Language Sensei

Thoughts on The Journey of Teaching Languages

November 9, 2016
by leesensei

Talk, Stand, Switch….Developing Independent “Mixing” Skills

In my classes we do a lot of talking with different partners, often gathering information from them to use in class. Whether it is Yr1 finding out how often their classmates eat their favourite foods, or Yr4 creating and sharing their own stories, I ask my students (in a given period of time) to talk to a number of people. But…I hate being the timer. I hate having to direct my students “New partner please…”. I want to build in their capacity to meet, talk, and then ‘move on’. In the interest of building a class community also want to have them work with/talk to students they might not normally speak to. So I have been experimenting with what I call “Talk, Stand, Switch”.

Basically I set out the challenge – how many I would like them to try to talk with in the time period given (they know that there is no maximum – they keep going until time is up.)Then I tell them – when your pair is finished stand –  look around the room – and get a new partner from the others that are also standing.  Students move to the ‘open person’ – even if they don’t know them. They may work with someone who is weaker or stronger than them and that brings helping/circumlocution skills into play.

I used this yesterday with my Yr1’s as they spoke with each other for 22 minutes (!) in the TL discussing food preferences. Yes I had to do some guiding “Sam, Janie looks like she needs a partner!” However the majority of students moved easily to the ‘open person’. It was great – and many of them on their “How Did That Go?” rubric written response commented on how nice it was to meet new people.

It’s a simple thing – but I hope it builds the expectation in class that we work with ‘everyone’….that our class community is a safe place to risk, try and learn…


April 15, 2016
by leesensei

Why Write When You Can Talk? – The Oral “Worksheet”

file791271781089Worksheets. I’ve been thinking, and rethinking, about them a lot lately. I believe that teachers use them with good intentions. We want them to practice something. We want them to “learn” and show understanding of a new language point or vocabulary group. We want them to reinforce what is going on in class. These are great intentions for using them. Unfortunately they also serve as ‘filler’, a required bit of homework and, for me, are not very ‘communicative’. Perhaps, more importantly, students increasingly see them not for the good intentions we may have employed them, but as something that must be ‘completed’ – rather than learned. Don’t get me wrong – I am someone who still uses a strategic paper worksheet here and there  (there I said THAT) so let’s get over the sheepish ‘I still use worksheets’ feeling. These days though, instead of handing out the worksheet, I’ve been trying to employ activities that hit the best of what we intend a worksheet to be – with the best of what I want my classes to be. Enter what I call the “Oral Worksheet”. This is really focused practice and involves anything that gets students interacting with (a) new language elements and (b) their peers in class.

Prior to Oral “Worksheets” what has to be in place? In my class you need two things – the confidence to ask/tell when you don’t understand and how to handle that (we work on that a lot) and the understanding that we are not ‘lazy listeners’ but, rather, active ones who will assist/correct/help in a gentle and supportive way when they hear an ‘error’ in use or have someone who can’t remember a word/phrase. I agree this can be a delicate thing – no one wants someone correcting them all the time – but we work on it from day 1 and they are effective in how they do it. Students also have to be used to activities where they frequently change partners and understand that they work with everyone in class – not just their friends.

Example 1 – Picture/Story Tell “Worksheet” : My goal was to introduce various ‘health’ terms/issues as part of a greater unit. I used clip art pictures and told a story told via QAR about a class where only 1 student showed up because everyone else was sick. We went over and over via questioning and then the students read a similar story. The “Worksheet” – pictures from the board story were in an envelope on their tables. In pairs they retold the story (not reading it/re-telling it) matching the pictures and the symptoms. On the board was a reminder of some key phrases we had used with ‘new language elements’. Then they had 10 – 15 minutes to re-use the pictures to make up a story about a character’s terrible horrible day  (the story was oral only – no notes!). Students then had 30 minutes to visit with other pairs telling their story and hearing others. As students listened to a story they were also allowed to ask questions “He cut his finger? How” which required the pair. How was it a ‘worksheet’? Well for 40 minutes they heard the vocabulary and language elements over and over. They helped each other out when they weren’t sure. They corrected appropriately and gently when they needed to.

Example 2 – Sketch/Share “Worksheet”: My goal in the lesson was to practice a particular element related to the use of giving & receiving action words (simple/complex). We had built up knowledge via practice/story the day before. Their ‘homework’ was to come up with 6 pictures with captions that demonstrated their understanding of how to use the concept (something I call the ‘sketch & share’). The next day in class they initially showed their partner the pictures and told them what the caption was (note – they ‘told’ they didn’t have their partner read it). This ‘check in’ also provided a chance to alter/edit as necessary. The “Worksheet” – After their partner check,  on  to the “oral worksheet” which involved 20 minutes of challenging others to see if they could provide a caption for the pictures that the student had drawn. The result? for 25 minutes they heard, reviewed and interacted with the material. Yes some ‘errors’ may have slipped through but I catch those when they hand in their pictures after the activity.

