Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Absent Students: Catching Up on Missed Chapters

An absent student = a student that can easily fall behind in class. You can post what students missed on an online platform so they can stay up-to-date even after an absence. 

But, let's face it, the majority of students don't check what they missed when they were absent. Instead of checking for missed work online they come to class asking,  "What did I miss yesterday?" or even better, "Did we do anything yesterday when I was absent?" 

However, I actually love when a student returns from school after an absence because this gives us the perfect opportunity to review. I really enjoy it if they missed a class story or a chapter/chapters that we read in our class novel. I hand over this task to the community of learners in the classroom (the students). It is their responsibility to help "catch up" the student on what s/he missed when absent.

Today I did a slight variation of what I usually do for students that missed class when we are reading a class novel.  I use the name "Tess" below to make the explanation clear.

1. Put all names of students in a basket/bowl.

2. Draw 5 names. Tell the students whose name was pulled that they have to ask Tess a question about the new information/material that they learned when Tess was absent.

3. The 5 students take turns asking Tess questions. If Tess guesses the answer correctly, the student has to ask her another question. If Tess does not know the answer, the teacher pulls another name from the basket and that student has to explain the answer to Tess.

This review works well because:

- It provides additional comprehensible input for students.

- Students quickly learned that if they asked a super easy question, Tess would guess the answer and they would have to think of another question. Their questions became more involved and "meaty".

- Students not asking the questions paid attention because they knew it was possible their name would be pulled to answer the question if Tess did not know the answer. 

For novice learners, I ask the questions instead of the students.

*Teachers: you need to know your classes and your students. Obviously, do not do this activity if the student that was absent will feel awkward because he doesn't know the answers. Remember, it is the teacher's job to make sure the student knows that he isn't expected to know the answer; that the real purpose is to involve the students in the review, to think of the new information from the previous day and present that information to the student that missed class.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Countdown: A Listening Activity for the WL Classroom

Countdown is a listening activity/game in which students listen to 5 clues about the name of a person, or a word. The goal is to guess the word that is described by listening to the fewest amount of clues.

Countdown is an activity for students to sharpen their listening skills in L2 and to use some higher order thinking, as well as a bit of strategic play added in the mix.

My example below is how we played Countdown with names of women in my Spanish 4+ class. We played this at the beginning of our Mujeres Unit, but Countdown can be played with any category of words, or even words not in any specific category.

Preparation for the game

1. Students had to think of a woman that has had a positive impact in society and to NOT share the name with their classmates.  

2. Students had to write 5 sentences about the person, without mentioning her name in any of the sentences. The first sentence should be very vague; one that after listening to it their classmates may have an idea, but not be absolutely sure if they have the correct person.

The second clue should give a little more information about the person.
The third clue should allow the listeners to narrow down whom it might be.
and so forth for the fourth and fifth clue. By the fifth clue, EVERYONE should know the person that is being described.

(If you play this with a beginning level class, I suggest that the teacher write the clues.)

I gave #1 and #2 as a homework assignment because I did not want to take class time for the research and writing part of the activity.

3. Each student needs a marker board, a marker, and eraser. (You can use paper instead if you do not have mini-marker boards.) Students should sit in a large circle, facing inward, allowing for as much space as possible between each student to deter them from seeing what their neighbor has written.

Playing the game & scoring

Students will take turns reading their clues OR the teacher can collect the clues and read it to the students (which allows the teacher to make any needed corrections in the sentences on the spot, while reading).

1. Clue A (first clue), worth 5 points: Read Clue A in the TL. If a student thinks she knows the correct answer, she will write it on her marker board, hiding her answer so others cannot see what she wrote. She also writes #5 on the marker board because her written answer, if correct, is worth 5 points. (If students write the point value when they write their answer, it will be easy to tally the points at the end of the round.) 

She then puts the mini-marker board on the floor in front of her, face down. This makes it easy for the teacher and the students to see which students have written their response.

After a student, writes the name and places the board on the floor in front of her, she can NOT change her answer. If she writes the answer after listening to only one clue (Clue A) and when she hears the next clue (Clue B) she realizes that she has the wrong answer, she may NOT pick up the board and change her answer. This is where the strategic element comes into play.

