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An Integrated Skills CALL Unit: Student Web Projects

Christine Bauer-Ramazani from Vermont

Christine Bauer-Ramazani is Instructor of Applied Lingustics at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vermont.

Christine Bauer-Ramazani
Photo: Karl Sklar
In the words of CALL theory, this was a truly authentic language and content project.


A couple of summers ago, I was preparing for yet another 8-week advanced core class of Reading, Writing, and Grammar and decided I wanted something different and exciting—something that would sustain the students’ interest for at least the next four weeks, while at the same time improving their English language skills in the above areas.

Since it was summer, and Vermont is truly beautiful at this time of year, the students and I also wanted to go on field trips, although I stipulated that these would have to be topic- or course-related. Possibilities included the Saint Michael’s College campus community and the Greater Burlington Area.

Additionally, I wanted to experiment with one of the cornerstones of my online CALL course—web projects. As this project would also integrate various skills, I felt confident that this type of “language immersion” would not only motivate the students by being involved in meaningful, authentic activities but would also help their language learning process along. My overall goal was to identify a project that would accomplish the above and at the same time be of value to future students and the community at large. The project also could not be too time-consuming as students would have their daily half-hour of lab time to work on their project for the next four weeks.

I took the inspiration for the project from Tom Robb’s “Famous Personages” and “Kyoto Restaurants
<> as well as the more recent projects by Wrigley, Krauss, Gaer, and Robb, described in “Perspectives on CALL for Project-based Learning <>. When I outlined the project to the class as one of the curricular possibilities for the next four weeks, the students were all excited and felt that this project would satisfy their goals as well as mine. First then, during our first lab session the students brainstormed about possible projects that they could create for and within the community, listing and evaluating many possibilities. Finally, they decided to focus on “Area Restaurants that Saint Michael’s Students Recommend” and “Shopping for Necessities”—both topics that they wished they had had more information about when they arrived as new students on campus and in the community.

In order to get the information they needed, the students decided to conduct surveys with campus students. This involved a lot of speaking and writing and mostly organizing, so we went over types of questions in class and developed the survey instruments in writing class.

The students then decided on their own how to group the data, rank the information, and present it. Next, they decided what they needed pictures of, so we took a field trip around town and took pictures with a digital camera, checked out from the college library. On this trip, the students spoke with business owners and made appointments for future interviews. Back in class, they developed pieces of writing that were supposed to go on the web site—an introduction, the surveys, menu descriptions, explanations, directions, etc.

Next came the more technological piece of the project—actually learning how to create a web site. We used Microsoft FrontPage as our web editing software as it is the closest to the word-processing editor that the students were familiar with and therefore would not present a steep learning curve. I taught the students the basics of web page construction, and they started to copy the information from their word-processor to the web site. One of the students really got into the more technological aspects of the project and learned how to scan and edit maps and pictures. Finally, the students sent postcards to the restaurants and shops informing the owners of their presence on the web.

When I look back on this project and when I get my graduate CALL students’ feedback on the student web project, I think that this was one of the most worthwhile and successful activities that I have conducted with Intensive English Program students. It was gratifying to see how thoroughly involved the students were and how much fun they were having—they forgot about the end of class; they met outside of class multiple times; they met and got to know more of the undergraduate students on campus. They exceeded all expectations I had in terms of length, quality, and complexity of the project, but they did so at their own choosing—there was no stopping them once we got started!

From a professional standpoint, this activity confirmed my beliefs in the values of project-based learning for ESL students. From an English language teaching perspective, this project provided excellent opportunities for the students to practice their negotiation skills and hone their speaking, listening, and writing skills in truly communicative and collaborative situations. In addition, the students had to learn to work as a team, with all the benefits and ramifications that teamwork entails. In the words of CALL theory, this was a truly authentic language and content project.

Student Project: Restaurant Reviews

Original Student Project on Christine's web site

A student Review of the Project

Christine Bauer-Ramazani's Home Page (with link to her Online CALL course)

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