Friday, March 17, 2017

Air Writing & Palm Writing - A Fun Friday Activity

Brain breaks are a good idea because they're a necessity. Your students need that little bit of down time with a physical activity that allows their brain to refresh and re-energize.

Likewise, teachers need that break, but sometimes a minute or two isn't sufficient. What do you do when that happens? That's simple - take what could be a one minute brain break and extend it to 10-12 minutes.

Full disclosure - I am aware that the following activity will not provide the most "bang for your buck" when it comes to providing Comprehensible Input. However, it IS in the target language, the students will enjoy it (not a single complaint from my students today), and it will give you, the teacher, ten to fifteen minutes of minimal energy expenditure, thus reserving your energy for the more powerful Ci for the remainder of the class. In other words, it's fun and something that you may want to try one time per semester to give both the students and the teacher a breather.

Today's activity is described below. There is also a second example of how I used to do this activity more than 6 years ago but with a few changes.

Air & Palm Writing
1. Students will work with a partner.

2. Students need to put the chairs in a semi-circle as show in the diagram. The squares represent chairs (or desks if you have them in your classroom). The students in the blue squares (chairs or desks) face away from the board and students in the red squares (chairs or desks). 

3. The student in the chair facing AWAY from the marker board needs a mini whiteboard, a marker, and an eraser.

4. Palm writing: The teacher writes a word or short sentence on the board. For example: Dinos la verdad. (Tell us the truth.) Only the students facing the board are permitted to read the sentence. Those students then have to write the sentence in the air while their partner (with their back to the board) writes the letters and words onto the mini whiteboard. As soon as they have the sentence written they raise their marker board for the teacher to read. First group to have the correct sentence earns a point. (You could give 2 points to the first group and 1 point to the second and third group so they don't stop writing as soon as the first group has the correct answer.)   

Before starting, I told the students that they are not permitted to talk while they are "air writing". To indicate a new word, they made a fist and pounded their fist one time into the palm of their hand. To indicate an accent, after they "air wrote" the vowel, they then said "chsss" to make a whoosh type sound.

Confession: After the first two rounds, I added some extra words not originally planned that had accents because I liked hearing the "chsss" sounds mixed in with the palm pounding. It was also fun for me to watch the students' expressions because they were FOCUSED and intent on being the first group to finish.

I allowed students to switch seats with their partners whenever they wanted to try to be the recipient or the "air writer".

Variation: After 4 rounds, I changed the rules slightly. Instead of air writing, the students wrote on their partner's palm with their finger (not with a marker!).

Next class period I will tell the students a story about a person that tells his friend what to do (it will have a lot of commands), so the sentences that they had to "write" had commands. After a group earned points, I asked the students to verbally translate the answer into English. can't justify 10-12 minutes for this activity, directly connect your sentences to a story that you recently told the students with one word in the sentence that makes it inaccurate. After a group wins the point for being the first group to write the sentence, ask for a volunteer to verbally change the sentence to make it agree with the story.

Back Writing
Years ago when I did this activity, the students wrote on their team mates' backs and they also worked in groups of 5 or 6. You can add the "back writing" as an alternative to "air writing" and "palm writing".

Admittedly, the activity falls more accurately into the FUN category than the Powerful CI category, but sometimes it's nice to be able to throw one of these activities into the mix for a breather. Then move on and provide more CI. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

El Escape Cubano, Chaper 6-11

This is the 3rd of 3 posts with explanations of the activities than can be used when reading Mira Canion's novel, El Escape Cubano. You can find the previous blog posts by clicking on the following links: 

- Preparing to Read a Novel
- El Escape Cubano, chapters 1-5

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 6
The title of chapter 6 is "Llueve", so it's the perfect time to sing about the rain.  I use the song, "La lluvia" by Los Pompillos.  I distribute the lyrics to the song. There are 4 stanzas in the song and each stanza has 4 lines. Then I divide the class into 4 sections. Each section sings one line of each stanza.  Group 1 sings the first line in all the stanzas; group 2 sings the second line in all the stanzas; etc. 
At the end, the lyrics are "la lluvia bendita" (2x). For this groups 1 and 2 sing "la lluvia" and groups 3 and 4 sing "bendita". Everybody sings the last two words "la lluvia".

