Thursday, April 12, 2018

Y'all, I don't have a name for this, but it's a vocab review thing

Be warned - this is high output, but you could probably modify it down if you wanted them to be producing less unscaffolded language.

I put kids in groups of three or four (I wouldn't do two, or any more than four), and gave them each:
a. a die
b. a short list of vocab words (5-8 words)
c. a list of six questions

Every group got a different list of vocab, and there were three separate question lists, so when they finished one, they got a new set of vocab and a new set of questions.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fishbowl/Socratic discussions in an FL class

Socratic seminars have become a big thing in English classes, and they go a long way towards fostering discussion in a structured way. This is a handy way to discuss issues raised in a novella you're reading, discuss cultural ideas, or simply talk about a topic or two.

But it's harder in an FL class, especially when we're trying not to force production. So here's how we've been doing it.

Warning - I have only tried this with threes, and I'm not sure it's suitable at other levels. If you try this with lower levels and adapt it, let me know.

1. Choose the passage or passages you want kids to talk about, if it comes from a reading. If not, perhaps create something to have them look over to prime their brains. Have them spend time reading that however you wish - groups, individually, whole class, etc. That's up to you.

2. Write some questions to get them thinking about the topic itself. Would you like to have a pet? If your sister had a pet, and you didn't, would you be jealous? Etc. I wrote four questions, and then I gave them three minutes per question to write as much as they could in answer to the question. We went over each question and established understanding before they wrote, and then they had to answer all four (twelve minutes in total) - I told them when each set of three minutes was up.

3. Have them share some or all of their responses in groups, or with the whole class. We do it in groups, and then each group selects their favorite response to each question, and we share as a class and discuss a little.

4. Then each student writes four open-ended questions about the topic we're going to discuss (the last one we discussed was the Siege of Masada). We spent some time discussing what kinds of questions would be good for this (would you prefer... what do you think is... would you have...) and which ones are less good (yes/no questions, questions that require a factual answer). I typed up eleven of my favorite questions and projected them for support. Kids could ask their own questions, could make up questions as they went raised from the conversation, or the questions I was projecting.

5. We set up five chairs at the front of the room and a hot seat. Everyone else sat in a semi-circle around them. The hot seat was there in case you had a statement or response you wanted to make in the moment, but didn't want to be actually in the circle at that time. You had to make your response and get out. If the hot seat had been abused (people using it to get out of being in the circle, etc), it would have been removed, but no one abused it. The five volunteered themselves, and began. Students were told if they didn't understand something, they should ask for clarification or repetition whenever they wanted, and they didn't need to be in the circle for that.

My role was to answer "how do you say" questions and then write those on the board, to clarify as needed, and to gently steer if something got out of hand or off-topic.

People not yet in the circle tapped in when there was a question they wanted to answer, or they'd begun to have thoughts on a topic. To tap in, they simply came up, tapped someone's shoulder, and switched seats. They were required to wait 'til that person wasn't speaking, and they had to tap out people who'd been there longer first.

If you were ready to be tapped out, you could put your hand on your head, so that when someone was ready to tap in, they knew who wanted to be out. If you got tapped out but wanted to contribute again, you could use the hot seat, or you had two extra tap-ins left if you needed them.

Often by the end of the period, I had a few kids who hadn't been in the circle. Those students were required to choose one of the questions raised that day and make me a 1.5 minute video, to be turned in to Flipgrid (which is free!). They had a few days to do it and could practice, which for most of them alleviated the anxiety of impromptu speaking, and also allows them to produce at their own pace. I did NOT announce this as an option before fishbowl - I told them at the end.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Re-reading activities

I know I often want my students to simply re-read a text to get as many reps as possible. Here are a couple ways we are doing that:

1. Bombus
Bombus is the buzzing sound made by bees in Latin. It's pleasantly onomatopoetic - choose whatever onomatopoeia you like.

1. Put students in pairs, and have them switch off reading sentences. If someone doesn't understand something in a sentence they've read, they should first ask their partner, and then you. (you can write the definition on the board, if you like, and refer other students to that as reading goes on.)

2. You have a couple options here.
a. If your text has good paragraphs, tell students that when they reach the end of the paragraph, one of them should shout bombus or tax or any other onomatopoeia you like. The one who doesn't shout the word has to summarize the section they've just read.
b. If your text doesn't have good paragraphs (ours are often short, and so don't), you can ring a bell periodically. When you do, they compete to shout whatever onomatopoeia you've concocted. Again, whoever gets there second has to summarize the paragraph. Depending on the level, I may or may not ask them to do this target language. In Latin I and II, I often tell them "if you can do it in Latin, you should." This leaves the possibility for those who don't feel they can to still express their comprehension without the pressure to produce.

2. Fill in the Blank

This becomes, unexpectedly, hilarious pretty quickly.

Each student is going to need a copy of the text. You'll need one, too.

Round one: you read the text to them. When you stop, the whole class fills in the next word. You can stop as often as you like. Every couple sentences, stop and make sure they understand, circle, answer questions, etc.

Round two (optional): do this again in English. Some texts don't lend themselves well to that, but if you want to, read the text again in English. When you stop, the whole class fills in the missing English word - which might not come physically next in the sentence.

Round three: do round one again. But this time, when you stop, call a student's name. That student has to fill in the word. If the student doesn't supply it pretty readily, joyfully start over. (i like to immediately target the kids i know are a little less likely to be on, to sort of let them know i'm holding them responsible.) Once you've started over more than a couple times, it actually becomes a little hilarious. We applaud every paragraph or so that we make it through without starting over. It provides really, really good repetition of the text, especially if you're checking for comprehension as you go. (as always, repetition without comprehension is pointless.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tag-yourself memes

I don't know if you've seen tag-yourself memes on facebook. In general they're pretty hilarious.

Check it out:

Image result for tag yourself meme caecilius

Monday, January 29, 2018

Reading Without Words

Many of us use gestures or hand signs of some variety to associate with vocabulary words. I've been thinking a lot recently about the process of reading, and why it can get so overwhelming. I decided to try a little twist on something old-ish to see if I could access reading to prep them for a text.

We had several new vocabulary words, all of which were pretty interesting. You need some verbs in order to do this. You also need some agreed-upon, constituted hand gestures: and, but, is, because, end of sentence (we use a bell for this).