After the Oral Worksheet – Did they ‘get it’?: Do these kind of  oral ‘worksheets’ do the same job as a paper worksheet? I think so. My pop check-ins tell me that they ‘get it’ as much after these as they do with paper ones. And I think they get so much more – in the negotiating of meaning, the listening for understanding and the oral interaction with classmates. What are your written worksheet alternatives?



March 10, 2016
by leesensei

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!



April 6, 2015
by leesensei
1 Comment

“What Was Your Challenge? How Did You Overcome It” – Student Responses and What I Learned…


In my last post I wrote about my goal of ‘traction’ for my students. But the key for me is “Is the lesson on how to communicate/what to do if there are challenges?” getting through.

My Year4’s do a group interactive oral based upon a taste test. In the past I would not have been too strict on it but this is the new me and I asked that they do their 2-day preparation for the activity all in the target language (gasp! yes – I didn’t used to think they could!). It took some time – and some work to give them what they needed – and many ‘support/needed phrases’ went up on the whiteboard. Afterwards I asked them to reflect on how it went using my usual activity rubric. More importantly I first asked them to write their answer to the following prompt: “What were the challenges in doing this – and how did you overcome them (or did you?)”. Their answers tell me that many of the skills we try to acquire to communicate are there… and also that there is some work to do.

“Personally I do not think that I completely overcame the challenges I faced, but the use of hand gestures and examples helped me through…”

“Speaking Japanese for the whole time was a big challenge. I wasn’t sure how to connect the words to make sense at items but I tried to use language that we had learned in the past. This totally helped me to go on and talk with my partner.”

“I honestly got stuck several times with my partner – at a loss for vocabulary – but I got through this by (like Lee Sensei said) finding other words to get out of the ‘hole’ and use words I do know.”

“We used body language to express what we were trying to say (when we didn’t know) and to be honest its a good thing to do – it worked!”

“It was a challenge to ask something that the other person would be able to understand – I overcame this by testing sentences until they understood what I wanted to say.”

“To overcome this I tried to use similar words, and then rephrasing to make my point get across.”

“Yesterday when I was stuck I resorted to English – but today we learned from yesterday’s mistakes and used actions and simple words – instead of English to overcome the language barrier.”

“I can converse in a conversation but planning I tend to need to use more complicated sentences and that was more difficult. I tried to overcome it by trying out different sentence starters, rewording as I needed to..”

“When my partner and I worked together I felt more comfortable to overcome the challenges of not knowing certain words”

“It was very uncomfortable at first but I focused on only using Japanese and it worked okay and I gained some confidence (in using it)”

“I think we didn’t really have a clear strategy in not using English except that we both tried our best not to and that really helped us overcome the challenge of not using it! In the end it was the effort that did it!”

“It was difficult to talk completely in Japanese – we used our unit book notes etc. to help – but it was do-able.”

And what did I learn from this?

I learned that all the work we do with assisting, circumlocuting and rephrasing is sinking in.

I learned that they will commit to using the TL only if they think it is worthwhile to do so.

And I learned this should be the norm – they should be able to plan (and do) in the target language (do I see the influence of PBL @sraspanglish?). BUT this means I start them doing this in earlier years – with lots of language support they will need. Then I can scaffold up my expectations of their language use as we ‘raise’ the bar in their TL use while planning/preparing.

It was a great to see them ‘digging in’ to do this and to learn how I can support them more as they try to move forward with language use.





March 9, 2015
by leesensei

“Who Killed Him?” An Interactive TL Murder Mystery


Image Source:

The origins of this activity come from the textbook Yookoso (by Yasu-Hiku Tohsaku) – a text we own as a school but which I am not using as a ‘class text’ any more. In a daily routine section there is a listening activity about a dead rich man and suspects who are being interviewed. Students are asked to listen to where the suspects (the wife, daughter, son, lover, chauffeur and brother) were during the evening and then determine who killed the man. But I wanted more…and I wanted it be interactive and wanted the use of the ‘daily routine’ to be realistic (and to me an interview by authorities was). So I added and fleshed it out and it became a class favourite – the ‘murder mystery’.

Why Do I Do This?: I do a scaffolded revisit of ‘daily life’ in Yr 4 as our first unit of the year – and it allows students in my semestered school a way to ease back into using Japanese via a topic (their lives) that they are familiar with.  Essentially this summative oral activity asks my students use this information in a ‘real-life’ context to solve a problem using the target language hitting their interpersonal and presentational (written) skills.

How many students?: I have “detectives” work in pairs and can vary the number of people that need to be interviewed. The detectives will get to interview the dead guy himself  as well (although he has no idea who killed him and can’t tell them that!) So, in a class of 28 I would have 8 interview stations (7 suspects/dead man plus a station to chat with the chief (me) and then a station for the them to chat on their own/discuss how its going in the TL.

What’s the ‘setup’ for the mystery?: 

 Preparation: It take 2 class periods (65 min each) to prepare. The volunteers playing the suspects/dead guy each prepare in a different room. The week before we begin to prep for this I ask for volunteers to play ‘a role’.