2. Clue B (2nd clue), worth 4 points: Students listen to Clue B which gives a little more information about the woman. If a student knows the answer, she writes it on the marker board, along with #4 because it is worth 4 points if it is correct, and places the board face down in front of her chair.

This continues with Clue C (the 3rd clue - worth 3 points), Clue D (the 4th clue - worth 2 points), and Clue E (the 5th clue - worth 1 point).

3. After all clues have been read, the students will hold up their marker board and the teacher, or the student reading the clue, will share the correct answer. Students will keep track of their own points on their marker boards.

Example:  Below are the clues that I use as a model for the students. It is written in English below for the purpose of sharing it on my blog which is read by those who teach languages, not necessarily all Spanish teachers, but I read the clues in Spanish to my students. 

Clue A: Her father was a school teacher.
Clue B: She worked for the equality of education for girls from a young age.
Clue C: She published her autobiography when she was 16 years old.
Clue D: She is the youngest person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Clue E: She is from Pakistan and was shot by the Taliban.

I have played this for several semesters. Some of the names that appear often are:
Rosa Parks
Ophra Winfrey
Frida Kahlo
Amelia Earhart
Helen Keller
Harriet Tubman
Hilary Clinton
Sally Ride
Serena Williams

You could play this game with cognates, foods, animals, occupations, or words not in any specific category. Playing with names of people was easy because the students didn't need to know the words in Spanish.  

Please let me know if there is anything unclear in the instructions that you would like me to clarify.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

One Word Images in the World Language Classroom

PD in Philadelphia w/ Krista
In early March, the other 3 members of my World Language department and I traveled to Philadelphia for a 2-day workshop by Mike Peto. 

Krista and I have attended countless workshops, conferences, and TCI group meetings for years, but I was particularly looking forward to attending Peto's workshop since the two newest members of our department, ("new" as in they've been teaching at our school for 5 or 6 years), were also going to the workshop. Whenever Krista and/or I go to a conference, we share that information with our department when we return, but how fun and beneficial to grow professionally together as a department

PHS WL Dept driving to PD in Philly
I've been teaching with a focus on providing comprehensible input for years and I've read Mike's books, "My Perfect Year" and "Pleasure Reading", so much of what Mike talked about I had already implemented in my teaching, ie. SSR/FVR, interviewing students, writing, etc, but for me, the draw for the workshop was to see Mike demonstrate and talk about One Word Images (OWI), the Write and Discuss (W&D) aspect that follows it, and his Maravillas collection of videos and stories. I had created some OWIs in my classes this school year and last school year, but I was ready to improve my skills in that area and for my department to do the same (although I completely think Krista already has the OWI skill down to a science!). 

I chatted w Arianne Dowd!
Did you notice Mike
Peto in background?
Mike demonstrated how to create OWIs by creating one with the attendees as if we were students in his Portuguese class. Immediately after walking us through the steps for the OWI, he wrote about what we had just discussed, asking for answers from the class at our level. He "revealed" the sketch that two members had drawn while we were creating the image and reviewed the information using the sketch to point out different aspects of the story. More input, more repetitions of high frequency words, and more opportunities to process the input our brains had received.

Some of my take-aways from the workshop were:

1. Encourage students to "free their minds to imagine" before creating a OWI. Have students imagine with you as you move the image from the board to a stool or table in front of the room where all students can "see" the object. Set the students up for success by preparing them to be creative. Unfortunately, by the time our students are in high school, many of their required work and assignments for school do not allow them to utilize their imagination so we need to reawaken their minds to let the creativity flow.

Discussing info from the OWI extension story.
2. Do a Write and Discuss about the OWI immediately after the students have helped you create an interesting object. The information that needs to be decided about the object are listed HERE. Limit the time spent on this stage and enlist the help of a student to keep track of the time for you. While you are creating the object, assign two artists (one student artist and one student to color the artwork). Have them draw in an area of the classroom that the other students do not see what they are drawing and are not distracted by the two artists.

Do the W&D before you share the artwork with the class. Writing about the object, before the class sees it, gives the student artists time to complete their sketch.