We practice before we sing by me reading a line and the group repeating. This is one of the rare times in my class that I ask students to repeat after me. The song is fast paced and I know that there is no way they will be able to sing some of the lines in unison with the members of their group and the video, but it's fun and a nice brain break. Try it! 

In chapter 6, the characters dance to the song Guantamera, which you can also play for the students beforehand. I had planned to play this song as students entered the class for several days leading up to chapter 6, but I forgot to do this. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 7
Acting a scene from chapter 7
Miguel and his dad and friends encounter a shark in chapter 7. It is another chapter that works well with reader's theater.  The first time I read this with my students, there was a student in my class that received in the mail a shark costume that she was going to wear for Halloween. She asked me if she could bring in the shark suit! Obviously, I said YES!! 

(The second time I read the novel with a different group of students, I used a felt board instead of acting. See Chapter 9 for a photo.)

How much do your students know about sharks? This is a good opportunity for your students to learn about sharks in the target language. I do not have this completed yet, but it is my goal to add a comprehensible reading on Tiburones before next fall when I read this novel again with my students. First I'll make a Kahoot with several questions about sharks and then follow up with the reading.
In the meantime, here are two links to websites for children that students can find information about sharks.

The second link also has easy to follow directions on how to sketch a shark.

For those that have an A-Z Reading account, there is a book on Tiburones.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 8
After reading this chapter, students chose their partner for the next activity (or groups of 3 depending on the size of your class). I also asked for a volunteer to sketch sentences from the chapter. Each group had a small marker board, a marker, and an eraser.  I showed a sentence to the artist and she sketched it on the board. The students looked for the sentence in chapter 8 and wrote it down. I gave students a minute or so and then told them to lift up their marker boards. Groups with the correct sentence earned one point.

The document with the sentences and instructions can be found HERE.   
The student that was my artist was very talented, so I took a photo of her sketches and uploaded them to a powerpoint. The following day I projected the sketches on the powerpoint to review chapter 8. If you don't have a student that wants to be an artist, you could use the powerpoint instead of having a student artist. Click HERE for the powerpoint. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 9
I used to use a felt board in Spanish class on a regular basis when I was teaching the story "Cuentos de Ensalada". To mix it up a little, I cut some felt into some (very simple) shapes: the characters, (I wrote their names on the shapes to help identify them), a shark, the sun, the raft, tire innertubes, and water.  As I read the chapter, a student volunteer moved the pieces of felt to correlate with what I was reading. 

El Escape Cubano - Chapters 10 & 11
Students read the chapters on their own and wrote a short summary in English.

There you have it. 
The only thing I didn't include was the final assessment. Please understand, the reason I gave the assessment was because I was confident that the students understood the storyline and the vocabulary, so I took that opportunity to let them show their comprehension and ability to respond to questions about the plot and characters. As expected, the results of the assessment were impressive, showing the students how successful they had been in reading the novel.

Friday, March 10, 2017

El Escape Cubano, chapters 1-5

After you have introduced your students to Cuba through discussions, photos, and videos, and pre-taught vocabulary that students will encounter in the novel El Escape Cubano, by Mira Canion, you are ready to dive (no pun intended) into the book. (See this post for information on preparing to read a novel and specific ideas for El Escape Cubano.)

Below are a few of the activities I used when reading the novel with my Spanish 2 students. Every teacher has his or her own style of reading a novel with their students - some build entire units around a novel that may take a month or two, and others spend considerably less time. There is not a wrong or right way. Go with what works best for you and your particular group of students.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 1
I've already mentioned an activity to either introduce or review "se queda" in THIS POST, but the second time I read this book with my students I added another activity:

Explain to the students that one of them (choose one of your students) has a ticket to go to a Beyonce concert and invites another person to go with him, but the night of the concert the invited person does not go along; the invited person stays home. Why? Ask students to brainstorm why a person would not go to a concert and then list the possibilities on the board, each time repeating "(name) se queda en casa porque..." 

When I planned this brainstorm activity, I thought the students would think of 5 or 6, but the list grew to more than 14 ideas, all which they expressed in Spanish.  An alternate option is to let students sketch a reason the person stays at home if they don't know how to say it in Spanish.

