26 April 2013

Keep the conversation going

Spanish 2 chose the topics they wanted to research for their final projects. I've got Mexican cults and Uruguayan drug laws, but, hey, they're hooked. With subjects all over the proverbial--and the literal--map, it can be hard to come up with an excuse to get them talking to each other on topic. That is, unless they know enough to pique their classmates' curiosity.

I knew they'd be able to interpret the questions I wanted them to ask, but they might have trouble generating them. So partners each drew four numbered question slips. Then on a SMART Notebook page* (all of our computers have the software installed), they rearranged the Spanish questions so each partner had the questions she'd drawn on her** side.

Then the partners attempted to pronounce their questions, and we made sure everyone got the gist of what they were asking (without looking at the partner's English) and how they might respond. We reviewed how to ask for clarification or help, and I extracted promises not to let partners who say "no sé" off the hook.

We used a phone app for recording, because we had enough phones in class, but we might have as easily used laptops with mikes and Audacity to record. The partner with question #1 started recording, asked her question, and did not stop the recording until she was satisfied. Rinse, repeat (but going in the order of the numbered slips to keep them on their toes).

What is the most interesting fact you found in your investigation?

What is the most incredible fact you learned?

Why do other people need to know about your topic?

What is your main opinion on your topic?  

What part of your topic is the most difficult to understand?

Who probably wants to know more about your topic?

How can you explain your topic simply to people who do not understand it?

How does this topic change your opinion of the culture you’re studying?

Maybe it's because the topics are so intriguing. Maybe it's the intimate class size. Maybe it's because these girls are just awesome. But the absolute shortest exchange was 50 seconds, most were over a minute, but several were over 3, the longest going 6:30.

I'm telling you, it was magical. They were giving genuine reaction, demonstrating interest, shock, and curiosity with natural sounding inflections. Granted, pauses were frequent, but seldom uncomfortable, and as often a result of considering their answers themselves as the language to use. What's more, I could hear where they were using vocabulary from their research and even the questions themselves to make themselves understood. They used gestures and circumlocution when their partners didn't understand, only rarely pausing for a "cómo se dice" and asking each other for clarification instead of me.

Me? I mostly just got to witness it unfold and beam admiringly at them.

*Available soon on TeachersPayTeachers.com as my first, free submission!
**Tiny class: literally all girls

24 April 2013

Online reader-response kits for novice Spanish

I want my students to interact, to collaborate and to engage with each other in conversation, to negotiate meaning collectively. I want them to experiment with interpretation and discussion without depending on me to drop hints and push them forward. More importantly, I want them to read two different books, Abuela and La isla by Arthur Dorros, but I only have time for one!

We created kits for independent reading in my Adolescent Literature class back in college. I figure, why not do the same for picture books in novice Spanish classes? Each kit included pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading activities. The kits had to include enough copies of the book for the group reading it and any materials necessary for completing the assignments, too. Back in the day, we broke out the pronged folders, markers, and plastic tubs, too, but now, I can wheel a laptop cart in pretty much any time we need! So the kit is now really more of a site with shared Google Docs.

As I'm constructing the online kit, I'm mindful of a few things that were, perhaps, less of an issue when navigating adolescent lit:
  1. I must build in activities that engage different modes of communication, especially interpersonal, which was not so critical when I knew they spent the rest of their lives in that mode.
  2. Vocabulary is still more vital to interpretation at this stage and must be treated thoroughly.
  3. I must include both top-down and bottom-up interpretation opportunities.
  4. I need way more Lower-Order Thinking Skills activities for the during reading than with the YA kits: journaling in the L2 is a horse of a different color, pattern, and texture.
  5. Literature circle roles for the L1: they are not always applicable and/or useful in L2, so I must carefully consider how to break down the tasks. (I was kind of hoping to find some good applicable roles googling around, but so far, no dice.)
So allow me to break down the three stages of the interpretation process and how I will pack them into their kits for the unit.

