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Catalyst: A Conversation Taskbook for English Language Learners

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Glad you dropped in! As you browse around, you'll likely notice that many changes have taken place at the Halloween Haunted House. Many new activities have been added, so many in fact that we're running out of windows! Most of the old standbys have been upgraded to take advantage of new multimedia technologies.

Much of the Halloween Haunted House is now Adobe Shockwave and Flash enabled. If your computer lab has yet to install these technologies you will be automatically prompted to download the free Shockwave and Flash browser plug-ins as needed. Alternatively, click the links at the bottom of the page to upgrade your browser before setting out to explore the Halloween Haunted House. According to Adobe, about 99% of browsers are already Flash enabled and some 50% are Shockwave capable already.

The Halloween Haunted House has a chatroom, AI-powered text chat robot. According to the crystal ball, the Halloween Haunted House is soon to be voice-enabled, meaning students will be able to drop in and chat, in real-time, with others from around the world.

We've also added a donations module to allow users to express their appreciation for the content at Brian & Neko's Place. All donations are used to offset the considerable costs of maintaining this site. Thanks for your support.

If you find the background music is too loud for your computer lab there is an easy fix. Since all background music is served up in MIDI format it's fairly simple to set the volume for the MIDI channel independently of the other sounds using the advanced features of the Windows volume control button.

Teaching Notes

The Halloween Haunted House can be used as a series of quickie but interrelated lessons leading up to the holiday. It is participatory. One of the student perceptions of CALL is that they are just looking, dumbly, at a computer, which is fun, but they often feel that they are not actually learning.

The Halloween Haunted House is designed to be used in pairs or small groups with the focus often away from the computer. It may be wise to instruct students to switch the monitor off as focus switches from on-screen content to each other to ensure their attention is on their partners and not on the magic box. A good example of this is The Attic. Students are asked to explore the attic with their partners and then discuss their opinions with other groups in the class. Incidentally, students who lack curiosity will get little out of this exercise. Information is hidden and answers are not at all obvious. Clues are at best enigmatic and open to interpretation. Most groups should develop different theories as to the identity of the spirit that is haunting the attic of the Halloween Haunted House. That, of course, will create an information gap that can be exploited by having students share and defend their theories with other groups.

Another requirement is that students print out certain pages [e.g. the Dictation Drawing.] The teacher can alternately do this in advance and make copies.

Certain other activities require students to be on-line to collect information [Halloween Recipes] then share that info with their partners.

Teachers will have to make the decision about which vocabulary to pre-teach before going to the lab. In the reading activity, History of Halloween, I've chosen to focus on the verbs in the follow-up activities so the logical choice would be to pre-teach those verbs to maximize retention. Though it may not be obvious these follow-ups can be conducted as small group activities as well. Students can discuss possible pronunciations in the pronunciation quiz prior to making their choices and practice modeling the correct past participle pronunciation afterwards. Of course the kinds of phrases required during both activities may need to be pre-taught depending on the level.

It goes without saying [or should at any rate] that the lab teacher should be circulating at all times, ready to answer vocabulary questions, model and drill pronunciation and so on. I expect the Halloween Haunted House to make demands on the teacher both in the lab and prior to lab period.

As an interesting follow up get students to e-mail me with their honest opinions of the material. I would relish the feedback. This can also be done, at the monitor [Halloween E-Card] or in the classroom as a group activity. If the latter, get the students to work as a group on ONE page only or no discussion will take place.

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The free Adobe Shockwave and Real Media Plug-ins are required to play the interactive content at Brian & Neko's Place.
Download the Shockwave Plug-In