Activity: Creating an online character that speaks
Activity type: Practising speaking skills – focussing on pronunciation
Level: From A1 to C2
Age: Primary YLs to Adults
Timing: Around 1.5 hrs, depending on the age of the students.
- a computer for each pair of students
- headphones with microphones attached to the computers that you are going to use
- ideally, a computer attached to a data projector for demonstrating the activity to the class and reviewing their completed vokis
- an internet connection
- the Adobe Flash player plug-in installed on your computers
- Create an account with Voki which is free: you will have to click on the link in the email that the voki site will send you to activate your account. The url is: http://www.voki.com
- Create a voki for yourself: this is a simple process and there are instructions you can follow on the Voki site. However, if you prefer, you can follow the tutorial I’ve prepared.
- Record your voki’s voice and unashamedly exaggerate what your character has to say: this will help your students to focus on and imitate the aspects of pronunciation you are interested in them reproducing.
- I usually use this simple language model the first time I create vokis with a class:
'My name is ... (think of a name that fits the character you’ve created)
They call me .... because ... (think of a reason – you can leave this line out with lower level classes)
I love ... (think of something your character loves doing).
I hate ... (think of something your character hates doing).'
Demonstrating creating a voki to your class
- Log into your voki account.
- Get a student to volunteer to demonstrate the steps involved in creating a voki: encourage everyone in the class to shout out their preferences as your volunteer chooses and customises the voki character and selects its clothing and its bling (accessories). This gets everyone involved and helps them to remember the steps.
- Now comes the process of giving the character a voice: get your volunteer student to click on the microphone image on the voki page.
- An Adobe Flash Player window will appear asking permission to use the microphone. Get your volunteer to check Allow and close the window. If you are using the simple language model I suggested above, before doing the recording, get your students to agree on the character’s name, the reason for his/her name and what s/he loves and hates doing.
- Your volunteer student should click on record. When s/he has finished their speech, tell them to click on STOP.
- Disconnect the headphone/mike and connect your computer’s speakers so that the whole class can hear the recording. If you and your students are happy with it, the volunteer now clicks on SAVE and will be prompted to give the audio file a title. This step is very important and you should insist that the students remember it, because if they don’t, they will lose their recording. (If there’s something you don’t like with the recording, click on CANCEL and you can repeat the process again).
- Now you are ready for the final touches. Get your volunteer student to select a Background for the character and a Player (the frame it appears in).
- The last step in creating your voki is to click on PUBLISH. Again, this is very important because it is when you save all the work done you’ve done up to now and without it the voki will be lost.
- If you have a class blog or wiki, there is one more optional additional step: embedding your character into a post. In the MY VOKI section of the site (see the tabs at the top of the web page), make sure that your latest voki is the one that is visible on the left of the page.
- Choose the destination where you want to embed your voki e.g. Blogger, WordPress etc. and click on Get Code.
- Paste the code into the HTML section of your post, click on PUBLISH and your voki will appear on your site.
- Before your students start work on the computers, elicit from them, or prompt, if necessary, the language they’ve just used when they went through the different steps of creating a voki and are likely to use when they are interacting together at the computers e.g.
- Choose that one!
- That one’s better.
- No, I prefer that one.
- It’s my turn.
- Click on the …
- Now save!
- Get them to write their phrases in their notebooks and do a quick role play in pairs using them. This is really valuable language that they need to know and have fresh in their minds because it will be a great temptation for them to revert to their first language in the excitement of creating their vokis.
- Now your students can start work on the computers. Get them to work in pairs and to use your login when they first open the voki page – that way you’ll have all their voki characters in the same place to review together at the end of the class.
- Monitor their work and remind them, if necessary, both of the language you modelled and the functional language they role-played.
- When your students have finished their vokis, review them in a whole class session.
- Get students to comment on each other’s vokis and vote for the one they like best.
- While the rest of your students are working on another task, take the opportunity to spend time with each student individually and to listen to their voki.
- Stop and start the sound to focus on any particular problems they may be having with language, individual sounds, sentence stress or intonation. Now you have a handy record of their speaking skills to measure their advances during the course and for assessment purposes!
You can’t record your voki:
- Check that the headphones/mike are correctly connected (many headphones have a pair of pink and green jacks that connect into the pink and green sockets on the computer).
- Check that the sound has not been muted on the computer. For computers running Windows, click on the speaker icon on the bottom toolbar and make sure that mute hasn’t been checked or double-click on the same icon to open the settings window and check that the mike recording level is not set too low.
The voki site doesn’t function correctly:
- Either it doesn’t accept your login or keeps reverting to it (this has very occasionally happened to me):
- Reboot the computer.
By Ann Foreman