One of the mainstays of my teaching is the belief that language should be used by students to ‘do something’. As a result there are very few ‘stand in front of everyone and speak’ opportunities for my students, and many ‘talk with many people’ ones.
As I have moved along in my teaching I have used the concept of the “fair” or ‘group oral’ as a pretext for student interaction (and evaluation). In a recent post John Cadena outlined how he used the fair idea for his fairy-tale retelling (an idea I am going to use for my classes as well). He mentioned that he based this upon some of the ‘interactive fair’ orals that I do. I thought I would pull together several posts outlining examples of those that I have done. I use them in all levels of language learning – especially in Yr 3 and 4.
There are several keys for me in using these types of orals.
Pairs Work Together To Prepare – But Individually to “Present” – On fair day the desks in my room are in a circle. One partner sits on the ‘inside’ of the circle and the other on the ‘outside’. The outside partner runs the booth for half of the time (generally 20-25 min) while the other is out finding out information from other groups. Depending on the complexity/detail of the information they are getting students can visit as few as 3 or as many as 7 other teams during their time. Then they switch – even if one is in ‘mid-explanation’ their partner is expected to slide in and replace them on the spot.
Students Understand The Expectation of Target Language Use – All oral interaction is to be in the Target Language. We work on self-evaluation skills a lot during my classes and my students are very aware of how well they could do what I asked them to.
Speaking in the TL/Writing in English – Generally students are filling in an information sheet as they go around – one that is done in English and not the Target Language. Yes this can bring up a fear of not understanding something. However, my students regularly practice ‘the assist’ – helping someone when they don’t comprehend and are fully aware that they are allowed to say “I’m sorry but I don’t understand (vocabulary).
Self-Reporting of Success – The fairs are ‘self-marked’ – for the students’ ability to complete the task as required. They are asked 2 exit questions (such as “how did that go?” or “a challenge for me was…”) that they must answer prior to completing the oral evaluation rubric. I feel very strongly about this – that personal reflection must precede ‘filling in’. One part of the rubric always touches on the amount of English or non-TL used during the time.
Linking the Oral to the Written – As much as possible I try to link the information gathered in the oral – to the piece of writing they will do to show summative knowledge. In my Yr1 class, after the Club Oral, this can be as basic as outlining what various clubs they liked and why. In the Yr 4 Taste test this takes the form of a marketing report – using the data they collected. After the Travel Fair students write as a bored teen using one of the tours as the basis for “The Trip My Parents Forced Me To Go On”.
Adaptable for Any Year & Many Types of Themes/Content – I think the basic premise of the interactive fair can work for a wide variety of language levels, and themes. The examples below all take the basic premise – and all draw on different themes/levels of skill:
The “Club Decision” – students prepare and present their club activities
The “School Fair” – students construct and sell their themed schools to classmates
The “Taste Test” – students conduct blind taste-tests of products and analyze results
The “Travel Fair” – students research and construct tour packages to lesser-known areas of the TL countries
Next up for my Year 4’s is the “Murder Mystery” – where pairs of detectives ask questions of suspects in the murder of a wealthy Japanese Tech entrepreneur. Their fellow students play the suspects, and, in a twist, one student plays the ‘dead guy’ (and detectives get to interview him as well. It’s a fun way for students to test their language skills (and in the written test – they get to say who they think ‘did it’.)
What themes, language situations do you have in your classes that might lend themselves to an interactive fair?