Backstory: I use a mock-up of a newspaper article (and visual Powerpoint) to introduce the characters. We all read it as a class and work out who the main players are. Essentially I used the idea of Mr. Hasegawa from the listening activity and fleshed it out. For the oral it revolves around a tech entrepreneur found dead in his garden. There are 7 suspects each with a motive to kill him (note: depending on numbers needed I drop the younger brother, first wife as suspects). The key is that every suspect has a motive:

  • – the younger brother who started the tech company with him then was cut out of the business
  • – the sweetheart he married, had 2 kids with & then divorced to marry a younger woman
  • – 2 kids who hate the new wife and who both have no jobs & various expensive habits
  • – the new wife who is insecure & scared of being dumped herself and losing access to money!
  • -a lover who fears he is tiring of her and needs money for her karaoke business
  • -a chauffeur who hates him and secretly fancies the second wife

Suspects get a basic individual back story of age, whether they are right/left-handed, possible motive, a few opinions on the dead guy/other suspects, any other information that could be suspicious. They also get a basic outline of what they did on that day (they can have this with them in English on a note card for the interviews – I’m not asking for memorization). They get a ‘map’ of the house/gardens where the crime was committed. Finally they get a list of ‘ideas’ in English of the types of questions that they might be asked. Their job in preparing is to be comfortable with who they are, practice answering the sample questions and be able to describe their day. They know that they can’t lie if they are asked a question but they won’t admit guilt either. They don’t see the autopsy report.

Detectives get the same sample questions, an autopsy report (he was hit from behind, stabbed with a sword and found to be dying of cancer) and a map of the house/garden. They also get a blank ‘grid’ that they can use to construct the questions they want to ask and put in answers. Their job in preparing is to use the information they have to generate & practice questions they want to use on interview day. They know that, on the interview day, they have to get to motive/opportunity in very limited time.  For this reason they can note their questions down in English and take notes in English – but can only converse in the target language.  They are often working off 1 copy so at the end of interviews I take their notes and copy them for them – so that each will have their own set of notes for the summative write.

On the Day:

What’s the setup: I essentially use my interactive oral setup. Circular desks with detectives moving in a clock-work fashion from suspect to suspect (no random moves!). Detectives sit at a desk (they have no idea who will be at it) and when they are ready I bring the suspects in.

Timing?: My school has a 1:45 min afternoon class but if timing doesn’t work I do this over 2 days…typically I give 7 minutes per station (this requires efficiency) and at the end a 10-min “ask anyone” free-for-all for detectives to question people again.

Bring a Prop!: Suspects are expected to come with a prop or two to help them get in character – and give hints to the detectives about who they are. Detectives are expected to come dressed as detectives (minus the guns) with a badge, ball-cap or whatever else they think works!

But Who Did It?: Everyone always wants to know if there is a correct answer – and, just like real life, I remind them all that the police ‘recommend’ charges only – which is what they will be doing. There are two keys to this as an activity. ONE – the time of death is not given on interview day. They won’t get this until the day of the summative write. TWO – Both the motives and the daily routines I give the suspects are set up so that any one of them  (alone or working with others) could have done it. The outcome often depends on the strengths/choices of the students playing the roles.

How Does It End?:

Post-Interview Self Evaluation: At the end of the interviews I ask students to tell me how it went for them – how well they asked questions, answered, provided follow-up information and stayed in the target language. As is my practice they start with a written response. This year I choose “That went __because…”. Students wrote that they loved the problem-solving aspect, the challenge of coming up with extra questions, or answers to new questions, on the spot – and it gives me feedback on what worked and didn’t.

Written Report (Recommending Charges/Defending or Blaming): For me it ends the day after the interviews in the summative writing time. Finally just as they go to write, I put the time of the murder on the board. Students have 60 minutes to write who did it based upon what role they played. Detectives (using their notes) say who they would charge with the murder and why. Suspects (using their bio/daily routine) have to give a defense of why they weren’t the murderer and who they think was (& why) or, if they confess, a detailed reasoning as to why they did what they did.

Results: I may not have marked what they wrote yet but a quick read lets me see who they favour as the ‘murderer(s)”. So the day after the written evaluation, I post the results – who voted to charge which suspects and why! The class loves to discuss, in the TL, if the ‘correct’ person(s) was/were charged!

The preparation may seem like a lot but really it isn’t once you have your characters set. Then it just requires some tweaking year to year to keep it fresh. My students look forward to this in their final year – and I enjoy watching them stretch their language skills to do it…


PS I’ve added some ‘samples’ of the kind of information given to students. Detectives get the newspaper article, sample question ideas, the autopsy, plans of house&garden. Suspects get the newspaper article, their own profile and house&garden plans.


January 24, 2015
by leesensei

“It Was Cool!” Their First Group Interpersonal Oral…

club namesI 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 signmanager 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!” 

Job done!


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.

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.


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.


December 15, 2014
by leesensei

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?


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