Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

March 21, 2016
by leesensei
3 Comments

The Song Lyric “English First” Reading Activity

We use songs a lot in our world language classes – they are an amazingly authentic resource – and often just downright fun to listen to. file000564987721#Langchat has done more than one chat on this subject and I have written about my ‘song of the week‘  and the variety of ways I use it (among other ideas) in the past.

This past month I stumbled on a new aspect of the song activity. Keep in mind that this initially came as part of a bigger activity but it emerged as a fun interpretive add-on. In a nutshell it involves using the English version of the TL (target language) song lyrics as well as the TL ones.

What you need – a copy of the English lyrics and the TL lyrics (you can almost always find them online). Please note that I get my songs from iTunes (I believe its important to pay the artist).

What you doTo start, I put the lyrics side by side on a piece of paper (trying to match up the lines) and have the students fold them to only initially see the English version. You could put them on two separate pieces and only hand out the English first. Then play the song 2-3 times with the students looking at the English lyrics as they listen. I don’t worry too much about “understanding” – I want them to be listening and ‘reading’ the meaning. Next ask them to choose 5 words (or phrases or lines depending on their level) in the English that they want to see ‘what they are’ in the TL. Finally, once they have them I then ask them to look and search for the key phrases. Nope – no dictionaries at this point – they have to use the original English lyrics, position in the song etc. I then allow them to look up the words in the dictionary to see what they ‘mean’ in the original language. Finally we share out 1 key word each (on the whiteboard) that they found and think they will use again!

Why I like this – There’s so many ways that we use songs and I must admit that this type of approach was an afterthought during a more traditional ‘use the song’ activity. But I found that I liked it because:

  • It reinforces that we don’t directly translate from one language to another – it’s so much more than that – we have to consider not what they are saying but what they are ‘communicating’.
  • It’s personal – students are finding words/phrases that appeal to them
  • It’s interpretive – they are using guessing, inference, and more to try to find the match
  • It’s different – we almost always go to the TL lyrics first – so it’s a twist

Students enjoyed this ‘song’ option and I heard more than one “hey I was right!” comment during the time. I’ll try it again with other songs in the future!

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2016
by leesensei
0 comments

Encouraging Risk/Rewarding Growth with “Checks And A Smile”

How do we encourage students to risk? How to we encourage them to ‘stretch’ and try something new? It’s a big challenge in the world language classroom. I have been using rubrics a lot to find out about how something went for a student, but it took until this year for me to use them to ‘prepare’ students to interact.  I realized that the rubric (and it’s construction/labels etc) is one way that we communicate class expectations. So why don’t we ask them, prior to the activity, to set up/predict/plan how they willSource: morguefile.com work to meet them?  This post focuses on interpersonal speaking but the concept may also be adapted for writing as well.

Initially I started asking students, prior to starting the activity, to select their ‘challenge’ (the ‘extra push’) – and check off (on the rubric) what they wanted to focus on doing/improving. Then I asked them to share that challenge with their partner to build in a bit of accountability. Then we moved on to the activity. It seemed to work well – they sincerely considered their ‘extra push’ in the interaction. But for me it wasn’t enough. It felt a bit focused on the ‘what I am not doing’ and not acknowledging ‘what I can already do’. Clearly, I needed a more balanced approach.

Lately I’ve been trying to acknowledge/encourage via “checks and a smile“. Prior to the activity the students select the ‘challenge/push’ for the activity – that gets the check. For my novices I generally have only 1 check, but in my upper level courses I source: openclipart.orgexpand that to 2 challenge/push areas. Then I ask them to select something that they already feel that they do well – what they are proud that they already incorporate into their interpersonal work. That gets the happy face.  I like how this combination gives a personal pat on the back for something already accomplished and still sets out something for them to reach for in their work.

When I ask students to reflect, as I always do, they are ready to tell me how they well they felt they did in meeting their checked challenge. Increasingly, with the equal focus on a strength, I see reflective comments about what they are ‘proud’ of  as well. And that is a happy face for everyone!

Colleen

 

March 10, 2016
by leesensei
0 comments

Mash-Up: Interpretive Reading Meets Interpersonal Activity!

Photo via White Rabbit ExpressInterpretive reading is a new ‘push’ of mine and I’ve been making full use of my supply of graded readers for this. My Yr4’s are currently working in a food unit and I tapped the “Sushi” reading for this purpose. It is from a lower level than my students can handle but perfect for this read/use activity.(Just a note that due to extensive kanji (Chinese character) use in ‘real’ authentic resources, and a class composed of 50% character readers, I’ve been using the ‘created by Japanese/adapted by Japanese for language-learners’ stories).