El Escape Cubano - Chapters 1 & 2 
Give students a piece of paper and have them fold it into 4 squares and reopen it. In each square of the paper, write one of the following names: Miguel, Yordani, Fabio, and Gloria. The teacher reads chapters 1 and 2 to the students.  As you read, the students will write information they learn about the characters. (I use this novel at the beginning of Spanish 2. The students were taught with TPRS and CI in Spanish I and have read two novels in Spanish I. They have had many experiences with similar listening comprehension activities.) 
Students share their information with each other in small groups or with the entire group.

(note: I need to create a document for this listening activity before I read this novel with a new group of students.)

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 2
A listening review to provide input of the YO form in context:  
Choose 2 students that are comfortable reading in front of the class. Give each of them a copy of the paper to the right. (The document pictured has the answers highlighted.) Tell the class that the two students in the front are Miguel and that you are going to interview him. Students listen to the two answers and write the letter (a or b) of the correct answer. 


El Escape Cubano - Review of Ch1&2
To the right is a powerpoint slide that I use the following day if I want to refresh the students' memories about the main character, Miguel. The students tell me information about Miguel and I write it directly on the board as the slide is projected.

To emphasize what Cubans went through to find a motor for their crafts used to cross the 90 miles to the US, I show the below short clip to after reading chapter 2.   

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 3
For those interested in additional repetitions of the YO form, the document to the right is a more traditional paper with questions addressed to Miguel.  Students answer as if they were Miguel, referring to the text as needed.

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 4 - TIME TO ACT!!! 
The setting and action in chapter 4 are perfect for Reader's Theater.  
- a boat shape (borrowed from my church's props)
- a blue sheet with two students holding each end and waving the material to imitate waves in the ocean

How do you bump Reader's Theater up a notch? Include sound effects and lighting!
- I turned off the main lights in the room and turned on a small lamp that I have in the back of the room. This scene takes place at night so I wanted to similate that. (For the photo I had to turn on the lights.)
- I used THIS LINK to play the sound of ocean waves in the background.

The students had fun acting and watching the acting for this chapter. When the text says a big wave pushes the mother back towards the shore, the two students stretch out the sheet out that was the wave and "pushed" the mother away from the raft. (just wait until you see the student prop for the chapter with the shark!)

A big MUST for Reader's Theater is to coach the actors.  Don't settle for mediocre acting! If it says the father yelled, then the actor needs to talk in a loud voice and don't continue until the actor delivers the line appropriately. When I need actors for Reader's Theater, I ask for volunteers. Sometimes the class "voluntold" their friends, but I always check to make sure the students is ok with being an actor. When you find someone that hams it up when acting, your job providing compelling, comprehensible input becomes easy in a snap. After acting, we applaud each of the actors as I say their name. They should be recognized for their contribution to your class!

Predictions - Ask students what are problems that Miguel and the others may encounter while they are on the raft. This is a good time to project a map of Cuba and the United States on the board (again) to remind students of the distance. As students gave suggestions, I wrote them on the board, providing an extra opportunity for students to read in Spanish.
My students said things link: no hay comida; la bolsa rompe; olas grandes; la guardia costera, and then I added a few words if necessary to make complete sentences. 

If you haven't told the students any statistics about the number of people that die each year attempting to reach the US in a raft, this would be a great time to introduce that material. I used some facts that Mira had sent me when I was piloting the book. When the teacher's guide becomes available, purchase it - it will save you hours of work!! 

El Escape Cubano - Chapter 5
Students worked with a partner for this assignment. I drew a T-chart on the board, with QUIERO and NO QUIERO, and told students to put themselves in Miguel's place and write his thoughts related to what he wants or doesn't want.
After they had a minimum of 4 thoughts on their T-charts, I asked students to share their answers and I wrote them on the board. 

Then I handed them the paper on the right and they chose one of the answers on the board, or one they had on their paper, and copied it into the bubbles on the paper.

You can expand the possible answers by not requiring students to use the words QUIERO/NO QUIERO.

I will upload the links to the documents mentioned in this post in the near future when my internet connection is being less contrary. Maybe the mid March snowstorm has something to do with the finicky connection. :/

More to come...
In the next few days I'll share some of my activities for the second half of the novel.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

1st Attempt of Ben Slavic's Invisibles Lesson

I've been reading about the Invisibles by Ben Slavic, for over 6 months, so today I decided it was time to give it a try with my Spanish 2 students. An "Invisibles" is a character that students create, assisted by the teacher's questions to draw out more information and details for the character. 

