Illustrating Lyrics

Last night on #LangChat we had a GREAT discussion on ways to use music in class, take a look at the archive of the chat!

The idea that I shared was an idea I learned from Leslie Davison at iFLT 2018 in Cincinnati when I was an apprentice demo teacher there. The idea is pretty simple, but it’s fun, gets students moving, and forces students to listen and re-listen to a part of a song.

So first thing I do, is decide what part of a song I want to use. Usually it’s the chorus, because it’s repeated often OR that’s where whatever target structure I’m focusing on is.

Next, write/type a line from the song on a full sheet of computer paper. If I type it, I try to make it so that the text is at the bottom of the page, and I include translations of words if necessary.

Step 1 of the activity is students DRAW a representation of the lyric. I then take up willing artists drawings and we talk about them a little bit.

Step 2: I play the portion of the song I want to focus on, students hold up their paper when they hear their line. We do this a few times, especially if it’s fast.

Step 3: Students try to organize themselves at the front of the room while the song plays. We do this a few times as well, this usually takes the longest amount of time.

Step 4 options: Have 1 student hide their paper, students listen to figure out what is missing, have students trade papers and re-organize while listening, students close their eyes and the teacher trades two people’s paper students listen to figure out what got switched.

This is usually a fun activity, I hope you have fun with it, and please share any way you modify it!

Optimizing PQA

TL;DR Ask the same question to a bunch of students, fish for details, before moving on to another question have students write what someone else said.

Something I struggle with often is making PQA engaging for everyone.

If you are unfamiliar with PQA (Personalized Questions and Answers), it is a communicative activity where you ask multiple people the same question to personalize class content, usually it is to front-load vocabulary OR to gain repetitions of a word or structure. For example, if we are reading a book that mentions a wedding, a Personalize Question might be “Have you ever gone to a wedding?” and then we talk about that for a bit. Maybe I am targeting the word “wedding” or maybe I’m targeting the phrase “Have you gone?”. PQA gives us an opportunity to repeat words/phrases we want students to start to acquire while also learning about students, and making connections between ourselves and our students, give our students an opportunity to find a connection between them and other students.

Students can gain a LOT of language by learning about their peers. A student can share something about their life, and I can use my strategies to make sure everything is comprehensible and available for uptake. I had been noticing recently, though, that students weren’t really paying attention if I wasn’t talking directly to them. Students NEED the input, whether or not I am talking directly to them.

The BIGGEST shift that I have made is adding a little bit of accountability to the activity. I do this by having students write what SOMEONE ELSE says before we move onto another question. So I may ask the question “Have you been to a wedding” to five or six students, but then I ask students to write whether or not someone else had been to a wedding. I take this time to walk around a bit, check in with students individually, and give some quick feedback to what students write. Then I cold call*(I have to see if I’ve written about this before… about how to make cold calling more equitable and less terrifying) students, ask them who they wrote about, and then ask the question in a different form. So I had been asking every student “Have YOU gone to a wedding” now is an opportunity to ask a different form “Has s/he/ Have they gone to a wedding”.

By adding this little bit of accountability, I think students are able to get a bit more out of a PQA session, or at least to me, it has felt a lot more productive.

CopyCat: A Quick, No-Prep, Post-Reading Game

I got this initial idea from Eric Richard’s Grafted Writing book, but today I gamified it a little bit because I needed to fill some time.

Essentially: students COPY (not summarize, because we want them to read the right forms, and write the right forms) a number of sentences. Today, I had students do five sentences because there were quite a few complex sentences in the text we read. You could vary the criteria for the sentences however you want. EG:

Copy sentences that:
1. best summarize the entire text.
2. have a color word in them.
3. have an emotion word in them
4. Have dialogue

Or any other criteria you come up with.

After students have copied (again, not summarized) the sentences from the text, they then go around the class and give themselves a point for every time someone else has the same sentence as them. Student with the most matches at the end of the game wins!

Take a look at Eric’s book, Grafted Writing for even more ideas of what to do after students have their sentences!

Brain breaks that won’t break your brain

A Brain Break is a pause in instruction to let students refocus, I’ve heard said that we should take our students average age (16 let’s say) and divide it by 2 (8) and after that many minutes you should change activities or take a break. I

In a class of 45 minutes that means we need to change activities or take a break about 5-6 times. That is a LOT.