Day 1 – the pair ‘Interpretive Reading/Question-Making Activity’: I designed a series of questions designed to tap their prior knowledge (and in our area of the world it is extensive) about sushi. They worked in partners for this – with a mind to the ensuing activity. The rule in the reading activity is, of course, no dictionaries but rather using picture and word clues to find the information.  They tackled this quite easily but it did require careful reading. I noted partners correcting each other’s answers/ideas and pointing to parts of the text to make their point. Well done! We did not go over the answers in class as I checked in with each group and prompted changes when needed. Everyone had the information they needed to proceed to next part of the activity.

Now on to the key part of the interpretive reading – the ‘Challenge Quiz’ questions! Students were asked to come up with 10 questions/answers (in a variety of formats – multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank) about the sections read, in the Japanese.  From the assignment: You will challenge other teams – but you will ‘read’ your questions so they should not be long/complicated.  Answers must be ‘easily’ found in the text and not based on the ‘fine print’ or knowledge of kanji. Your questions must not require dictionaries to understand – they are to be understood by your classmates. Students worked hard on their questions (in fact I dropped the requirement to 8 due to time constraints) and came to class ready for Day 2.

Day 2 – the ‘Interpersonal’ Pair Challenge – I gave the students some time to review their questions as well as become familiar with the phrases for question types (how do you say “this is a multiple choice question” in your target language?).  I also introduced them to the points system they would be using. Essentially a team got a 1-point for answering correctly without using the text, 1/2-point for having to find the answer in the text and 2 points if the answer the questioning team gave was wrong! We also reviewed potentially useful language like ‘guessing’ (“I’m pretty sure the answer is…”) and ‘you’re right/wrong’. Then they paired up opposite another team and began. There was lots of intent listening and laughing (as well as a few well placed insults).  They spent about 35minutes in the TL asking/answering and many were upset they didn’t get more questioning time.

Student Feedback/What I Will Do For Next Time – I asked my students for feedback on this activity specifically on how they liked it/didn’t like it, what they needed that they didn’t have to do it and if we should do it again. They loved the activity for the ‘spontaneity’ it required in asking. For next time I will include ‘debrief’ time as many students wanted to hear ‘the most interesting questions’ that teams asked. Students asked for ‘arguing’ phrases (and mild ‘joking’ ones) to use against their partners. I only used parts of the reading for this activity and many wrote that they wanted to read the whole thing (yeah!)

I like the idea of this kind of ‘mash-up’ and the noise, laughter and ‘arguing’ in the room tells me that it was an effective way to encourage speaking/listening. More please!

Colleen

 

March 2, 2016
by leesensei
3 Comments

The “New” Feedback Rubrics – Part 1: Presentational Writing

My rubric journey has been a long and winding one. What started with rubrics modified off the French DELF program have now come a long way. Gone are the number descriptors – and now in their place – words to describe how fully meeting expectations the student work is. Also I have refined how I use the rubric. As I worked to implement more of them I realized  (in one of the ‘duh!’ moments) that the rubric is not only an effective way to communicate how a student has MET expectations but also as a way to give feedback and reinforce WHAT is key.

I owe a huge debt on these to Amy Lenord who first developed the checklist idea. Stop now and go read her post first – it sets the stage for the ‘feedback’ checklist portion of the rubrics.

Presentational Writing – The Rubric:  This is still evolving. I continue to tweak it to try to pull out what I want students to show me that they can do – and encourage them to do more. Fully Meets Expectations is my top criteria for 99% of mWriting-With-Checklist-Jan-2015-Copyy class, with “Exceeds” there for my heritage writers and the very cream of the second language crop. At Fully Meets a student is using current knowledge and tapping previously learned items. They are expressing themselves in a complex and varied style – pushing for subtlety and detail in their writing. Errors are still allowed to occur – a point that I feel encourages risk in writing.  A student who Fully Meets my expectation produces a piece that is easy to read, whose writing ‘flows’ (in a second language context) which means that transition devices and organization fully support the piece.  Minimally Meets for me is the ‘unit’ items – and at this level the student is showing me what they have mastered from the current unit but is generally not drawing heavily on past knowledge. A student, for me, generally falls between Minimally and Fully – and I usually find they have items selected from one or more columns.  At this point – with selections out of several columns I often use a +/- to show where they are. For example a “Meeting+” means that you are moving out of “Meeting” and starting on your way to “Fully Meeting”. A “Fully Meeting-” would be ‘not quite there but definitely out of the “Meeting” area. I believe that the +/- also serves to encourage/show students that they are ‘on a continuum’ of skill building.