When I said "jump in", I was referring to letting go of any constraints (targeted words) and letting the character take shape as directed by the students. My job was to keep the language comprehensible, pull out more details for the character, and keep an eye on the clock to know when to call it a wrap. 

Since this is my first experience with the Invisibles, I readily admit that my explanation may likely be unclear and inadequate. Therefore, I suggest you ask to join the Facebook group, CI Liftoff, and search for discussions of the Invisibles and examples of how other CI teachers have used them with their students.

Setting Up
Before students entered my classroom, I set up the following in the back of the room:
- an artist easel that I borrowed from the art teacher 
- a large white paper (appox. 18" x 24") attached to an oversized easel pad
- a box of colorful markers
- a 3 pronged tall swivel stool

Students noticed the easel and other objects when they entered the room and I heard comments about the artist pad, and questions about what we were going to do.

After a few short CI activities to review what we had done the previous day, I explained to the class that we were going to create a character together. My colleague next door, Krista Kovalchick, (French and Latin teacher) who had done several Invisibles last semester, had said that she suggests to the students that the character is an object, rather than an animal or person. 

I began by asking for an object; not something that could breathe. The first suggestion from a student was: milk from a horse. Um...I consider myself somewhat creative but I wasn't brave enough to create my first Invisibles character that was milk from a horse, although I'm sure that would have been one interesting character. Several students gave additional suggestions and then someone suggested "una bufanda" (a scarf). That was the one that felt right and I went with it.

Our 1st Invisible
After 30 minutes, we had the above pictured character with this description (except, of course, our description was created in Spanish, but for the sake of any reading this that doesn't teach Spanish, the description is in English).

There was a scarf that was named Gair. (It is pronounced like "Gerry". I asked the student who made the suggestion to spell it in Spanish and I wrote it exactly as he said. There is no "y" because I don't think he knew how to say that in Spanish so he ended the name.)
Gair was black with red crosses. He always wore an orange tie and a blue hat that had a white circle in the front. He had a nose and one eye, which was to the right of his nose. He had two big, blue ears that were above his nose. He did not have a mouth.  
I asked the students if Gair didn't have a mouth, how did people know if he was happy or sad. Their response was...When Gair was happy, he wore his hat with the white circle in the front and when he was sad he wore the hat with the white circle facing the back.
Gair lived in the water in a swamp. He had a brown dog.
One girl took it upon herself to start spinning a story. She used one of the words that was used in a story last week (it wasn't a focus word but she obviously had acquired it) and said, "One day Gair lost his hat and he was angry." I asked the class how someone would know that Gair was angry without a mouth and since the hat only showed if he was happy or sad.  A student said, "When Gair was angry, his blue ears dropped down below his mouth instead of above his mouth.

It took my students a little time to loosen up and freely give suggestions. The best part was when a student described how people knew Gair was angry. It's not often that that particular student participates in class without being called on, so his response was evidence that he was engaged and listening, and creating in the language. 

With the remaining 5 minutes of class time, the students wrote 5 sentences about Gair and several students shared their sentences with the class.

So.... the next step? I'm uncertain as to what that should be. I'm planning to write the full description on the board as the students copy it into their composition books. And after that...? Looks like I have to check with Krista or ask someone on the CI Liftoff Facebook page for ideas.

My take-aways: 
- Grammatically, the activity provided a lot of repetitions of he wore, he had, he was, he lived, there were.
- It was a good review of colors.
- As the character began to develop with more details, the students became more engaged, at least in their observable behaviors.
- I should encourage Jason Fritze's technique for student participation during this activity. Jason tells his elementary students to call out and only to raise their hands if they have a question.  
- The artist needs to take his/her job seriously. My artist took her job seriously; I lucked out with that because I didn't set any clear expectations.
- In a way, creating Invisibles is a variation of creating background information for a person from a photo. An example of this is my post, "Engaging lesson plans for the Imperfect Tense".  It's similar but certainly not the same thing!

I'm open to suggestions from any teachers that have used Invisibles in their classroom. What's next? What do you do differently? 

UPDATE: To the left is the document I gave to students the following day. I added this photo in response to a teacher's comment below.