One of my challenges in units is to come up with interpersonal orals for students to actually ‘use’ what they have learned. Typically I start at the end – what I want students to be able to do and then look for a ‘real life’ situation that utilizes what they are learning. I have blogged about others including a taste test, a travel fair and more.
For a 3rd semester class unit that focused on Sumo (and individual pursuits) I wanted students to be able to articulate, in detail, one or two activities they love to do – and to do that beyond a superficial level. I also know that I am heading into a ‘school’ unit. (I know – many don’t look at it – but the cultural comparisons between Canada and Japan make this a great ‘hook’ for language). And so, knowing that many students extend their passions in their choice of school clubs – the “Club Decision” oral was born. The class had already done a short activity involving reading personal profiles and deciding what club/activities might suit a person – including ‘why’ that might be a good fit.
The Overall Idea – a 60 minute class in which students initially individually interview 3 students about their favourite pastimes/passions. They then pair up with another student and decide what an appropriate club choice may be for them. But, there’s a twist. There is only limited space in the clubs they can choose – so that if 4 people love music – but the music club only has 2 spots – where would they place the other two? This means that, in finding out about their peers’ interests students would have to ‘dig deep’ probing people’s history with, and attachment to their pastimes.
The Preparation (1) – We used 2 periods to prepare for this – and students were given a prompt sheet to help brainstorm about their passions. The sheet asked them initial questions about two of their pastimes including what, why they like it, where/when they practice/participate in it, who they participate with, how long they have been involved, and who/what inspires them to do this. They would not be using this during the oral but as they practiced asking/answering questions. My students had their basics down quite quickly… too quickly for me. When I checked for vocabulary needed they said ‘we’re okay’…and that led to…
The “Push” – I saw the ‘cursory’ answers/notes in the 1st class of preparation and was not satisfied. This is their 3rd semester. “Because it is interesting” was not going to cut it. So I talked about the ‘push’ – about going beyond an answer they could have given in their 1st semester. I challenged them to push and grow – to express their ideas in a more detailed way. I also reminded them that there was a good chance a student might not get into their choice – so they would have to have a lot of information about them to make an ‘educated’ choice. Language learning is about the ‘journey’ and we want a quality journey – not just a quick trip.
The Preparation (2) – Now with more focus, and extra details etc the vocabulary push, and depth of expression was way better. As part of the second preparation class we also explored how we could ‘negotiate’ – what language we already knew/could use to negotiate with someone about who to put where. Surprisingly (for them) they already had what they needed – and we found a few extra phrases that would assist them. We also reviewed skills we used helping someone to understand when they said they didn’t.
The Oral Day – Part 1: On the oral day students were given a table of 4 to sit at. They had 30 minutes to interview the 3 other people at the table. All oral talk was to be in the Target Language(TL) – and any notes taken were to be in English only . And they were off. What a noise in the room. Some students completed their interviews with 5 minutes to spare and others were still talking when their time was up. Part 2: After 30 minutes a list on the screen identified their ‘pair’ for part 2. They were given a club sheet with 7 clubs on it (Sumo, Music, Anime, Reading etc) each with only 1 spot available. The rules – all speaking in the TL – you could only talk about who you had interviewed, what club they should be in/why. You could not show your notes to your partner (so they just couldn’t read the information that you had) They had 20 minutes to put students into the club and tell me why. (written in English).
The Evaluation – After the process they self evaluated based upon their perceived ability to answer questions, add details, probe for understanding (follow-up questions) and not resorting to English. My job was to circulate, listen in and very occasionally offer language support. As is my custom, I also asked them to complete the sentence “Well, that was….” (and tell me why). Their comments revealed a great deal – some of the highlights were (note – the majority actually wrote ‘fun’):“Well that was extremely really fun. It was interesting to learn so much about my fellow classmates’ interests..” “Well that was fun because I was able to solve problems and figure out solutions with reasons for club placement – all in Japanese!” “Well that was fun to describe my favourite activities in Japanese – I enjoyed it” “Well that was fun because we really had to think and talk in-depth to pick a club for a person” “Well that was fun. I really enjoyed it…by the end I wanted to keep talking in the interviews” “Well that was better than I thought it was going to be…it became easier and easier to get my point across”
Not all of the orals that I do are self-evaluated. But this one, with its emphasis on communicating and understanding, is great for students. The side-product is almost 50 minutes of work in the target language – and that is awesome!
PS If you want more information – here’s some of the handouts I use for this!