Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

December 19, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Best of 2014: No. 2 Review in 7 Minute Stations

Hand Displaying Peace SignThe use of stations in class is an ongoing project of mine this year. I have committed to developing 1 station day per unit in each of my Yr 2 & 3 classes. I learned a lot about using them – as two follow up posts – a follow-up post on station management and one outlining my tips for implementing the idea pointed out. This is the post that chronicled my first foray into stations…This post was the second most popular of 2014…

A class of 30 Grade 9′s can be difficult to keep motivated so for a ‘review’ I decided to try stations. I’ve been wanting to try them and the review time seemed like the easiest to do this. I opted to incorporate an aspect of our study method – the ‘Power 7′ idea.

The Basis – The “7 Minute”  Drill –  I have previously blogged about helping students to learn to study using what we call the “Power 7″ method. The idea of short powerful bursts of study – repeated 4-5 times a night – instead of a long study session, prone to distractions, seems to bring results to those who find concentrating difficult. As students get better at this method they increase the time – up to 20 min/session. Many use it now in other classes for review. Keep in mind they are not memorizing lists out of context – but this is a way they use to review vocabulary etc. prior to reading or to work on their vocabulary for writing (always marked holistically – the aim is to minimize high frequency errors).

How Many Stations?

  • For a class of 30 students – 65 minutes I set up 8 stations – you could do more – that the students would rotate through.
  • 4 desks in a square for a station with room for 4 students (2 pairs) at each station

What Goes on the Table?

  • Flashcards (2 sets – 1 per pair): I use flashcards a lot in class. Often they are a set consisting of a Japanese word and a picture. They are used many ways – from concentration matching to fun ‘who can name the object first’ competitions with their partner. I had flashcards for 1/2 the stations already ready. But for the first few units I was missing them – until I thought to use my Quizlet files. All of the unit information is loaded into them for study opportunities for students. So I printed out the early chapters in the large size – copied them onto paper/cut out the cards and I had ‘English-Japanese’ ones.
  • “I can statements” (2 pages – 1 per pair) – I have a set of “I can..” statements for each chapter – I also printed up a list of these and put them at the table. If students finished their cards early they could quiz each other by asking “Can you….?” and seeing if their partner could do the task.
  • Unit ‘sheets’ with the answers on them  – that is the phrases/words in both the Target Language and English (note: my students had their own unit sheets so I didn’t need to provide these)

How Long?

  • Initially I was not sure how long to give the students at each station. Ten minutes seemed a bit long – so we started out at 5. I think its best to underestimate what is needed and in fact, at the end of the first station time, my students requested that we go to 7 minutes per table. It is true that for some groups – with students who typically achieve above expectations – they were done well within the 7 minutes. For other pairs this was not long enough. But it is enough to start reminding kids of what we had covered.

Focus of Review –  Given that there are both English and Japanese (or a picture) for each this lends itself well to using the stations different ways at different times. In my initial 65 minute period I only used it for Reading Comprehension.

  • Listening Comprehension Round –  look at  the word in the Target Language – read it out loud to your partner – do you know it in English? Then your partner takes a card and reads it to you.
  • Reading Comprehension Round – look at  the word in the Target Language – read it with your partner – do you know it in English?
  • Written Practice Round – Look at the English or picture card – write it out in the Target language – check with your unit sheets – did you write it correctly?

Results:

  • Reconfirmation of how to review/study – this serves to underscore the idea that effective study (short/concentrated) can be more useful than a longer period where people are easily distracted.
  • Reconfirmation of how to help someone understand – without asking them to do so I saw a lot of partners not giving the answer but actually miming, acting out or giving hints rather than just tell the answer. This confirmed to me that my message of how to assist someone who doesn’t understand has been received.
  • Partners helping each other in a relaxed  way – there was high energy and lots of laughter – two great things to see during an activity that could have been a boring run through previously seen material

As a chance to dip my toe into the station world this was a good first experience. I’ll do more of them again not just for review but also for variety in the class. More to come!

Colleen

December 15, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Best of 2014: No. 3 Reading & Understanding – The “Question Challenge” Activity

MP900385753It’s always a challenge to construct activities that engage students – especially about a reading piece. I try a variety of ways to both help/determine if my students understand a piece from  group Q&A to discussion to drawing and more. My Year 2 class is a case in point. After 1 semester of Japanese they hover around the Novice-Mid range but they are eager to ‘talk’. My challenge was to give them a reading and then, get them to discuss it. Enter the student to student “Question Challenge” activity.