Utilizing breaks is something that I really need to work on, and one of the issues I had is that I didn’t have enough types of brain break activities to keep things interesting, and I didn’t have enough that didn’t require students to touch each other. I, personally, like Brain Breaks that involve movement, but also can cross the midline, but need to build my repertoire.

So, as an avid #LangChatter I took to Twitter to crowd source a BUNCH of brain breaks and within a day I ended up with about 50 unique brain breaks because of the GREAT hivemind of Twitter. So I wanted to compile them here 🙂

View my Wakelet collection of the tweets HERE

Spoons! The classic card game with a reading twist!

I think we might all be familiar with the card game Spoons. Players pass cards around, trying to get 4 of the same card with a few spoons (one less than the number of players playing)in the middle of the table. When a player gets 4 of a kind they grab a spoon from the center of the table, which is the signal for everyone else to try to grab a spoon. The person that doesn’t get a spoon is out!

Martina Bex has made a version of Spoons for Spanish class and has some great variations!

Today, after hearing of some kids in the school picking up the game Spoons I started thinking about how I could adapt it to make it more input based.

What I came up with was this:

Project a story on the board, and on my free Card Template add comprehension questions, story details, story vocab, or anything that students would need to search the text for.

For example, if you’re reading the story Goldilocks, you could have some questions that are answered in the text such as: Which porridge is JUST right? Which porridge is TOO hot? Which porridge is TOO cold? Where does Goldilocks sleep?

But also some distractor questions: Why does Pinnochio’s nose grow? Who is dressed as grandma?

Students would need to find 4 questions that are answered by the text (and maybe verify too, if they win!)

You could also do sentences in English, first to find 4 True or 4 False statements, etc.

I think this variation on the game has a LOT of potential and hope you like it!

Already got an idea from my friend/colleague Emily!

Emily is using words/definitions for the game. So students still have to have 4 cards to win, but they are trying to get two “matching” pairs. Great idea!

Podcasts for Intermediate Learners

I got this idea today thanks to my new Department chair, Monsieur Jacobs.

We have alternating Wednesdays at my new school. Classes are longer, but students only go to half of their schedule. For teachers, that *could* mean that their class sections are split, and starting the school year that could mean if you continue with unit plans it could put some sections a day ahead. So Wednesdays need to be more or less independent. Something that ties in with the unit, but isn’t going to put students behind if they don’t all get it at the same time.

Then my DC told me that he was going to use a podcast as a choice activity for his Wednesday classes. He sent me a document that he uses with students, I altered it a tiny bit, but have an English copy of my edited document HERE.

I chunk the podcast transcript, and put a little text on each slide.

Students will listen to a small portion of the podcast without the text support, then will listen again with the text support and we will discuss what we can about what we’ve heard, personalizing discussion when possible.

While listening, students are looking for new words, and we will work together to circumlocute to make a simplified definition. Students then will try to find an instance of the word/phrase in the podcast, or if they want, write a sentence on their own.

Next, students work on a cultural comparison, thinking about questions like: What caught your attention? How can you connect the content of the episode to your own life? Did anything surprise you? Think critically about why it surprised you.

And finally, students will write 5 true/false questions and we will use those questions for some type of game to wrap up the class.

Eventually, I think I want to make this a choice activity, but for now I’m going to do the activity with students so we can think out loud and share our thoughts. No-Prep Reading Game

Recently I found the website

BuzzIn is an online buzzer system, similar to a QuizBowl or Jeopardy style game system.

Students use their phone or computer to enter the game code, and then they can buzz in. The teacher screen then shows the order in which students buzzed in. If you get the premium(which IMO is pretty fairly priced, $20 for a year, or $0.99 if you only want to use it for a day) you can freeze the buzzer of students that have quick fingers and try to buzz before you ask the question.

Now, for the no-prep game.

Each student or group gets a copy of a text that we’ve been working with.

I translate a sentence to English, and students have to find the sentence in the reading.

First team to buzz in gets to answer. If they are incorrect, second buzzer gets to try to answer.

If the team is correct, I use a randomizer with numbers 0-10 and the team gets however many points the randomizer lands on (As, AnneMarie Chase says, adding that bit of luck can really up the game).

Team with the most points at the end wins.

Embedded Readings as Leveled Assessments

If you aren’t familiar with Embedded Readings, a term coined by Michele Waley and Laurie Clarq, the gist is that the teacher creates a series of readings that build on each other to help build reading fluency and support comprehension.

