Connecting the Dots: Converse on the Verse

Episode 2: Lesson Structure

Virtual reality is a new frontier for language learning. How does a curriculum designer go about designing language lessons that take place live in immersive VR?

In Episode 2 of Connecting the Dots podcast, Research Manager Dr. Tricia Thrasher asks Curriculum & Assessment Manager Christina Cavage to explain how the curriculum team develops lesson plans for the live VR Spanish, French, and English classes in Immerse. Christina explains that the keys to effective design are working backwards, scaffolding, and providing opportunities for learners to practice - lots of opportunities!

Language Is Communication

Language proficiency scales like the CEFR and the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines are based on the level of communicative tasks a speaker is able to complete in the language. While a beginner may only be able to handle relatively basic tasks, such as asking for a phone number or ordering at a restaurant, an advanced user can engage in more complex tasks like telling a story in detail or discussing political opinions.

Communicative tasks: The heart of every Immerse lesson

Christina describes how each lesson plan is designed around a single communicative task, like making an apology or asking for directions. This ensures the purpose of the lesson is clear and the learner will leave the class with a new skill that can be used right away in the real world.

Starting at the end

Christina explains the “backward approach” to lesson creation, which starts with looking at the end of the lesson. What is it that learners should be able to do by the time class ends? What kind of vocabulary, pronunciation skills, and grammar structures do they need to complete that communicative task successfully? Do they need any cultural background knowledge?

From there, the curriculum writers scaffold the activities so that learners need increasingly less help from the teacher as the lesson progresses. The first activities are receptive, introducing structures and vocabulary and focusing on comprehension. Students then learn to produce language using building blocks such as detailed prompt cards or sentence starters. By the final activity, they are able to produce language on their own to accomplish the target task, such as apologizing or asking for advice. 

Taking advantage of VR

VR has the upper hand over classrooms or Zoom tutoring sessions in that everything can be contextualized. Immerse lessons take full advantage of this.

If the communicative task is placing a fast-food order, the lesson takes place in a virtual burger joint where the learners can move around and pick things up. This means students can grab the food they would really like to order and bring it up to the board, where everyone learns its name as well as its grammatical features like gender and number.

This activity starts to equip the learners with the knowledge they will need in order to accomplish the final communicative task at the end of class, walking up to the counter and ordering their preferred food prepared the way they like it.

How Immerse Supplies You With Additional Practice in VR

Lessons are not the only chance the learners get to master a particular communicative task. Becoming a member unlocks unlimited access to Immerse’s other features, like live events, games, and AI-powered practice

These additional features are carefully designed to provide extensive practice with the same type of tasks that learners encounter in the lessons. 

Join an event at the fast-food restaurant and you can role-play placing and taking orders with other Immerse members - with an experienced Immerse teacher on hand to support you if you need it. 

Or jump into an AI practice scene and order from an AI-powered avatar that can automatically adjust to your level and respond to anything you say.

To hear more about the importance of communicative tasks and how they are incorporated into the Immerse curriculum, don’t miss Episode 4: Communicative Tasks!


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