Day 1 – SetUp: The students were given a reading constructed by me, with key points that they had been learning embedded in it. They initially read in their pairs using what I call “2 and talk” – each student reading a sentence then stopping to talk about what it means. In this round I offered no ‘comprehension’ questions at all to see how well they had understood it themselves. However for a longer piece I will have a few questions from a section of the reading with their questions to come from another portion.

After students had read and debriefed with their partner they were given the challenge of constructing 8 questions concerning the piece. 3 were to be of the True/False variety – where answers could be found easily in the text. The next 5 were to be “open” questions about the reading – the only stipulation is that the answer could not be “yes” or “no”. This forced them into constructing questions along the line of our ‘follow up’ questions we often use in speaking. “Who did Nonki meet with?” “When on Saturday did they meet?” and so on. This also required me to provide some key ‘phrasing’ that they had not already learned. For example “Who said…” or “Who is a person like…?”. We also reviewed what to do if someone didn’t understand them and how to say what you ‘specifically’ didn’t understand. I believe  that “I don’t understand.”  and “What does …mean?” are not negative phrases in my classes – but rather an opportunity for the speaker, a responsibility, to help in understanding. We reviewed what to do in this case – generally ‘repeat’, ‘give an example’ and, when appropriate, ‘give a sample answer’.

Day 2 – Question Day:  Students initially practiced asking each other their questions. We stressed eye contact and also had one partner ‘purposely’ not understand to review how to assist. We also reviewed cultural phrases/activities they could use as they ‘stalled’ to think of the answer. Then on to the challenge! The pairs had to challenge 3-4 other pairs to answer their questions. To increase the ‘fun’ we devised a point system. If students got the answer right away (no looking at the text) – 1 point. Giving right away and being wrong -1/2 point. And if they had to go back to the text to find the answer +1/2 point (note that a wrong ‘guess’ plus finding the right answer is 0!). I allotted about 20 minutes for the questioning. They had a ball. Lots of laughing, rephrasing and interaction and, most importantly for me, really good work on asking/answering key questions.

Debrief: I debriefed the activity using my “How Did That Go?” rubric. As usual the students first had to write – completing the phrase “That went ____because……”. Many cited the ability to talk and interact easily with their peers as a reason it went well. Almost all of them said that their groups actually went beyond the questions they had and started thinking up spontaneous questions to get more points! Students also asked for some key phrases that we had not reviewed such as “more slowly please” and “Did you say…?”. My students are very used to this rubric from their first semester with me – but if they weren’t I would have gone over the rubric (and what expectations I have) with them prior to setting them on their task.

I won’t go overboard in using this but I did love to hear the loud voices, laughing and groans (at wrong answers) during the time. Its going to be another tool in my ‘comprehension’ toolbox. What do you do to get kids talking about what they read?

Colleen

December 8, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Best of 2014: No. 4 “How Do You Say…?” Extending Beyond the Vocabulary List

MP900385754I’ll admit it. For every unit – a set of vocabulary. Used to ensure a basic set of words to discuss the topic.  My goal in this being that students have a common vocabulary with which to interact. But it’s the extra’s that are the key – the words that personalize the learning for the student – and expands their ability to express what they want to say.

Recent posts from Amy Lenord (@alenord) and others around”leaving the list’ behind – have challenged me to look not as much at the basic vocabulary but rather at how I deal with the requests for “What is the word for__? or “How do I use ____?”. And so a ‘shift’ for me  is happening – one that is enriching and empowering my students.

Teacher Shift – Attitude: Part of the move beyond the list does I think come when you are ‘comfortable’ with your program. Not only with ‘how’ it runs (PBL? TPRS?) but also where it is running to. It took me a while to come around to the idea of more choice. Not because I didn’t favour having a language vocabulary that is personal – but because I was still forming how the curriculum and the course would be delivered. I was so busy worrying about their ability to communicate – I forgot that this was the focus – and that it was my job to show them ‘how’ to communicate;  how to ensure their listener understands them, clarify or explain a word  or concept, adjust vocabulary as needed.  They could take it from there.

An example? My Grade 12’s regularly do a travel unit in which they ‘sell’ tours to various parts of Japan to their classmates. It can be tough to predict what vocabulary is needed in advance. This time, I asked them to add the words that they each needed that they felt were key to understanding their tour. Yes – we crowdsourced the vocabulary – the words stayed up on the board during the preparation time. Each day they spent a small amount of time (5 min) picking a word (or 2) off the board – telling their partner they didn’t understand – and playing out how to explain what the word meant.

