Language labs improve students' listening and speaking skills

 Every middle and high school student who takes a world language has access to their school's new language lab at least every other week--and both teachers and students say the experience is estupendo! genial! magna!

"I love it. I think it’s huge leap forward," said Sue Reiss, middle school French teacher. "Students respond to technology, and being able to control the pace of learning."

The middle school and high school’s language labs are new this year. Each is a dedicated classroom of thirty workstations that host a computer and headphones. Hard-wired network connections allow the teacher to pair students anywhere in the room together for conversation, as well as to speak and listen to each student individually. 

“Our goal is to improve speaking proficiency,” said Vincent Bell, Assistant Principal of John Jay High School and administrative liaison to the World Languages Department. “In a traditional language class, students are often fearful of speaking out loud, and it’s near impossible for teachers to listen to each student and provide feedback. The language lab solves these problems.”  

“Students can listen to a recording of a native speaker, and then record themselves speaking,” said Reiss. “It’s a new experience for the students to hear themselves, and they are very tenacious about getting the pronunciation right.”

“The lab allows for self-correction,” said Kaitlyn Conlan, a middle school Spanish teacher. “Students listen to themselves and hear what they’ve done wrong. It’s also individualized. Some students need to hear a lesson once; others, four or five times. This lets them do that."

“This is just incredible technology,” said Matthew Knittel, district Latin teacher. “Students can work together, work individually with me, and record small sections of larger works for immediate review.”

Spanish, French, and Latin teachers are not the only ones using the middle school language lab. Jaimie Dini, the English as a New Language (ENL) teacher also uses it.

“I use it the same way it is used by the foreign language teachers, but in the opposite direction,” said Dini. "Students practice speaking English in the lab without the fear of someone 'laughing' at them or correcting them."

 “The language lab also gives my students much needed practice with technology,” said Dini. “Many of my students need basic computer skills. The language lab is a place to practice how to maneuver through computer programs and practice typing.”

At the end of seventh grade Spanish, Señora Conlan uses the new digital platform to play Battleship—but instead of using letters and numbers as correlates, students must use conjugated verbs. She pairs students together—often across the room from one another—and, as usual, there is a happy sense of discovery as they say Hola and find out who they are partnered with. Señora Conlan listens in as they say the singular, plural, informal and formal of various verbs, and offers praise and pointers to students one at a time. 

Hundiste mi buque de Guerra,” said the students into their headphones.