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.

CardTalk: Personalizing vocabulary for EVERY Student

CardTalk (previously, Circling with Balls) is a super easy, no prep activity that you can do with literally anything.

A lot of people have written about how to do CardTalk (Click here to read Martina Bex’s overview) but to save you some time here’s a quick step by step process:

  1. Give students an index card(hence the Card part of CardTalk)
  2. Ask students a question in the TL.
  3. Students respond to the question by DRAWING (If you need more motivation for getting students to draw, read this article on Edutopia).
  4. Teacher finds an interesting drawing, displays it and talks about it.
  5. End with write and discuss, or any other follow up activity you might use.

For me, a downfall of CardTalk is that there is just not enough time to talk about every student’s drawing.

And this is where my tip for you comes in.

As we did CardTalk with the question “What do you give thanks for?” I walked around the classroom while students drew and did some interpersonal talking with them. I asked “Do you have all the vocabulary?” I asked them what things they drew were, and they were able to give one word responses, and when they didn’t have the word they wanted I gave them a post it note and gave them their own personalized vocabulary.

Then, as we came back together after drawing, I modeled responses with my own answers “I give thanks for…” And opened the floor. At this point I had already made sure that every student had SOMETHING they could say because they either already knew the words for what they drew, or I gave them a post it with new vocabulary.

I think this empowered students a lot. I asked every single student today what they were thankful for and they responded completely in Spanish.

It was a good day and I’m thankful for CardTalk and personalizing vocabulary to each and every student.

Silver Lining: Learning to SLOW DOWN in hybrid teaching

Hybrid teaching has its own challenges. For me it’s that I only see my high school students two or three times a week depending on the week. I see my middle schoolers every day. Right now my middle schoolers are a week ahead of my high schoolers. For my sanity, I don’t like that, because it looks like planning a LOT more than I typically would. Of course, nothing about this is typical.

My high school students are expected to have something to work on on the days that they are not in class. Personally, I don’t think this is going well. I was trying to alter at home assignment types, but we’re having too many tech issues, or there’s too much confusion about how to submit. That’s why I’m changing things up by keeping things the same.

When students are not in class they only have one website/assignment type to work with. (I’m using Garbanzo, but you find what works for you).

I gave them a checklist of readings that I want them to get through when they are not in class, and have assigned them to use their personal dictionary to add words/phrases they learn.

Having them do a predictable assignment type on the days they are not with me will hopefully lead to less stress when they aren’t with me.

This is also going to cause me to slow down when we are in class together.

We aren’t moving through ‘content’ as quickly in class, but this will give me an opportunity to make sure that EVERYONE is on the same page before moving on.

Then I have to think about middle school. I don’t want to get TOO far ahead of what I’m doing with high school. And I don’t want to get too far ahead of what the 100% virtual students are doing (Oh… I have those too, so I’m juggling three different schedules.)

So I need to SLOW DOWN with middle school as well. My new plan is to start each day with students working on Garbanzo (once again, find something that works for you) which will help me not push through ‘content’ as quickly. The middle schoolers will also get more Spanish ‘chit-chat’ time to help me slow down my progression through lesson plans. Starting each day with “Como estás y por qué? is a great meaningful time eater, and doesn’t seem out of place because I want to know how everyone is doing.

So all of this to say: I can’t go as fast as I used to go. But in that, I’m learning I was going WAY TOO FAST introducing new words/phrases. Students need to get SO COMFORTABLE with hearing/reading language so that it comes out in writing/speaking. I wasn’t giving opportunities to let students process the language as much as they needed to. So, I’m going to calm down a little, and breathe, and go SLOWer.