3.Students should NOT write during Write and Discuss. Ask students questions that will help guide them to retell the information. Write (not type) the information on a large sheet of paper or on the board. After the information is written, may instruction students to copy the W&D, but it is not necessary. The power of W&D for students is hearing the words as they are written and seeing the syntax of the language in a written story that they already know.

The W&D also gives the student artists time to complete their sketch.

4. After Write & Discuss, students should read what you have written with the class. Mike suggested several options on how to read, but most important is to READ it!

OWI created w/ class on 4/1/19
5. Create a OWI one day, write about it, read it and the following day create, with your students, a story about the OWI. (Ask the following questions to draw out more information: Who? Where? With whom?, What is problem? How does character fail to solve the problem? What is the solution?) As a ticket out the door, tell students to write a problem that the character has, or if you have already determined the problem, you can have students write or discuss in small groups HOW the character solved/tries to solve his problem. If students write an idea on a paper as a ticket out the door, look at the suggestions and choose the best one to use in class the following day.

Write the story that you created and READ again!

6. Give students a short quiz on the OWI and story they created. All students that were actively engaged in the creation of the story, the W&D, and the reading should be successful on the quiz. Students that do not do well is a result of them not tracking in class, which has nothing to do with their language ability.

7. After the story, highlight the good in the story and the positive actions of a character. Mikes says "I like my class to be a positive force for change."

OWI - 4/1/19
8. Post/project the AP themes and use them to inspire students when they think about how to create extension stories from the OWI. How cool of an idea is this?! AP themes should be part of your class from level 1.

9. Implement OWI into ALL levels. OWIs provide a perfect and natural way to provide rich language for your students in all levels.

The summary above only scratches the surface of the OWI and W&D portion of Mike's workshop, and there were many other aspects of the workshop, not just OWIs. The best way to get all the information is to attend one of his workshops first-hand!

A few other take-aways not directly related to OWIs.

Absent students represent students that have had less verbal input. Mike said, "It's hard to keep kids in my class" because the students are absent from school or pulled out to do work for other classes. It is better for us, as teachers, to require students to make up the missed input time and hours rather than excuse them from class with no expectations.

This was a complete shift in thinking for me. For several years I have been in the camp of thinking that if an A student misses class and there was a graded activity in class, I could excuse the student from the activity because if I required her to make it up, she would end up with a grade consistent to her previous work. More work for the student and for me to show that her grade will stay the same.

However, now I view it as Mike said, the student missed valuable input in the target language, something that is extremely difficult to find at the student's specific level outside of the classroom. Students will grow in their language abilities with additional input, not by excusing them from work they missed when absent. If I truly want my students to improve, I need to hold ALL my students accountable for material they missed when absent and be willing to possibly give up a lunch from time to time to retell a class story or create a new story with students that had been absent from class.

After a student interview, do a survey for the class about what was discussed. Limit it to 5 minutes max and then do a write-up about it, followed by reading what was written.

Calendar talk is NOT about the calendar; it's about the students' lives. I knew this but it seemed to sink in deeper hearing it again!
Also, Calendar talk becomes more impactful with each day new information is discussed/learned because you can refer back to the previous day(s)' information.

Changes made upon returning to PHS
Related OWIs created in separate
classes on the same day.
Both Krista and I were in our classrooms on the Sunday following the workshop. I moved my high-frequency verb posters to the front of the room, and moved some of the SSR books/bookshelves to the front and sides of the room. 

Our department is enjoying creating OWIs with our students and watching the students' vocabulary and understanding of the language develop naturally from the rich input provided by the OWIs. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my Spanish 4 class and another teacher's Spanish 1 class had both created a wealthy, red avocado on the same day!

Krista and I bought jumbo crayons and other crayons to add to our student artists supplies. 

I am teaching levels 4 and 4+ this semester so my goal, for the remainder of this school year, is to create a OWI every other week with my students. Next year, I have asked to teach some Spanish 1 classes to be able to review the current curriculum by actually teaching it again (it's been y-e-a-r-s since I taught level 1), I know I will be implementing OWIs into my lessons from the very beginning of the semester!