Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

November 26, 2019
by leesensei

Using a Song Lyric Strategy…For a TL AuthRes Video Activity…

I like to use songs in class and one of my favourite activities is the ‘listen and organize the lyrics’ activity. You probably do the same kind of thing; chop up the lyrics into strips and have kids put them in order as they hear the song. It’s one of many ways I use music...and and great fun. And finally I realized that these activities are great for any time I ask them to listen…

My challenge was around the idea of weather. The students had already done a reading about seasons in Japan which included some basic weather terms. But I wanted to challenge this group so I went to the Japanese national broadcaster NHK. Every day they post their weather forecast in video on their site. I used a screencapture program (many exist like Snagit) to get the broadcast. Then I listened for key vocabulary used throughout the broadcast. I put the words into Quizlet and used their ‘print flashcard’ option to create my key vocabulary flashcards. (I can’t say enough about the ease of using Quizlet to create ‘sets’ of words, and even images, into card format.)

Kids initially found and matched the vocabulary that they knew. Then there was some great ‘guessing’ using previous knowledge (and some hints on the board) for the rest. I came to check for each group as they indicated completion. They could also consult a list, included in the flashcard package, helped them at the end to ensure that they were correct. They reviewed all the cards a couple of times (see English say in TL – see the TL and say in English) and then put the English portion away and spread out the TL cards in front of them. Their task would be to listen to the broadcast and put the TL vocab words in the order that they heard the word.

Then I began to play the broadcast – at real-time speed. I played the first minute several times and as they heard a word they grabbed it and began to organize. I probably played it about 5-6 times…and we ran out of time in the period. The next day they came in and reviewed the outstanding cards…and we listened 3-4 times. The majority of kids had the majority of the weather forecast in order. We then went over the order the words appeared and they listened one final time – putting their finger on the word as they heard it. At the end I asked if they could each find 4 or 5 key words that they might want to use again and they said “we’d like them all!” My students typically work in pairs and they said, after this activity, that this was a great partner thing to do.

I’d never considered using the idea from a song activity for an authentic resource video. Why hadn’t I? Now I’m casting around for other ways to use my various song activities for other ways I ask them to interact with audio in class.


October 19, 2016
by leesensei

Pre-Bell: The Short Vocabulary Video Intro/Review…

First off we don’t have bells in our school. But we do have time when students are in the room prior to class starting and I want to use this time to set the environment for learning. This year with my Year1’s I have started experimenting with a video to either reinforce or introduce a concept.

Today this involved the idea of counting how many people there are. We use it a lot in our “What Is Your Family Like? What Are Japanese Families Like?” unit. It’s a pretty simple and easy concept. Instead of embedding it in a story to introduce…I chose a more ‘direct’ visual approach. I searched YouTube for a video – ‘counting people in Japanese‘ and found a fun one including visuals, subtitles and an annoyingly catchy tune. Note that, due to wifi unreliability I download the video from Youtube. Then, I put the video into Quicktime (or a similar program) and set it to play on a loop. As students entered it played, over and over, and when we were ready to begin I asked the class, in the Target Language, “How many people at this table?”. They all responded. We went around with variations and then extended it to “How many people in your family?”…done…easily, in context, and without my direct teaching of it. We went on to use the information in class activities. As they finished up some ‘next day preparation’ I played the audio on a loop as well….Finally prior to leaving I asked them to tell their partner how you said “one person” or “two people” in Japanese. All could…

Another example – Days of the month – which in Japanese involve a variety of special words for the days 1-10, 14, 20 and 24. I want them to be able to say their own birthday but at least to recognize a classmates date of birth when they hear it. So I found a wacky video made by some students in Australia. Again it played on a loop…Again we used it afterwards via audio to reinforce.

Instead of vocabulary you could use a commercial or other short piece of video that highlights a particular language concept. I looped a small scene from the drama we watch yesterday in order to pull out the phrase related to ‘intend to do’. There are a wealth of videos out there for almost any topic in almost every language (I do find that it is vocabulary that is most prevalent). This is by no means the only way that students will encounter these words/concepts as we will use them in embedded readings and more activities. But it is a quick way to introduce and/or reinforce…and hopefully engage…


PS – The day after the ‘counting people’ video I put it on at the start of class again. And what happened? Singing. Yes – almost the whole class singing the song…then I turned off the projector and they sang with the song audio…then I turned off the audio and they sang. Finally they counted with their partner…I’m off looking for more ‘quick hit’ videos!

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