Teacher Shift – Opportunity: Not only did my willingness to add vocabulary require a mental shift, it also required an opportunity shift. That is – I needed to provide students with the settings that allowed them to show/use the words that they needed to use.  Opportunities for personal expression – using the full range of vocabulary they have acquired had to be expanded. How did I allow them to show/use what they knew?

An example? For my first year students it has been as simple as adding a large empty box on their unit vocabulary sheet. I put a heading “Extras WE/I Want to Know:” on it. Whenever a phrase or word comes up in an incidental way in class I put it up for them and they are now recording it there.

For my more senior students it means a shift in how I ask them to show me what they understand. They can utilize any words at their disposal to complete the task at hand. Therefore it is becoming evident in the choice that I am allowing students. “Please show me that you understand the concept ___” means that students can use any vocabulary at their disposal – and are not limited to what is required. In class interaction the motto is “you can use it if you can explain it (or any other way you can share the meaning).”

The more I learn to step back, and empower my students to step up and use the language, the more that choice plays into the mix. I have learned that it is my job to coach and support – not constrict their language learning. It’s true that there are some times when students are not quite ready to take on a concept due to language ability. But if I ask my students to risk and try with a new language – why am I holding back their ability to express themselves?

I want to thank the #langchat community – especially those like Amy who regularly question, mentor and more importantly share their journey with us. It inspires teachers like me to strike off in new directions as well! More choice to come!

Colleen

December 4, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Best of 2014 – Number 5: Conversation Skills, Kahoot & Cool Tech Add-ons

MP900385755(1)Looking back at the most popular posts on Language Sensei in 2014 I am always surprised at what resonates. I am pleased when something ‘hits home’ for others because, truthfully, I write for one person – me. Blogging has helped me to clarify – for me – what I value and, more importantly, where I am headed as an educator. So for the month of December I’m going to take the lead from one of my favourite #langchat colleagues – Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@SECottrell) and her Musicuentos blog and re-publish some of the most popular posts. And wouldn’t you know it – a 3-way tie for 5th place!

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!  Continued…..

Fun, Team-building & Reinforcing Learning: Using Kahoot! In Your Classes: I’ll admit that in the past I have shied away from online class games. Our school is limited in WiFi availability and I have not wanted to either single out students who didn’t have phones, or ask them to use data to play. But the #langchat community is big on the Kahoot! – and I just had to join in. Basically you create a multiple choice quiz. When you start the game students see a ‘game code’ – they go to the web site and enter that code – create a team name – and you begin. I’ve tried to use it in my classes to both increase teamwork and minimize data use. Why do I like it and how do I use it in my classes? Continued…

Cool Tools – My Favourite Browser Extensions, Add-Ons and Docs Extras: We use a lot of tools, apps and other on-line resources in our teaching. I had to work on a browser the other day – which required me to re-enable the add-ons and extensions for it. It got me to thinking about my ‘go to’ tools that I use with both Firefox and Chrome. So I put together a collection of my favourites – probably some of yours as well. Continued…

Colleen

November 5, 2014
by leesensei
11 Comments

“The Club Decision” Interactive Oral Activity

Teenagers JumpingThis is a post focusing on one of the summative interpersonal oral activities that I do in my class. 

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!

Colleen

PS If you want more information – here’s some of the handouts I use for this!

October 24, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Using Stations In-Class – A collection of “how-to’s” and “don’t forget to’s”

titlependingI have blogged several times about my experience  in using stations. For a recent professional day a couple of colleagues asked me to share how I use stations. Because the only reason I am even comfortable in using stations is due to the generous sharing of others I wanted to pass it on. The link to the 6 page ‘idea’ book is here. If it is useful – great! If you have questions – please ask. If you have additions – I’d like to know!

Thanks again to #langchat colleagues  Catherine Ousselin (@CatherineKU72), Candida Gould (@candidagould), Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell (@secottrell) and Kristy Placido (@placido) for their sharing/support.

Colleen

October 20, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Reading & Understanding – The Question Challenge Activity

Girls doing schoolwork.It’s always a challenge to construct activities that engage students – especially about a reading piece. I try a variety of ways to both help/determine if my students understand a piece from  group Q&A to discussion to drawing and more. My Year 2 class is a case in point. After 1 semester of Japanese they hover around the Novice-Mid range but they are eager to ‘talk’. My challenge was to give them a reading and then, get them to discuss it. Enter the student to student “Question Challenge” activity.

Day 1 – SetUp: The students were given a reading constructed by me, with key points that they had been learning embedded in it. They initially read in their pairs using what I call “2 and talk” – each student reading a sentence then stopping to talk about what it means. In this round I offered no ‘comprehension’ questions at all to see how well they had understood it themselves. However for a longer piece I will have a few questions from a section of the reading with their questions to come from another portion.

