Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

May 27, 2014
by leesensei

“If I Had 1 Day in…” A Webquest/Google Docs/Discussion Activity

Pagoda Surrounded by Cherry BlossomsWhat if you only had 1 day in a famous city/area in your Target Language (TL) country? Where would you go, what would you do? This is the premise for my “Visit to Kyoto” activity with my Yr 3 Japanese class. This is a 3-class activity that introduces my students to some iconic Kyoto sites – and hopefully gives them ideas should they plan a trip in the future!

Day 1 – Webquest/Google Docs Survey – In order to establish a common basis for discussion, I ask that they visit the National Tourist site for Japan – and in my case (as I’ve outlined my authres challenge before) in English.  I want them to see the specific country’s site, the extent of its offerings and, as I have a high population of students who don’t have English as their first language, the variety of languages offered to explore the site . For Kyoto I identified 5-7 top sites in the city. For the assignment the students are asked to go to each site and complete the following information (in English and on paper):

What is it?
Where in the city is it?
Why do tourists go there?
What would I see if I went there?
What could I do if I went there?
Why would I personally want to go there?

At the end of assignment, and to ensure they’ve gone to the site I want them to,  I also ask the students email me to respond to the website in particular – telling me what their initial impression of the site was and one improvement that they might suggest for the webmaster and why. I’ve sometimes even sent their suggestions along to the organization.

Google Doc Survey – Once students have completed the paper survey I ask them to enter the info into the google docs survey.  This survey just asks them to rank each site for the ‘visit’ preference from 1st (most want to go to) to the last. I don’t do this Day 1 work as an all on-line google doc activity as I want students to have the hard copy for class work – and I really only want the info to generate the rankings.

Day 2 – Vocabulary Crowd-source – Generally I put up the 6 spots on the whiteboard and ask the students to talk to their partner and answer the ‘questions’ that they had to when they did the webquest. They do this as a ‘mindmap’ on a larger sized piece of paper. For the first 10-15 min. (or so) I don’t allow dictionaries – in the hope that I can tap into their circumlocution skills. Then students source out the TL that they would need of they had to answer using dictionaries. Finally they take turns adding information to the whiteboard. If it’s a ‘looked-up’ word they put the English beside it. The last part of class allows them to borrow any words seen on the board that they might want.

Day 3 – Summary Discussion – Prior to class I go to the form response data and generate a “Summary of Responses” and a series of TL questions about the place in general and their specific responses.  I use conversation circles a lot and students are used to answering questions as a group. The questions can range from “What is Kinkakuji?” to “Why do you think the Gion was the ‘least’ popular site among students”. They get 10 min or so with their partner (and notes) to work through answers to the questions. Then they move into tables of 4. They can have notes with them if they need them still but they are there really for ’emergency’ purposes only. The discussion generally lasts 35-40 minutes and we change groups once half-way through. The discussion is self-evaluated with the written response prompts being “Today I was proud that I…” and “For next time I’m going to …”

It’s a great activity for students that makes use of their real data, and incorporates reading, listening and speaking. If your class went to an area in your TL country – where would that be and why?


April 24, 2013
by leesensei

A Web Quest That Asks Them To Think…

I have always struggled with the traditional web quest. You know the kind where there are questions and the students go to a site, or various sites, to get the answers. It seems that I am not exposing them to anything new when I do this but rather just teaching them that a ‘blank’ is there to be filled. The quest then becomes not the answer but a completed sheet. Find, write (or paste) and go onto the next.

Each year with my Japanese 11 students we read a story set in Kyoto. It is an amazing city full of world heritage sites, traditional tea shops and the chance of spotting a geisha on the street. I want my students to be able to have various sites in mind when they read the story – and so thought a web quest – for it’s visual element especially – would be a good idea. My first one was a dud – basically a ‘what, where’ sheet that I myself found boring. What to do?

Talking to our school librarian, who sees lots of these activities, she challenged me to have my students use the information they find – in a way that would not become just a copy/paste exercise. So I imagined a tourist – pressed for time – who has 1 day in Kyoto and 6 possible places that they could visit (all from our story). Students have to find out what these places are, where in the city they are located, why a person would go there and finally rank them in order of visiting preference. It’s amazing to look at the results and find out what would appeal to them and why. Often we have a class discussion after in which they talk with each other, in Japanese, about the results.

Kyoto also has an interesting dialect so I send them to a site to ‘hear’ what it would be like to be on the streets. Finally I ask them to comment on the websites themselves – what they found appealing or what they think could be improved.

So now its not a web quest for me but rather a task that uses some websites. A link to my exercise – never fear its mostly in English! – is here if you wish.

What kind of web quests do you do?


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