Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today's 145 minute class!

 Can you imagine teaching a high school class for a 145 minute block?  In other words, a 2 hour and 25 minute class. Thanks to the schedule changes to accommodate the state's seemingly never-ending barrage of state testing requirements, today's adjusted 2 hour class period turned into an unimaginable 2 hour and 25 minute class period.

I was fortunate in that the students in my class were absolutely amazing and kept any complaining to themselves, but I felt for them.  For part of the time, I tried out a new activity that actually worked well and mixed things up in the long class period. We did the following activity for 30 minutes.

Materials for the activity:
- A subscription to A-Z Reading.  (If you don't have this, find a children's book with visuals for each book that students are very familiar with and cover the written words.  As long as the words are covered, you can use a book written in any language.)
- Mini-whiteboards for each student
- dry erase markers and erasers

1.  Put the students in groups of four (NOT less!).  Some groups may have 5 but only 4 sentences are required from the group even if there are 5 in the group.

2. Project the wordless book onto the whiteboard.  

3.  Each group must write 4 sentences that relate to the picture. Students couldn't repeat a verb in the 4 sentences.  They were encouraged to help their teammates in order not to have any mistakes in their sentences.

 I used this activity in Spanish 2, so their sentences had to be in the past tense.

4. Turn to the 1st group and tell them to hold up their sentences.  They received one point for each correct sentence.  If there was an error, I took the whiteboad and showed it to the class.  If the class could find the error, the team that wrote it did NOT get the point for the sentence.  If the class couldn't find the error, I explained the correction and the team that wrote the sentence got a point for it, even though it was originally incorrect.

5. Turn to the next group and go over their answers.

6.  Check each group's answers; write their points on the board; then start the process over again with the next photo from the story.

7. When finished, students work independently to write the story as I clicked through the wordless book the 2nd time.

The reasons I liked this activity:

1. All the students were engaged: during writing, reading the answers the other teams had written, and looking for mistakes.

2.  It promoted teamwork. Students helped their classmates as they were writing their sentences. If an answer was incorrect, I stressed that it wasn't the fault of the one person that had that board, but rather that it was the responsibility of the team to check each others' answers.

3.  They became very good at finding the mistakes and that carried over into their own writing.

4. Since they had to write 4 sentences, it pushed them past the basic sentences.  
5. When I saw a correct sentence that was rather complicated for Spanish 2 level, I held that up as an example of an outstanding sentence.

6.  The students were more at ease during the individual writing session that followed the activity.

This activity could also be completed after reading a chapter from a novel or a short story that has illustrations or photos.

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