After students had read and debriefed with their partner they were given the challenge of constructing 8 questions concerning the piece. 3 were to be of the True/False variety – where answers could be found easily in the text. The next 5 were to be “open” questions about the reading – the only stipulation is that the answer could not be “yes” or “no”. This forced them into constructing questions along the line of our ‘follow up’ questions we often use in speaking. “Who did Nonki meet with?” “When on Saturday did they meet?” and so on.

This also required me to provide some key ‘phrasing’ that they had not already learned. For example “Who said…” or “Who is a person like…?”. We also reviewed what to do if someone didn’t understand them and how to say what you ‘specifically’ didn’t understand. I believe  that “I don’t understand.”  and “What does …mean?” are not negative phrases in my classes – but rather an opportunity for the speaker, a responsibility, to help in understanding. We reviewed what to do in this case – generally ‘repeat’, ‘give an example’ and, when appropriate, ‘give a sample answer’.

Day 2 – Question Day:  Students initially practiced asking each other their questions. We stressed eye contact and also had one partner ‘purposely’ not understand to review how to assist. We also reviewed cultural phrases/activities they could use as they ‘stalled’ to think of the answer. Then on to the challenge! The pairs had to challenge 3-4 other pairs to answer their questions. To increase the ‘fun’ we devised a point system. If students got the answer right away (no looking at the text) – 1 point. Giving right away and being wrong -1/2 point. And if they had to go back to the text to find the answer +1/2 point (note that a wrong ‘guess’ plus finding the right answer is 0!). I allotted about 20 minutes for the questioning. They had a ball. Lots of laughing, rephrasing and interaction and, most importantly for me, really good work on asking/answering key questions.

Debrief: I debriefed the activity using my “How Did That Go?” rubric. As usual the students first had to write – completing the phrase “That went ____because……”. Many cited the ability to talk and interact easily with their peers as a reason it went well. Almost all of them said that their groups actually went beyond the questions they had and started thinking up spontaneous questions to get more points! Students also asked for some key phrases that we had not reviewed such as “more slowly please” and “Did you say…?”. My students are very used to this rubric from their first semester with me – but if they weren’t I would have gone over the rubric (and what expectations I have) with them prior to setting them on their task.

I won’t go overboard in using this but I did love to hear the loud voices, laughing and groans (at wrong answers) during the time. Its going to be another tool in my ‘comprehension’ toolbox. What do you do to get kids talking about what they read?

Colleen

 

 

October 14, 2014
by leesensei
2 Comments

Sentence Building with the Unit Slide Show – Easy, Fun and Effective

MP900177844I love visuals for learning. I have blogged in the past about using visual slide shows in my classes. Today – yet another fun slide show and also an extended activity. On my recent summative assessment I was still noticing errors in constructing sentences – common errors that I felt needed to be addressed again. And so we did – with the aid of the slide show. For my Year2’s it became a great review activity for both vocabulary and sentence construction.

The recipe for today’s review?

Start with – A slide show – a pdf of today’s is attached – thematic pictures of Japanese engaged in a variety of activities.  I had mine set up automatically to change every 7 seconds but if I felt that I needed more time I would do it manually.

Add in – Round 1 – just let it play as they enter….

Then –  Round 2 – I ask “What are they doing?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

Next – Round 3 – I ask “Where are they doing this?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

Then – Round 4 – I ask “Who are they doing this with?” Group chorus response assisted by teacher

And – Round 5 – They try to describe using all of the elements.

Finally – Round 6 – They ask their partner if they did that yesterday….

Adjust ingredients as desired! You can see that you the content, questions and desired output can change with your students’ needs.

It was a great review for my students, who also learned some new vocabulary (what do you call a sumo wrestler?) and reinforced great sentence construction. Even better – it was reinforced in a safe group environment – and no worksheet! More uses and ideas to come.

Colleen

 

 

 

April 21, 2014
by leesensei
6 Comments

Improving Feedback for Students: Colours, Consistency, Corrections

Single Tree in a Green FieldI’ve been working to refine the way that I give feedback on written work. My efforts focus on both easily identifying a student’s issues and increasing their responsibility for their own learning. With that in mind my feedback now focuses on three things – Colours, Consistency and Corrections.

Colours as Codes: I’ve played around with various ways to identify errors or miscues in a piece of writing. Although I like the idea of ‘codes’ – they just don’t seem to be as quickly meaningful. A coded paper has to be ‘read’ to see where mistakes may be. I am a visual person and I want a quick glance at a marked paper to show a student which area requires reworking/improvement. So I’ve settled on two colours – blue and green.

