Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

August 10, 2016
by leesensei
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Evolving Teaching – Evolving ‘Outline’…

Teaching is a constant work in progress – as I have repeatedly said “I’m busier in my 20th+ year than I thought I’d be”. And as my teaching evolves so does how I present information about my course on the first day. A few years ago I started using an ‘infographic’ style of presentation. This year, spurred on by #langchat colleagues Wendy Farabaugh and Kris Climer – I have used Piktochart to create an outline that is as updated in look as it is in reflecting my teaching. What does it provide for students?

part 1Class Information – Basics at the start about the course, who the teacher is and how to contact me/connect with the website. I don’t have Google Voice (not in Canada) but if I did my number would be there too! I don’t use Twitter or Instagram with students at this point but there’s always room to add that on if I decide it would be useful!

What We Will Do? – For my absolute rookies it’s a summary of the various unit “I can’s” that they will work to master (eg. You will learn to ask about/tell about …). For my more senior students I use this as a quick introduction to the types/focus of the units we will experience – each with an integrated task at then end of the unit.

japanese-12-2 copy2Our Focus – Why you are here – what you can expect that class will be about. In my case it is about communicating. I want to establish that we will be working on communication skills of various types at all times. I also want them to know both making errors and not understanding someone are natural parts of the process of learning/using a language.

There are also gentle reminders of the ‘rules’ in the room – purposeful phone use, getting help, missing class and more. Quick and easy and quite honestly they all could probably tell me what they are any way!

How Are Our Tasks Organized? – Straight up – I may not use the ACTFL modes as you do. This is my japanese-12-2 copy3first year, first dip into organizing tasks into a more meaningful way. I got tired of the 4 skills (read/write/listen/speak) and decided to use a modified form of the mode descriptions. My biggest deviation is probably in the interpretive but I am willing to be a little ‘loose’ on that as I work to implement this way of ‘grouping’ my tasks.

What? No “Homework”?! – No, I banished that word. What is homework? I don’t assign ‘homework’? What I do assign is something that will be needed for next day’s class. So I have changed the wording to “Next Day Preparation”. Why? Because if I choose to assign something that’s what it is – something I need a student to do to use in the next class. (I sense a future dedicated post on this to come!)

japanese-12-2.png 4Evaluation – How Well Am I Meeting Expectations? – Okay this is what they all care about. I have blogged extensively on going to descriptors in my gradebook. It has taken a lot of tweaking and editing. What you see here is my latest iteration of both describing the descriptors and then ‘how’ I translate them into our school-required percentages. I wanted just ‘one line’ for each major descriptor and selected what I usually find myself saying when I quickly remind students, throughout the semester, what they describe.

What Isn’t There? – Proficiency descriptors. Okay we talk about them a lot, a lot on #langchat. I’m just not convinced at this point that it’s a ‘driver’ for student engagement. That is, I’m not sure I want them on my outline as they are more of a ‘where are you now’ snapshot of progress. In some ways I think they are more of a classroom thing than an outline one. Feel free to disagree…

I also add in an FAQ section (answers to the typical ‘any questions?’ question) and my ‘digital use contract’ (borrowed with permission from Amy Lenord). You can see the entire outline here!

I have 3.5 weeks left until I return to the classroom (yes Sept 6!) but, as the updated outline shows, I’m looking forward to a new year of their, and my, learning….

Colleen

PS – the ‘cute’ pictures? From my favourite free Japanese-themed site Irasutoya!

 

January 4, 2016
by leesensei
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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

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