The Feedback:  Here is where the real value is for me – the quick and easy way to add extra comments to the piece. Generally I found that I was writing the same comments over and over – and, borrowing from Amy’s idea, wondered if I could put together a written checklist. It is general enough to provide a ‘guide’ for a student and has room to allow me add specific points as well. Some of the checklist points reflect specific Japanese language items (such as ‘form’ – the difference between plain/formal forms for example) and others are more generic. I wanted to have the ‘For Future Pieces’ portion to be encouraging in nature which is why used words like ‘try’ and ‘review?’ to hopefully encourage the student to seek out assistance in these areas.

The rubric language is still not fully what I want – there are areas to improve it and make it more clear. But I like the mix of the ‘how you met’ and the ‘here’s some feedback’ that it provides.

Student Self-Evaluation First: This year I also started having the student participate in this process. At the end of the piece – be it a presentation or summative exam write – I ask the student to look at the rubric and check where they think the piece falls. I want them thinking about what I am looking for and evaluating how well they are meeting expectations. I find that most are quite aware of where there writing is and, using this style of rubric encourages growth in writing.

The link for the rubric is here if you wish – please credit based upon how much you borrow.

Next post – the Oral Interpersonal Rubric.

Colleen

 

 

 

 

February 13, 2016
by leesensei
1 Comment

The “Class Reads A Story” Process

white-rabbit-varietyIn a bid for more authentic reading I’ve begun to expand my use of stories with my classes. There are many ways to use them and this post highlights one way to use/support reading in your target language.

This post focuses on one way that I use the Japanese Graded Readers as a class story read by  the students (in pairs) at their own pace. I started this journey with the Yr4 novel unit last year and learned a lot while trying to implement it. Student feedback was helpful and many said “we should do more of these”.  So this year I am…

When I Use Them For “The Class Story – I typically start the year with this kind of story activity. For my Yr 3’s I use Momotaro and my Yr 4’s I use Urashima Taro.  Later in the semester my Yr 3’s also read KasaJizou  and my Yr4’s read The Restaurant of Many Orders . My Year 2’s read Hachiko as a class story as well.

The Goal? It’s my goal that students will read a story with their partner and use supports/partnership to work to understand meaning. It’s my goal that we don’t read ‘all together’ but that they read as a pair at a pace that works for them.

How Long? For these stories we are reading for 40-45 minutes of the class but you could read for shorter periods (over a longer period) as well.  Generally this entire reading process – from first pre-reading to final recap takes 3-4 class days.

It’s All About the Pre-Reading Activities!

Initial Vocabulary via images – I hadn’t thought of how easy it was to introduce key vocabulary from the first few pages of the story via images until I was reminded to by John Cadena. My favourite site for these is Irasutoya (Japanese specific). I project the key images (all 8 of them) and preview as a class prior to the first day’s reading.

Target Structure Reminders – In the case of my Yr3’s reading Momotaro, I wanted to remind them of all of the different ways that they were going to see the TE form used in the story. grab key images from the first few pages of the story

Vocabulary Support – I provide an extra vocabulary list and verb list for students. The vocabulary is provided on a page-by-page basis for the story and the verb as part of an overall list. Vocabulary is provided as it is in the story – that is words in kanji are in kanji on the list (with furigana) with their English meaning.

Audio Support – I learned last year that the audio to the story is key. But because I want students to read at their own pace I had to find a way that they could have the audio with them. A couple of days before the read I post a private link of the audio that students can put on their phones. They listen as pairs (sharing headphones)  and are asked to remove the audio once reading is done.

During the Read – Independent ‘Pair’ Reading

Read as a pair – Students opt to either in the classroom or in a quiet place in the hall. They typically listen to the page first. Then they read it aloud with their partner using what we call ‘Two and Talk’. That means that they each read a sentence (or two) then stop and talk about meaning. They understand that they don’t need to ‘translate’ 100% of the words but rather figure out ‘what’s going on’.

Read until… – I don’t set out reading goals prior to the time but rather base it on ‘checking in’ with each pair during reading time. I then ask all pairs to be at a specified page by the end of reading time. All groups are typically within 1 page of this point. If you are past it – that’s fine.

