We are teachers of English in four Austrian secondary schools which have a vocational emphasis. We use a software program that we find extremely effective and which really motivates our students. We use it for English, whilst some of our colleagues use it for teaching French, Italian and Spanish.
We’d like to explain how we use the programs so that other teachers know about them and can see how useful they are.
The software is called Tick-Tack. We learnt about it at one of the work-shops that the author runs for language teachers in Austria. It was called “Blended learning: Integrating ITC with traditional teaching” The author sometimes gives training sessions to students in our top classes.
We use the software mainly for Business and for Tourism though the DVD offers another 20 programs – for telephone, email, job-search, shopping and so on. We now have the latest version. It has recently been updated, and now offers some of the programs in Chinese, Japanese and Arabic as well as many other languages. These have proved useful for our immigrant students.
Later in this
article you will find detailed descriptions of some of the
popular tasks and exercises provided in the program. They have proved highly motivating and the students really enjoy doing them.
In addition to the benefits for our students, we teachers particularly appreciate a number of features offered by the programs. These include:
î a wide range of ready-made tasks and exercises ideally suited for our needs
î students have to work on their own, thus allowing the teacher freedom to concentrate on any student that needs help
î students can check their own work against model answers, thus
relieving the teacher of constant correcting
î students not only learn specific vocabulary but they learn it “in context”
î the tasks can be further developed by teachers
î authentic case-studies simulate life in a busy office and a lively hotel
î detailed lesson plans enable teachers to get started straight away.
î each task is allocated the appropriate grade of the Common European Framework.
In one of the schools where we teach we have, for several years, been pioneering a multilingual approach. As Tick-Tack offers the same tasks in five languages, it means we can run joint classes in French and English, and in Italian and English, with both teachers taking an active part. We were sceptical at first and doubted if it would work. But the students love it and manage very well. They are able to switch back and forth constantly between the two foreign languages. We hope other schools will follow our lead.
We use the programs about three times a week, mainly with the older students, in our “Notebook classes”. They all have laptops which they bring to school each day. They all have a copy of the DVD since they also need to use the programs for homework. Having the software at home gives their families a chance to use the programs for brushing up their language skills.
In Austria we have many immigrant students. They and their families find the software valuable for improving their German as well as helping with their mother tongue. They find the shopping program especially useful.
The software is installed on the school network so that all teachers and students have access to it. We also introduce the programs briefly to students in some of the lower classes. For students that need to revise their grammar, we have found the tasks for the Starter and Everyday programs very helpful
We understand that the software is used in schools and universities in many countries, and that the most popular programs on the DVD are the ones that we use the most, namely those for business and for tourism.
These are of special value to us as we use them in most lessons. Details are given below.
These are used in some of the tasks but we also exploit them a lot for learning vocabulary, revising grammar and practising aural comprehension - because each sentence has its own voice-recording.
Each program provides a library of 300-500 relevant sentences, in mother tongue and target language which our students can select to create their text. First they scroll through the various languages and set the source language as their mother tongue and the target language as the one that they are studying.
[Screen-shot: selecting the languages]
They then scroll through the themes and sentences and select the ones they want to use. In this way they can very easily create an interesting and relevant text on a wide range of topics in the target language – “ready for editing”.
[Screen shot: selecting themes & sentences]
It is the editing, the manipulating of text on the screen, to turn the rough draft into a final text, which is educationally so valuable.
[Screen-shot: how to call-up sentences]
[Screen-shot: Business French into Italian]
For Business and Travel & Tourism (as well as for the Starter and Everyday programs) there are voice-recordings of all the sentences in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
For business and for tourism we like the wide range of practical tasks. These are the key to Tick-Tack’s success in our schools. They are based on a virtual enterprise: an International Trading Group that makes and markets sports goods. It has companies in London, Paris, Munich, Madrid and Florence.
The student takes the part of a trainee working in the company whose language he or she is studying. They have to work in each of the main departments such as Sales, Buying, Marketing, Management, Personnel and so on. In the travel tasks the student is working partly in the company’s Travel Department and partly in a hotel, which has close links to the sports company. The trainee has to deal with the multiplicity of activities and problems that arise in a busy office every day.
[Screen-shot: Travel task menu – first half]
Each task takes 30-45 minutes and provides a model answer. Students are not told what to do. They discover what is needed by reading an incoming letter, fax, email or memo, or by listening to a telephone call or a voice-mail. These reveal the situation that they have to deal with.
