Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

March 6, 2020
by leesensei

“Just 1 More Thing…” A Quick Peer Editing Activity…

“Just 1 more thing…” – it was a favourite line of Columbo’s (and if you remember him you are my contemporary) and even Steve Jobs (who can forget his ‘one more thing’ iPhone?). And for me it’s also a ‘tagline’ for a peer editing activity. There are times when I want in-depth discussion of a piece between students. However when the piece isn’t long enough (or I don’t want to do the full feedforward activity) a quick look for  quick level up is needed. So enter…”Just 1 More Thing…”  Here’s how I use it.

Before the activity:

  • Students have created a piece of work – sentences, a paragraph, some ‘chunk’ of writing that utilizes unit structures. In my case it was Japanese 11 and students were asked to create 8 sentences using a particular structure and then work in several structures somewhere over the 8 sentences (eg. a reason, an ‘although’, a habitual action, an opinion etc.)

Using the Activity:

  • I announce the idea of ‘just one more thing…’ and ask them to consider if they were asked to add just one more thing to what they have written
  • As a group they generate ideas for what that one more thing might be. I have whiteboard tables in my class and students worked together to come up with their list (on the table). Students in today’s class came up with various ideas including: intensifiers, ~ly words, frequencies, want to’s etc. As they brainstormed, I walked around and then would ask students to put one of their ideas up on the board. After a few minutes we had about 7 suggestions on the board.
  • Students are then told that they are going to meet up with their first partner. They will exchange pieces and have 2 minutes (you can adjust but this timing worked for us) to silently read the piece and think of a ‘just 1 more thing’ suggestion. They could not talk with their partner until the 2 minutes were done.
  • After the 2 minutes they have about 1 1/2 minutes to give their suggestions and receive information from their partner.
  • When that time is up it is on to the next. For today’s class my students completed 3 rounds. After the rounds they had time to alter, adjust, edit their piece before handing it in..

Why I Like This…

  • Students have concentrated silent time to read. They are thinking about ‘level ups’ they might suggest. They are also seeing ideas for their own piece.
  • The timing is great because it forces them to concentrate and really think. The shortened ‘suggestion’ time also ensures that a student is not overwhelmed by those partners who think it’s their job to totally edit the piece.
  • It’s relatively quick (15-20 minutes for me start to end of editing) and can be adapted for any level

Why They Like This…

  • Students are more aware of the little things that they can do to level up their piece
  • They get a quick suggestion or two to add to their piece.
  • They know that their piece is understandable (and if parts aren’t then more than 1 partner has pointed out the problem part)
  • They get the satisfaction of being able to offer a suggestion – no matter their level
  • They get to see what others have done – and maybe ‘steal’ an idea or two to add

And Just 1 More Thing…

Again – it’s another snappy name for a pretty routine activity…and somehow it makes it more engaging…!




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February 9, 2020
by leesensei

A “Feedback For Learning” Dialogue – Student Self-Corrections

To correct or not to correct? It’s an ongoing discussion among my colleagues both in school and on line. Is it of any use? Do students learn anything from us doing it? What to do?

In keeping with my attempts to provide more feedback – and ‘dialogue’ with students about their work – I abandoned the ‘teacher correct’ model a couple of years ago. I also looked to this move to help strengthen student accountability for their own work (and their role in their learning).

In my class it goes like this – students generate sentences or chunks depending upon our focus. They hand in (or can submit online). If there are no issues they get the Shiba Inu ‘okay’ stamp. (if you are unfamiliar …this a Japanese breed and I happened upon this set of stamps at a local Japanese store). In my mark book I indicate this with a happy face (yes a happy face). An online submission gets the JPG attached when I return it.

If there are any issues I will indicate things that I want the student to look at again. Sometimes it’s just spelling. Sometimes something is missing. And at other times the structure I am looking for is not used correctly. My feedback for their corrections can be a simple notation (such as ‘sp!’ or ‘missing…’). At other times it’s a reminder..(remember this is one of those that…). Often it leads to a quick discussion one on one as in “Sensei, I’m not sure …” or “Sensei, is this supposed to be…?” Then they resubmit for me to take a look. In my mark book this is indicated with a ‘circle’ (handed in but awaiting correction) Once it looks fine – the stamp goes on (or admittedly in a rush my scribbled ‘okay’) and I put a check mark in the circle in my book.

Now students know that there are no ‘marks’ attached to this beyond completing. They know that they don’t ‘have’ to do this. But they also know that their choice not to do them means that they miss out on growth, on learning and on raising their level of language. Yes there are students who don’t do this and who choose to ignore this input for improving. Sometimes they are then asked to (or required to) come in for mandatory assistance during our school support block. Their lack of engagement in their learning is also noted in a comment when reporting to parents. In the end ‘does this count towards my mark?’ is answered in the quality of the unit assessment and their proficiency level (reflecting accuracy and consistency). I feel that I see stronger more accurate language as a result of this process.

Please note that I am lucky to work with several neuro-diverse students. Their feedback is just as deep as other students’ is but I adjust the ‘correction’ idea to fit their individual strengths (for example ‘recognizing a correct answer’ instead of self-generating one or putting in a part of the answer with me giving the rest.)

I like this idea of a ‘dialogue’ for each student and the discussion it sparks around the language…and I like that they demonstrate an interest in improving their understanding…




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