  • Visual powerpoints--I picked out 25 useful words from each book, made a slide with the word and representative clipart (GIFs for verbs!) for each.
  • Choice activities--Each group of 3 picks 3 activities from a list of 6 to engage with their vocabulary (this means that even if one person picks a less complicated one, they help the others finish their more complicated ones. Boom! Double exposure.):
    • Create a set of memory/go fish cards (Spanish and English)
    • Create a Google Drawing collage of images representing each word
    • Create 5 categories for the words and group them
    • Make a crossword puzzle (they went with Spanish/English)
    • Invent an action for each word and take a picture of yourself doing each
    • Write an acrostic poem for each word that somehow relates to the word's meaning
  • Scavenger hunt--Groups share a Google Doc and look for examples of their vocabulary in "the wild" (ie their books), adding an example sentence for each word, highlighting the words.
  • Picture descriptions--Students take turns describing pictures from the book to their groups using as much vocabulary as possible (teammates keep track on a checklist).
  • Activity interaction--I make copies of the best crosswords, break out their cards, scramble the acrostics, take the labels off their pictures, and let them play.
  • Top-down poll--Students skim the book and answer basic who-what-when-where-why-how questions about the book and report the results on Polleverywhere so we can discuss the accuracy.
  • Image search--Each person must find an image on Tag Galaxy or Flickr that they can connect to a picture from the book (the "where" part of the top-down poll should come in handy here, and maybe even the "what," as I'm trying to get them to figure out which city and which island we're dealing with in Abuela and La isla.)
  • Comparison literature circle--Group discussion on similarities and differences between real-world places and the book places.
    • Vocabulario Nuevo--looks up and keeps track of words the group needed to say what they wanted to say
    • Texto Original--checks the book to make sure the claims are accurate
    • Preguntas--keeps the conversation flowing, has some basic questions in mind to guide discussion
  • Journal--Put yourself in a similar situation: Imagine you can fly to any city or country to see the sights with an older family member: where do you go? Which family member are you flying with? What do you look at with them?

  • Forced choice vocabulary context--I make a version of the story where each time a vocabulary word is used, I have two possibilities for which word to put in the sentence, and they have to circle the right one (sort of bridging the gap between the pre-reading
  • Illustration matching--I type up the story in a Google Doc with space where there are page breaks in the original and then scramble the pictures on the side; students have to put the pictures in the right spaces based on what the story is saying.
  • Tableau turns--One student from the group reads a page aloud, and his/her partners have 60 seconds to act out a freeze frame tableau of what they just heard happen: submit photos of each in Google Slides form.
  • Ordering events--I paraphrase what happens in the story, have them re-order textboxes on a Google Doc as they read OR just make little slips that they can cut out and re-order.
  • PACE grammar lesons--Pick out patterns from the book (I'm going with different present tense conjugations, though Abuela would be excellent for conditional as well and La isla for past tense), draw students' attention to them, have them put the patterns into words, then write using the same rules (I'm thinking a summary of the books' events). 
  • Journal--Pretend you are the main character and describe which part of the trip you like best and why.

  • Slides summaries--I re-distribute the tableau presentations by sharing on Google Docs and have other groups explain what is happening in each photo.
  • Bees and butterflies--One person from each group switches to a group with a different book (you know, to pollinate). The remaining group members, or "butterflies," teach the new guy, or "bee," about their book, including vocabulary and main events of the story. The bee draws parallels from his book, making note of vocabulary that he can use too and similar events. Then bees return to their groups and search their books for the new vocabulary and collaborate to explain 3 plot connections.
    • Vocabulario relevante--finds words from the other group in the book text and collects sentences
    • Escenas similares--explains at least three events from the other book and connects them to things that happen in their book
    • Contrastes--sets up a Venn diagram of events, vocabulary, characters, etc. from both books
  • Scrapbook--Find real images (Flickr or Tag Galaxy) to recreate the trip from the narrator's point of view, describing what she sees along the way.
  • Map--Plot each stop of the trip on a map of the city or island with a real picture that represents what happened. They could make actual posters, Prezis, ThingLinks, Glogs, or create a tour on Google Maps.
  • Reflective role-play--Each group member takes turns pretending to be a character from the book while the others ask questions about the book's events.