A blog for teachers and learners who love technology

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Soft Chalk - Creating web based lessons

Soft Chalk

What is soft chalk?

Soft Chalk is a web lesson builder. In other it is a tool that enables teachers to create digital lessons. Teachers can make use of their own material or they can search through the built-in search engine for materials and put them together to create the lessons. What is more you can share and borrow your lessons and other people lessons respectively by uploading them to the soft chalk online repository.

Free to use?

Soft chalk is free to try for 30 days but after that it requires you to pay the amount of 495$ which is considerably high. However, the 30 days trial gives the chance to decide whether this tool is worth your money or not.

Example material

I created an example lesson in which I deal with the prepositions. The lesson will be suitable for a group of either adults or teenagers learners at an elementary level/ A1-A2. For this lesson, I tried to follow an inductive approach. Learners, after a very brief introduction which explains what prepositions are, are given a text which I wrote for this activity. Learners need to scan through the text in order to locate the prepositions. The purpose of this task is to give them the opportunity to "notice" the prepositions inside the text. At this stage, mistakes are expected, therefore, a low score in the activity would be normal. However, learners through activity two would hopefully be able to figure out what the prepositions are and not confuse them with the articles. The reason I chose the articles a, an and the to be the wrong answers is the fact that the learners should be familiar with the indefinite and definite article therefore they should be able to figure out that the rest constitute a different group of words. Then learners move to activity 3 in which they are given a picture (picture 1) with different colour boxes and a tree. Learners should scan through the text once again and locate the prepositions in order to be able to distinguish between the different places that are mentioned in the text. Then they need to move the labels (bus stop, convenient store etc.) into the correct boxes.

By the time, they finish with the labelling activity learners should be familiar with the prepositions and figure which words consist them. Then one the same text but without the prepositions, learners need to choose the correct prepositions. Learners are urged to recall the picture in which the label the different place in order to finish this task. Finally, now that they have been presented with the target language and have practised it they are asked to create their own paragraphs in which they will describe what is around their own home as in the text.

Target Audience

Softchalk is a tool that gives teachers the opportunity to decide on their target audience. As long as, learners have basic IT skills they can experience a soft chalk lesson. The reason why there is not a particular target audience is mainly because soft chalk can be described as a tabula rasa. What I mean by that is that soft chalk is just the platform in which teachers will create their lessons. By lessons, I refer to complete lessons similar to those taking place in a classroom. Therefore both activities and theory can be included. As a result, depending on the context of the lesson the target audience may vary in terms of proficiency. Concerning multi-modality, soft chalk will be particularly appealing to visual learners. Auditory learners will also find soft chalk interesting depending on the teachers' approach when creating the lessons. For example, a lesson that asks learners to watch a series of videos and do some activities based on them would be motivating for that type of learners. On the other hand, kinaesthetic learners will find softchalk monotonous and demotivating considering the fact that the only movement that takes place is limited to moving the mouse and typing on the keyboard. Last but not least, analytic learners will be benefited by softchalk. The company who created softchalk are rewarding teachers for excellent lessons every year. All the lesson had one thing in common. They were given small chunks of knowledge followed by activities. As a result, information and instructions were given in an explicit manner. What is more, each of those chunks which include theory and activities had very clear goals and objectives. What is more , the range of activities the softchalk offers are particularly relevant to the analytical learner's taste. Those include matching, labelling and jigsaw activities. Finally, due to the fact that softchalk promotes those small chunks of activities and theory, learners who get easily distracted and find it difficult to concentrate would be particularly benefited by this approach that softchalk promotes.

Does it meet our pedagogical goals?

In terms of feedback, softchalk records learners scores for the teacher to identify the learners' weaknesses. It gives real-time feedback, as a result learners are given the chance for self-correction. Concerning writing tasks such as essays in which the answers are very long, those will be store in order for the teacher to read them later give them appropriate feedback. 

Concerning the four language skills, writing and especially reading can be sufficiently practised. Again, however, the affordances for language learning depend on the teachers' correct use of this particular technology. Normally, each lesson will include a reading task followed by an activity, based on the task , which will lead to activities that require higher-order thinking skills. At that point, learners will need to reflect on the learning process or create an authentic piece of work such as an essay which is similar to what I did in my lesson with the writing activity.


While creating a lesson, I realised that what I was creating was a web equivalent of my normal lessons that would take place in a traditional English classroom. However, when I tried to include a speaking activity I came to realize that this is not possible. What is more, listening is not provided in the possible activities. Finally. groupwork is also missing from softchalk. However, at some point in this presentation I said that softchalk is a platform which can enrich with material from another source as well. For example in my first post, I talked about Voki, a tool that lets you create speaking Avatars. Voki avatars can be embedded in a softchalk lesson to provide learners with some spoken language input. Similar to that, learners might be prompted to write a collaborative essay by embedding a Google doc link. Finally about speaking, learners could be given a speaking task along with a link of Vocaroo which is an on-line tool capable of recording one's voice. After that, learners could post the link of the recording in a space created by the teacher similar to the one I created for the writing task. To conclude, as long as we have knowledge of the various ICT tools, we can embed them in our lessons to provide our learners with ample practice of the different language skills.


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