During the Read – Capturing Meaning/Summarizing the Tale

Prior to Reading Time Each Day – Generally at the start of the class we do a Q/A summary of the story via the images. I project an image from each page that we have read and we explore – orally – the story so far using ‘who, what, where, when, why…’. It’s a great way recap the story so far and remind everyone of where we are.

After Reading Time That Day – Students work on that ‘summarizes’ their reading so far. I pull key images from the story pages for this and ask them to ‘tell me what’s going on’ related to the picture. I stress that they are to write their 1-2 sentence summary as if they were talking to someone who had missed reading that page. They are not to ‘translate’ or ‘copy’ but rather to provide the basic details as they unfolded.  This is “marked” holistically on a ‘minimal’ or ‘meets’ the expectation of being a general story summary in Japanese.

Summing It Up – After We Have Read The Story

Retelling With Partners – After we are done the story the students retell the story in pairs – using a set of all the images from the story. They are to ‘talk’ about what has happened and use their story reading summary as support. What is key for me is that they are talking about the story rather than reading their summary to their partner.

Story Plot Graphic Organizer – My students complete a 1-page graphic organizer in English to show understanding of the story. This is a typical character & plot diagram sheet that they are used to doing for stories in their English class. Again it is marked holistically at ‘minimally’ or ‘meeting’ the expectations of plotting out the story (from start to finish).

Yellow Brick Road Recap – After all this work I like to have my students find a new partner for the Yellow Brick Road review. This is such great fun and I am grateful to Carrie Toth‘s post on this wonderful idea she came up with. My only twist is that, instead of key words, I again use the images from the story laid out around the room. Because they start their recap at different points in the story it really works at their ability to recall and discuss. It’s fabulous. We debrief via the ‘how did that go’ rubric.

I really like this process for the group read. My students like the readers because they are written for people learning Japanese and not just ‘children or baby’ stories.  And they feel great when they ‘actually read something and understand it!’ they say!

Colleen

 

 

January 20, 2016
by leesensei
4 Comments

“How Am I Doing? I Know How!” Improving Formative Feedback

YOne of the reasons I am making a big shift from numbers to proficiency/expectation descriptors is to ensure that students don’t wait for me to tell them how they are doing – but rather that they will know and be able to articulate for themselves. With this shift comes more challenges in improving feedback and learning opportunities for students. I am by no means good at this – but, as a believer in ‘small tweaks lead to big changes’ I have been experimenting with additional ways to provide feedback. I think I’ve been really weak on this in the past….so my ‘small tweaks’ this semester included:

Pop Check-In – born out of the frustration of students being able to do things for a quiz but not 10 minutes later, and a desire to see if they are really ‘getting it’, I introduced the concept of the “Pop Check-In”. These are not announced beforehand and focus on a particular skill/structure we may be working on. As my students know – and can repeat back to me – this is a chance to see ‘what is in their heads’ now. It is not ‘for marks’ but rather is for learning and feedback for them on how well they are internalizing a concept. More here….

Rubrics With Feedback – Ah Amy Lenord – where would I be as a teacher without the amazing sharing (and challenging) that you do! I realized after reading a piece by Amy that my rubrics needed to be reinforced with some ‘great job/for next time’ comments. And Amy’s amazing post on this inspired me to make a change to my rubrics too. With attribution, I have added her checklist to my oral interpersonal rubric – fabulous and so easy to use when I am grading students. Extending beyond that I decided that my writing rubric needed it as well. This is my first draft of this and I know it will evolve but I am looking forward to using it in the future!

Completion Required – I am taking in more small pieces of writing this semester. I realized in the past that I left too much to the final summative writing piece. My twist on feedback is not to do the corrections for them but to highlight areas of weakness and ask them to work on them. They get an ‘incomplete’ in my evolving grade-book until that is done and the piece is then marked as ‘complete’. In order to be able to do the corrections I often include hints or reinforcement of the concept via a written comment, a chat with me or pointing them to one of my on-line reviews.

Reflective Responses From Me – I am very keen on collecting reflections from students especially after they self-evaluate an activity. I used to read them but this semester I added what I thought was a missing component which is my comment on that reflection. So now – especially after a summative oral that has been self-assessed (yes – I do those!) I take the time to read and respond to their comments. Then they receive that back with their ‘unit summative’ sheet and I make sure to attach it so that they see the comments that I have made. I notice that they take the time to read and note them.  I also do an ‘end of course’ reflection and take the time to write, or orally respond to each as well. They get this back at the final exam – a nice way to end I think.