Each is a thoroughly practical and authentic task. Some tasks indicate the code-numbers of sentences that they can call up to help them create their letter, fax or email reply. In some tasks student have to use their microphone as a telephone to make a phone call or to record a voice-mail message.
Everything in the tasks is in the target language. If any of our students are not really sure what the task requires they can run through the equivalent task in their mother-tongue version, i.e. German. The five language-versions replicate the tasks - as closely as language and culture permit.
The MD’s secretary hands you a memo. You click the link and read it.
It’s from the MD. She wants you to update the “What’s new” page on the company’s web-site by removing old items and inserting a list of new items such as sales successes, exhibitions & personnel changes since last week. You have to call up the web-page and edit it with all the new information.
[Screen-Shot of last week’s edition]
You find a note in your in-tray from the hotel manager. A sports academy in Glasgow wants to hold a week-end seminar. They need to know if the Henley Lodge Hotel in Oxfordshire is suitable. The memo asks you to go to their web-site and find out a number of specific details, such as how many single and double rooms they have, car-parking, swimming-pool, distance from the airport etc. It asks you to type the answers on the memo itself and return it to the manager.
You click on the link to the web-site and listen to a voice making a presentation giving all kinds of information about the hotel – much of it not relevant to you. You have to listen carefully for the particular details that you need. When you have them all, you must type the answers on the memo. In a separate stage of the task you have to type out, word for word, the text of the presentation.
[screen-shot of model answer]
The business tasks are split into six main sections. Each one is a linked series of activities in which you have to:
- study an incoming letter with a handwritten note at the foot from the
- write a letter in reply following the note from the Manager
- then listen to a subsequent voice-mail message or telephone call
- then create an email message in reply
- then re-write it as a voice-mail message, since the email has failed to
- finally use your microphone as a telephone and record your voice-mail
In the first stage you have replied to a letter from your distributor in Texas who has asked about late delivery of goods that they have ordered.
Next you have to listen to a voice-mail message from Texas from your distributor’s very angry Vice-President. He is furious at the delay to the order.
You have to type out, word for word, what the man said and pass it to your Manager.
Here is the correct version of the text. You use it to check how accurate you were in typing what you heard.
[Original text of voice-mail message]
The telephone rings. You hear a bewildered voice. Click the link and listen. It is a guest who has lost his way from the airport. He has arrived at a level-crossing. He asks how he can get to the hotel from there.
You have to consult the hotel brochure to find out how to drive to the hotel from the airport.
Then, using your microphone as your telephone, you speak reassuringly to the caller and tell him in detail how to get from the level crossing to the hotel.
[Telephone call from guest who has lost his way]
You are cycling into town and find a queue of cars waiting at the level crossing.
A driver calls to you. You click the link and listen to what he says.
He wants to know how to get to the supermarket.
You have to study the town plan, decide what to say and then type your answer. Then pick up the microphone and record your answer.
[Screen-shot of Town Plan]
Arriving late, you pass the Hotel Manager in the corridor.
He hands you a newspaper cutting with a note stapled to it.
You click the link and find it is a memo from him the manager.
The cutting is a press advert from last week’s local newspaper.
He needs to advertise for an assistant Hotel Manager.
The memo asks you to create a press advert along similar lines,
but giving a different job profile and listing special requirements
You have to edit the advert accordingly
[Screen-shot of last week’s Job Advert]
The Engineering program also has a wide range of tasks. Many of these are useful for general business and tourism.
This task involves watching video clips and answering questions about them. The first is about a young man who has just joined the company.
He arrives at the reception desk at the company’s head office.
The receptionist mistakes his name and he has to spell it out.
He then asks if he can see the Manager.
The Tick-Tack web-site (www.2clix.net).
This gives access to “Tick-Tack on-line” which offers a wide selection of programs and languages. The DVD contains a duplicate of the web-site for studying off-line – though using it for fully accessing “Tick-Tack on-line” is only effective if you are connected to the Internet.
Comprehensive lesson plans are available for teachers to use. They can be downloaded from the web-site or accessed from the DVD.
These can be downloaded free-of-charge from the web-site.
Teachers and students each pay €25 for a personal copy of the DVD for use on their own computer at home. We understand that the price for the network version varies depending on the extent the software is likely to be used.
We welcome the fact that Help is available 365 days a year - by email. It is great that personal help is provided by the author of the software. He has been willing to run a training course in our individual schools - where it fitted in with his travel plans. He is a linguist with a lifetime of experience in business and exporting. He once ran a major sports group.