A tie…yes..between two very different activities. One is focussed on oral communication – and actually practicing/teaching students how to communicate. The other was my first attempt at a station day that solely focused on an aspect of Japanese culture (but adaptable to any TL). Enjoy!
Developing Conversation Skills: The “Follow Up Question” Game
We work hard in my class on developing an ease at conversing. It isn’t natural for many people, including me I’ll admit, so why would we expect it to be so for our students? This semester I have a new crop of Grade 10’s, 30 students who are in my class for the first time. When I asked what it is they want to many of them wrote ‘have a regular conversation in Japanese.” My job is to have them meet that challenge. I’ve written before about extending conversation skills using ‘follow-up questions’ and this group needed a way to jump-start their ability in this area. So I invented the ‘Follow Up Question’ game….my fancy title for essentially practicing conversations!
What You Need
- Question Cards- a set of follow-up questions in the Target Language. I input the phrases I want into Quizlet – then print out the ‘large’ flashcards on coloured paper and cut them out . My initial ones are shown on the right.
- Students – in pairs – initially of your choosing then eventually their own
- An ‘emergency sheet’ (list) with the questions/answers already matched (upside down on the desk)
Initial Round (First Day)
- These words are not new to them so I have students match the English and TL cards – then mix them up and spend 3-4 minutes quizzing each other.
- Have the students separate the cards again into two piles – and select the TL pile (put the English aside)
- Student 1 begins with a simple phrase such as “I’m going shopping”
- Student 2 pulls a card from the pile such as “When?” and Student 1 thinks of an answer that fits
- Student 2 then pulls a second card – perhaps “Where at?” and it continues
- Students run through the ‘stack’ of question cards then switch roles
- They will run through this with 3 or 4 different partners – experiencing asking/answering a number of times – and be encouraged to change their ‘starting phrase’ a couple of times
Recognizing Appropriate Questions – Sometimes the follow-up question a student draws doesn’t work. For example if you are shopping at the mall then “Where to?” isn’t appropriate. Students know that if a question is not usable they are to tell their partner that. It sharpens skills and awareness around the questions – and to be honest they love it when they say “No – that one won’t work!” in the target language.
Assisting in Comprehension – Not every student will remember all of the questions initially. So we also practice helping each other understand. If the question is asked and it isn’t understood then the student asking knows that, if they understand it, they are to try to assist by giving a sample answer. For example if their partner doesn’t understand/know how to answer “Who with?” they can use “For example ‘with a friend’ ‘by yourself'” to help their partner clue in. If the both students don’t understand they can peek at the emergency sheet.
Later Round (Second Day) – I employ the same strategy, and start with a quick warmup with the cards. Then they are paired with new partners, but now use the pile of cards in English. Again we rotate through 3 or 4 partners. Students are encouraged to change up their ‘starting phrase’ at least once during the time of the activity.
Later On (Third Day etc) – Again we start with a partner and a quick warmup. Then the cards are put away (an emergency sheet is on the desk if needed). We rotate through 2 or 3 partners, switching up the starting phrase. At the end of the time students have an opportunity to record the questions on their conversation phrase sheet that they keep in their binder.
Finally – No cards are provided at all (the questions are on a sheet the student knows how to access). Instead of the student providing the initial phrase students may start the class with a question on the screen (from me) like “Ask your partner what they are doing after school? Where? When? Why…etc!” And they are off – with great questions that allow them to dig for details. As the semester progresses we find new questions to add to our ‘follow-up’ list. Taking the time to help them develop their questioning skills pays off when the room is alive with conversation. My job at that point is to get out the way and let them talk!
- Image: morguefile.com
A “New” Cultural/Target Language Station Activity Day…
This post seems at first just to be for Japanese teachers – but I believe that the ideas – not the content – make it useful for anyone contemplating adding more ‘station’ work in their classes. I have written before about my quest to put more into my units. This was my first “not at the end of a unit – review & extra items” station experience. No this was all about a visual/audio/reading work focused on one topic: Sumo wrestling. Students would be exposed to both authentic resources, adapted resources and TL/English videos.
My class has 30 students in it – so I had 8 stations on the go. We were at each for 15 minutes.. and if they ended early they worked on a station activity (reading) that they might not have finished – or they talked. This took just over 2 whole periods to do (or you could space this out and do a couple a day while doing other things.)
Each station – has a table number and resources for the station. The viewing stations used my 3 class computers and my laptop. They all had a headphone splitter and extra headphones (dollar store) if students didn’t have their own. The reading stations had extra copies of the vocabulary needed for the readings.
Each student – received a readings package, a handout booklet – with the activity/instructions for each station. Students moved sequentially from table to table with their current table partners.
Video Stations – Each station involved viewing with questions before or after in the English or the TL. One station called on them to answers questions to test their prior knowledge of Sumo (in English) and then watch a short history video to see how correct they were. Another showed an actual match with Japanese commentary – students viewed the match and answered questions in English about various information that appeared, in print, on the screen (the wrestlers, their rank etc). Another station showed a short National Geographic piece about the daily life of wrestlers and asked them to reflect on what they found most interesting.
Audio Station – an “interview with a sumo wrestler” taken from an older textbook resource I no longer use. It’s a nice piece with TL and cultural content so I continue to use it. Students listen/read along and answer questions in the TL.
Reading Stations – I had 4 TL-related reading stations all together. Two stations were short readings in the TL about Sumo’s history, rules, requirements to be a wrestler and daily life. These are ‘adapted’ pieces taken from graded readers designed for those learning Japanese. They are accessible, written by Japanese and in my books ‘authentic’. Students completed reading comprehension Q’s in Japanese. The third station was a ‘catch up’ station for any readings that they had started by not completed. A fourth station was another TL reading that had them looking at a sumo-related recipe for the high calorie/high protein stew – Chankonabe; finding the ingredients that goes into this famous dish. Then they watched a short video on the making of the dish.
Using the Information Gathered – Students have two activities designed to tap into what they learned during their station work. One is an oral discussion day – a conversation circle activity based upon questions that they answered at the reading stations. The second is an infographic produced in the TL by the partners. They can only use the information gathered during the sumo day and any ‘new vocabulary’ they encountered there is okay as well. The assignment is mostly in Japanese but the rubric gives a good idea of what I am looking for. They will have time on ‘graphic’ day to read/view the infographics. I just included an updated post on the activities in my latest post.
This was my first move to use stations to really explore/introduce a topic. It will undergo ‘refining’ in the future I am sure but I am pleased to have made my first foray into this ‘cultural’ target language learning activity.