Unit Summative Sheet – I usually don’t have students keep a summative writing piece but have always felt that they should retain something at the end of the unit to chart their progress. So this semester I introduced their unit summative sheet (brightly coloured so its easy to find). On it are two rubrics that I have filled out – their writing/oral pieces with checklist feedback (see above) showing how they are doing in meeting expectations. I also attach the pre-oral rubric they fill out – so that they can see how they felt about how they would do going into the oral. I am also looking to incorporate a space on that for them to include a reflection about what worked for them in learning in that unit and a place where they can articulate how they felt about their learning during that course of study (based upon a piece from the TELL project). I saw many students voluntarily take these out as we were preparing for finals to help them prepare.

Oh there’s so much more I think that I can do…but with these small steps I hope I’m moving in the right direction….

Colleen

 

January 4, 2016
by leesensei
2 Comments

The #authres Infographic & Digging for Information On Cultural Practices/Attitudes

 

xmas600It starts with an authentic resource…and this one from Yahoo Japan about the top 20 Keyword searches related to Christmas via infographic.jp (an awesome source for Japanese language infographics!). Yes we have touched on the typical “holiday in (fill in country)” but I want them to use the information to infer about what the Japanese really feel about this celebration (a non-holiday) in the country. The lesson is applicable to any county/celebration. Key note – This was a ‘first day back‘ after holidays activity and we used the information to guess/infer in English about what we learned reading the infographic. For other times/units we would use the target language. Here’s how I set it up.

Pick the ‘meatiest’ part: I decided to concentrate on one specific part of the infographic – the actual top 20 terms as searched for on home-based and mobile devices . It’s easier to print out part of the graphic and is the piece of information that I found the most relevant.activityChristmas

Step 1 – Establish some prior/new vocabulary knowledge. This is where any new vocabulary (or in my case ‘characters’) was placed. Students read over the list with their partner first (no dictionaries) and guessed/filled out words that they already knew. Then they used resources to find ones they did not. We then discussed this as a class – which allowed me to clarify meaning and identify any cultural implications of using the word.

Step 2 – Reading/Understanding the Information. I gave them the ‘actual’ piece of the infographic in Japanese (above/right). But the small print is hard to read and so I replicated the lists on another – typed out (and with furigana reading for the Chinese characters). Their instructions were to read through the lists and NOT to translate them.(That is not to write the English meaning directly beside the Japanese). If they had a word they had to look up they could write that out there (as they are using the lists for later questions). After reading with their partner they should be able to understand the words/phrases on both lists.

Step 3 – The “Deeper Thought” Exercise. I didn’t want a ‘list’ or a ‘regurgitation’ of the information. So they were asked to answer 5 questions (with their partner) in English about what they read. The KEY for me were questions 1 and 5 – with questions 2, 3, 4 setting them up for the final one.

  1. If you went only by internet searches given here …what are 5 key elements/components of a Japanese Christmas (and why did you choose them)?
  2. Is there anything in the top 1-10 for home computers that is not there in the 1-10 for mobile devices?
  3. Is there anything in the top 1-10 for mobile devices that is not there in the 1-10 for home computers?
  4. Is there anything in the 1-20 lists for the home computers or mobile devices that is NOT there for the other at all?
  5. Why do you think there are differences in the rankings between the two? What about when/how each device is used might influence that?

As I indicated the key questions are the first/last ones. We discussed as a class what emerged as the key elements and how it related/didn’t to the Canadian Christmas experience. When it got to ‘why’ the home-based/mobile device searches might be different students came up with great ‘thoughtful answers’ that touched on demographics, timing, personal privacy, convenience and more. The students told me they really enjoyed the exercise because it used something ‘real’ and they especially liked the ‘deep thought’ questions as opposed to just ‘find the answer’.  Several tables even ended up in spirited discussions about ‘why’ the lists were different.

This was a great ‘first day back’ activity for me, meaningful for the students and a way for them to use real authentic information to learn about the TL country and ‘culture’.

A win! Welcome Back!