Blue – You have made an error in your choice of/spelling of a word/words
Green – You have made an error in your choice of grammar to use/how you have used it

I highlight/underline the area with a problem. Sometimes I add a sample correction or suggestion if I feel its necessary. Ultimately it’s easy to tell if the student’s main issues are vocabulary or grammar related – or both!

Consistency -On-line/On Paper: I am all for student choice as to ‘how’ work is handed in. Some students are more comfortable composing on their phone, or on a computer than they are writing with a pen/pencil. No matter how a student chooses to hand a piece I want the feedback to be consistent across all of the options.

On-line: brought in to Google docs and marked up using the “Text Study Skills” add-on. I also use a copy of the rubric ‘copied’ and named for each student. At the top of the rubric is a reminder of what the colours stand for. I use header space for any additional comments. Then I use the ‘yellow’ highlighting colour to identify where the student falls on the rubric.
On Paper: I use either highlighters or coloured pens for this. In an attempt to save paper I will also try to photocopy the rubric onto the back of the submitted piece. It makes it more efficient – and no need to attach an extra page.

Corrections or Not?:  It’s my hope that students should want to know where they have gone wrong – but this isn’t necessarily the case. How to build towards that. I am shifting in how I approach this as well – looking to gradually build in a desire to know ‘where I went wrong’.

Year 1- 3: I often ask for corrections on a piece as we build toward summative assessment. The final mark (or completion mark) is not recorded until it is done. I review with a student as needed – but often they work together to find out where they have gone wrong.
Year 4: Typically students are not ‘required’ to do this kind of remedial work – and many come and ‘ask’ when they can’t see where they’ve gone wrong.

Feedback is as useful as it is easy to understand. As I work to streamline my way to give feedback I hope to make it easier for students to see where they need to improve. And, as always, corrections to this system may be needed to make it more relevant.

Colleen

 

April 1, 2014
by leesensei
0 comments

Self-Created Riff on “The Story Game”

Child's Drawing of FamilyOne of the best things about the #langchat PLN is the almost ‘freakish’ timeliness of the ideas generously shared by it’s members. This happened to me a while back courtesy of “The Story Game” post from Martina Bex on her blog “The Comprehensible Classroom“. It referred to an idea originally posted on Bryan Kandel TPRS. The posts came right at the time my Yr 4’s were revisiting Daily Routine items – prior to their Murder Mystery oral activity.  It allowed me to combine one of my favourite homework options – the Sketch and Share – with partner work and oral interactive skills. The activity was done over 2 class periods  – and only for part of each period.

Here’s what I had them do.

Prior to Day 1

– Create/generate 8 pictures of what you do in your day – clip art, sketch whatever – and ensure that you can describe to someone what the pictures show

Day 1

– Meet with at least 3 other students in class. Work through their pictures with them – using them to describe what goes on in your day. My focus at this time is also linking/transitional work as they move from activity to activity.

-Then the students meet with 2 other students and just show their pictures. It is then their partners who must generate the language that matches what is going on. This is also a great way for students to expand their vocabulary – as students will not all express things the same way.

Day 2

– Partners each bring out their “My Day” 8 cards. Using those cards – in any combination – they are given 20 minutes to create a story based on the pictures. The story can be any type they wish.

-The only requirements are my usual  – that both partners participate equally in the telling and that they aren’t to dive into the dictionary (if they do – they can’t use a word(s) unless they can explain the meaning). The story has to be repeatable – as they will be telling it to 3 other pairs.

-Once the 20 minutes is up  – it’s story time. Each group meets with 3 other pairs – and tells their story as well as hear the other pairs’ tale. They are encouraged to use their transitional words and to ask questions to clarify what they don’t understand.

At the end of the activity students used one of my simple oral activity assessments – and added their own comments on how they felt about the activity before they actually did it, as well as after (“I thought it would be…” “After doing this I learned that/was surprised that…”) The students all talked about how much easier it became in round 2 and 3. Several students remarked that they began to ad-lib in more details as they retold their story or were asked about certain parts. Many also said it was a great ‘stretcher’ for their personal language as they heard other groups stories – that included different vocabulary and ways of constructing the stories themselves.

As for me I saw engaged/interested students who were focused on using a topic area to creatively tell a story. Students were using all of their skills in communicating their story – clarifying, questioning, rephrasing as needed.

I will be using the “story game” idea again with my other classes when it suits – and quite frankly it suits just about any topic area!  Thanks Martina for highlighting this post and Bryan for the original idea.

Colleen

 

 

 

 

 

 

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