I am so proud of my Year 1’s. In one (strike-shortened) semester they have mastered one new orthography and are well on their way to a second. They are learning how to feel confident and communicate in a second language they’ve only experienced watching anime or looking at manga. And yesterday – for 40 fabulous minutes – they talked, laughed and communicated solely in Japanese.
The first interactive group oral of their language-learning journey is based on a simple premise: activities they like to do. The students are also, by this time, becoming very comfortable with follow-up questions like ‘where at?’, ‘when’, and ‘who with’. Whenever I am casting about for a suitable oral I like to think of ‘when’ the vocabulary/grammar would be used in real life. For me, tying in activities with their daily life led me to clubs.
The Task – The students are asked to create a club and select 3 activities that would be done there. Then they have to decide on meeting times, who they have formed their club with and where they meet. The students also had to think of reasons/ways to convince someone to join in with them.
The Preparation – The topic is introduced via a club that I created and put up on the screen. We worked through Q/A on the details of that club. Then they had, working as pairs, 2 classes to prepare – with part of one taken up with an ‘information gap’ (partner has information that I need, I have information for them) activity to practice asking/answering questions. They also had time to come up with their club sign which is worth no marks but still seems to be the most labour-intensive part of the whole task!
The Club Day – With a 30-student class I pulled out 1/2 of my desks and made a big circle around the room with the rest. Students sat on either side of the desks – the student on the ‘inside’ of the circle would be first to visit other clubs – the student on the ‘outside’ would be the club manager for that period of time and give out information. The signs stand up on the desk with the help of dollar store picture holders. Just before we begin we review what the purpose of the oral is – to practice speaking, to talk to our classmates and to relax and have fun. Then we begin – and students visit other clubs, asking questions in Japanese and recording in English (do they understand?). After they visited 6 or 7 clubs they switched roles with their partner. All in all about 35-40 minutes in the target language!
The Evaluation – It’s my practice to have this activity ‘self-evaluated’. It is also my practice not go straight to the rubric but to have students reflect on the process through written comments first. They were asked to complete two sentences: “That was ___ because…” and “I am most proud that…” Their comments showed their personal pride in completing the task:“That was cool because we talked in Japanese for 40 minutes! When I started (class) I didn’t think that we would have learned that much!” “That was fun because I learned from other people and got to know others better!” “I am most proud that I didn’t use English during this activity.” “I am most proud that I could tell others about my club!” “That was awesome because I know that I’ve improved in my Japanese speaking and listening!” “That was cool because I got to talk with my classmates without having a lot of pressure about messing up!” “That was pretty cool because as I was speaking I was also realizing that I learned a lot this semester!”
But, after a semester of language learning and team building my favourite comment was:
“That was fun because I got to speak Japanese with my friends!”
A copy of the student portion of the task is here with task outline, fill in form and evaluation. If you find it useful – please do so with credit.