A very brief example:

Base reading
Bill is a teacher.

Version 1
Bill is a Spanish teacher. He teaches Spanish.

Version 2
Bill is a Spanish teacher in Indiana. He teaches Spanish by using comprehensible input.

As you can see, each version gets longer, and more detailed.

There are two ways to create an embedded reading: Top down, and Bottom Up.
Top down takes an existing text and simplifies it. This is a great way to scaffold authentic resources.
Bottom up builds the reading from a base version and adds details and makes sentences more complex.

Now, how about turning that into a reading assessment?

The suggested goal for level 1 of a language is Novice Mid, so I want to build an assessment that asks students to keep pushing themselves as they read.

A great place to start for planning reading tasks is the IPA comprehension guide template from ACTFL.

I put one activity (you know your students though, put as many in as you want) after each version of the text. The base version is VERY simple so I do a novice low task, then the second version is still pretty basic, but adds some details so I keep that novice low as well. The third version I move up to novice mid, and the task I give with the last version of the text is novice mid OR high.

For novice low, I’m looking for students to be able to identify key words and some phrases.
I might have students do a “Who would say it” task if there was only one character. I might do it for multiple characters, but I think I wouldn’t do it as a novice low task.

Another Novice Low task (Still focusing on word/phrases) could be an “Interview” matching activity. A little more rationale on this activity is that they don’t have to understand EVERYTHING in the questions and answers to complete it, they can find similar words from the question to the answer, even though they are reading phrases/simple sentences.

For a Novice Mid task, I had students translate some sentences from the reading, they have to demonstrate understanding of all the words in the selected sentence.

For novice mid/high I love just giving students a Wh-? organizer.

I think giving students a ‘simple’ organizer like this to fill out gives them an opportunity to show me as MUCH as they can. If they can show me basic details from the text, I might rate them NM, if they are able to show a LOT of details then I can rate them NH.

Going even further, referring back to the IPA planning guide, I might want to give students a question that makes them infer something about the characters, and then have them underline the text that supports their inference.

Rating: I simply give students credit for the highest level task they complete successfully.

Verb Charts are the New Word Wall

I’ve had a lot of thoughts recently about what the role of conjugation charts is in my class. If we believe (I do) that verb forms are acquired as whole words rather than stem and ending (Bill VanPatten has a great, short read regarding this HERE) then the practice of filling out conjugation charts might be seen as a waste of time.

I’ve also been thinking about what does it mean to teach grammar as a concept, one of the Core Practices from ACTFL. What I typically do is introduce a new verb by using the third person singular and give some quick tips to help students comprehend texts.

Example: “Camina means ‘s/he walks’ Bob y Margaret caminan… OH, we have an ‘n’ because we’re talking about more than one person, we have an -mos because we’re talking about ourselves.” And do that with some other forms. If nothing else, it’s ‘teaching’ conjugation in a different (IMO an easier) way by focusing on WHO we’re talking about rather than memorizing a chart.

Recently though, I started thinking…

In my Mandarin class, it is really easy for me to feel comfortable trying to produce language because my teacher always has the supports on the board (And Mandarin grammar is easier because no verb tenses) but I want students in my class to feel they have the appropriate scaffolding, rather than waiting for me to have it come up because *I* say a new form.

We use word walls all the time to support students’ comprehension and production, so what if I viewed conjugation charts as a word wall to support comprehension and production rather than having students learn how to fill out a chart, and practice conjugation with fill in the blank, void of meaning discrete item practice?

More than anything, using a chart to support comprehension is easier for me. I don’t have to write out every form and it’s meaning. Though there is a little bit of explicit learning in how the chart works, I don’t view it as explicit grammar teaching. It’s explicit teaching of how a resource is used.

So I teach what a conjugation chart looks like.

YOUYOU ALL(vosotros)

So if we have one specific verb that we are using in discussion or a story, students have support to use new forms if they feel so inclined (Because forced output is a topic for another blog).

I’m not teaching this chart so that students ‘learn’ conjugation, and I’m not having THEM fill it out based on rules that they are ‘expected’ to learn. I am filling out the chart for them so that they have a resource while we are in discussion so they feel more supported to talk about themselves and others.

Then I can take what students say and circle it, rephrase it, or whatever to support the acquisition of that form for ALL students.