YouTube channel
To safeguard my students’ privacy, I made sure that the channel I created on YouTube for self- and peer assessments practice was private.
Although YouTube is accessible publicly, you can set a private channel for a class or selected learners by clicking the ‘Privacy Settings’ which is available on ‘Video Manager’. When ‘Private’ is selected from the drop-down menu, a video can be shared with a maximum of 50 students.
3. Access to email
I also made sure that each student had an email account. Since the channel is private, only students with valid email accounts can access and view the videos for self- and peer-assessment practice.
4. Internet connection
To ensure optimal streaming of YouTube videos, the Internet connection has to be stable and fast. This may not be an issue in certain countries but here in Malaysia some students may not be able to afford an Internet at home. Thus, they rely only on Internet service available in school or the WiFi provided in public areas.
For students who are facing this predicament, I normally allocate certain times for the students to log into the school Internet in the computer lab.
5. Guide students before filming
Before students start filming, I guide them on how they can film their speech using a smartphone, iPad, tablet or laptop.
With a smartphone, iPad or tablet, students are taught to use the camera function for filming purposes and how to save the video for upload. Nowadays, videos can be directly uploaded to YouTube with a ‘share via’ function.
For laptop, students can choose their preferred free recording software available on the Internet with direct-upload function to YouTube. I also remind my students not to film for more than two minutes and to check that their recorded voice can be clearly heard.
6. Give students the freedom to choose topics
I try to give my students the freedom to choose their own topic from a recommended list. To me, giving students the freedom to choose nurtures their decision-making skills and at the same time, it also gives me control in specifying issues related to the syllabus.
Generally, students share their opinion regarding specific issues. For example, they respond to questions such as “A good teacher should have a sense of humour. What is your opinion?” or “Desire for power is the greatest human weakness. What do you think?” in a two-minute monologue.
7. Engage students with assessment criteria
I use the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to familiarize students with the criteria. The assessment criteria are as follows: overall impression, range, accuracy, fluency and coherence.
When I discuss these with my students, it helps them to understand what is being assessed and how they can award ratings fairly to themselves as well as their peers.
8. Practice makes perfect
I always encourage my students to practice self- and peer-assessments more than once. In the first cycle, they film their speech, upload the video and later assess the performance based on the assessment criteria.
After the first cycle of assessment, I will ask the students to record a new monologue and encourage them to improve based on the feedback given in their first cycle. This may be time-consuming but repeated practice helps students monitor their progress in speaking.
9. Train students to post constructive comments
My students are also trained in writing constructive comments in the comment box at the bottom of the uploaded YouTube video. I encourage them to highlight positive aspects of the speech and offer suggestions for the speaker to improve in his or her next cycle of assessment.
10. Highlight students’ improvement in speaking
The aim of this practice is for students to become aware of their strengths and weaknesses in speaking and hopefully attempt to improve their speech in the subsequent cycle of assessment.
Therefore, I always make it a point to highlight their improvement in speaking after each cycle. I notice that this gives them a sense of confidence in speaking and boosts their motivation to practise the language.