by Shaeley Santiago
As language teachers, we understand the value of student engagement and active participation in class. This is especially true when participation takes the form of authentic language use. But what about students who are hesitant to speak up in class or share their ideas? How might you maximize class time to engage more students in the content of your lesson?
One way is to use technology to promote active participation by each and every student in the class. Live polling websites allow each student to share an answer or idea. While there are several different websites that allow for live responses, one I learned about recently is Mentimeter.
Mentimeter is free to use (additional features available for upgraded plans). If you have a Google or Facebook account, you can use those credentials to log in to Mentimeter without having to create a separate account. Examples of different types of questions are provided along with a robust help section.
Students access a Mentimeter question from a wide variety of devices including smartphones, tablets, or computers. Directions for students to participate in the poll are clearly displayed on the question. Once students have navigated to the site using the unique code, they seem to easily understand what to do.
Mentimeter has nine question types including open ended, scales, image choice, and word cloud. The word cloud feature is what initially attracted me to Mentimeter. I wanted the flexibility of multi-word phrases in a visually attractive and colorful way, all created for me as students responded in real time. The question I asked was based on making an inference from a short reading passage. I set it up so that the same student could submit more than one answer. The resulting word cloud was stunning.
Other prompts for the word cloud feature in Mentimeter could include the following:
- Select a key word or phrase from a chapter or excerpt of text
- Identify important people, places, or events from a historical time period
- State your favorite restaurant, musician, type of pizza, etc.
- Name the most revolutionary inventions of the 20th century
- List the benefits of exercise
In addition to the word cloud, Mentimeter provides flexibility for a wide variety of questions. The open-ended response is particularly suited for eliciting language from students. It can even serve as a way for students to type in questions they might not be comfortable asking aloud in class (e.g. back channel).
Scales work well for a self-assessment rating. This question type could also be used to sort adjectives by degrees. For example, which words show the greatest degree of anger: livid, mad, frustrated, upset, and annoyed?
If you want to provide visual support for your question, there is an image choice format that focuses on pictures with a caption for the answers. You can also customize questions by adding an image to them (displays in the background with an option to include it as a preview when the question is first revealed).
Overall, Mentimeter helps to engage even the most reluctant students. As answers appear on the teacher’s screen in real time, everyone’s attention shifts to the results. Students see their ideas displayed on the screen, on equal footing with everyone else. The goal of actively engaging all learners in the lesson is easily met with Mentimeter.