Colleen

January 1, 2016
by leesensei
0 comments

My 2016 #OneWord – “Acceptance”

6F6A3033Every year I like to think of a key word that will guide my teaching practice. Two of my past words have been ‘Applicable‘ and ‘Opportunity‘. But in light of personal and professional changes this year I have decided that my guiding word for 2016 will be “Acceptance”. This year I accept that:

I can’t hit it out of the park every time. There’s a lot of pressure that I put on myself now to be new, innovative and engaging in every lesson. I am not content to just do ‘what I used to’. But all this trying to innovate does not necessarily mean it works. I threw myself into an authentic resource lesson last year with my Year 2’s. And it bombed. Big time. I was bothered…but now I accept that on my journey to improve my teaching there will be, have to be, ‘duds’. Those lessons mean that I am risking. And with risk comes the possibility of the ‘miss’. As it turns out I revamped my dud lesson this year with a new approach and guess what…an engaging student centred lesson. So I accept that to gain, to grow, to change – I will not always be successful.

Some days the ‘learning’ I’ve planned isn’t what my students need. I need to let them guide my practice and not the other way around. Yes, it’s my job to have my eye on the broad themes and goals of what they are learning. It’s my job to keep my focus on the big picture. But it isn’t my job to determine all of what/how they are learning. I need to be flexible when an activity isn’t working, and open enough to change quickly when an idea or activity particularly engages them. This year I had planned a certain approach to a lesson and in the middle realized that my students faces, voices & level of palpable excitement were telling me that there was another lesson there. So I scrapped ‘my plan’ and went with theirs. And it was way better and took them way deeper into learning than my initial approach could have. So I accept that I must be flexible and attuned to what really engages and meets my students’ needs.

Life is more important than the perfect resource/lesson/approach. I think it is so easy to spend way too much time questing for the perfect lesson – to the detriment of having a fuller more meaningful life. I got married four years ago for the first time – at the age of 50. Up until that point I spent a lot of time on my teaching and professional development. I could. I could eat, sleep and breathe teaching.  It has been an adjustment for me – to carve out time for teaching/professional growth around my personal life rather than trying to squeeze a life around my teaching.  So I accept that to be the teacher that I really want to be, and who will best serve my students’ needs, I must be the person I need to be first.

I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that this new year will bring. And I accept that it will be one of growth – both personally and professionally. Hello 2016!

Colleen

October 24, 2015
by leesensei
0 comments

A “New” Cultural/Target Language Station Activity Day…

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Image: morguefile.com

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.

Colleen

December 27, 2014
by leesensei
1 Comment

Best of 2014: No. 1 “How Did That Go?” An Oral Activity Feedback Rubric

MP900385751We talk a lot in the #langchat community about evaluation and feedback for students. One of my focus areas has been in developing a more reflective classroom – and for that purpose I began to work with a self-evaluation rubric for formative class activities. My post on the  “why and how” of using this was the most popular post this year…

‘I’ve always asked students to work in pairs, or small groups in class. But only lately have I started to ask for their feedback as to how it went. I’ve worked for a while on a quick feedback rubric – one that builds an expectation not only of what students should be doing when they are working in small groups – but also how they are to be working together.

The key for me in using it is the following:

Students Know What’s On the Rubric: They know that what is on the rubric – taking risks, not using English, working together, equals in an activity – are things that I value in my classroom. We have taken lots of time to practice how to support someone who doesn’t understand and, equally key, how to ask for assistance from a peer in understanding.

They Reflect Before They Select: They know that they will fill out the sheet after they have answered a reflective question (posed by me) in writing on the back. It can be anything from “During this I was most proud that I…”, “One thing that still is a stretch for me is..” or even, “I didn’t use English – here’s how I managed to do that…”. Once they turn to the actual rubric, students know that they are to select the phrases that match how they felt/what happened during the activity.

They Know It Will Be Used (Maybe Just Not When): They know that this feedback rubric can be used at ‘any time’ – and after any activity in which they worked with their classmates. They may know when they start the activity, or not know, that it will be used. It’s one way I build an awareness of what is key. If they know in advance they are often asked to ‘choose their focus’ prior to the activity and if what they want to work on is not there – they can add it.

It’s Always Ready: I keep a stack of these in a basket at my main teaching desk. Sometimes the decision to use is set well in advance but other times I choose to use it just because it feels like a good time to use it. In either case a supply is always there for me to use.

selfevaluation

I know that the contents – and the descriptors – are a work in progress. The rubric’s value is in the information that it provides to the students as they think/reflect on their learning. It’s also a chance for me to see ‘how it went’ and what to alter or support as they continue to work in the TL.

Colleen

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