11 January 2014

Genius Hour Agenda, part 1: Setup and Vocabulary

I am determined to prove that Genius Hour is possible at the novice level in world language classes, without completely sacrificing target language time. I believe that the proper scaffolding allows students to pursue their passions in the target language at whatever level. Now, students won't necessarily be making Earth-shattering discoveries in the target language, but they will discover how to communicate about something that matters to them in another language. The task simply has to be broken down sufficiently for them to achieve success.
With that in mind, I have broken down the Genius Hour process into 6 phases: vocabulary, research, contacts, reflection, discussion,  and presenting. These phases are based on activities I tried my first semester of Genius Hour experimentation and my own personal experience as a novice attempting Genius Hour. The six phases, like the phases of the writing process, are recursive rather than lineal. They differ mostly in that the focus is not purely presentational, but rather encompasses all three modes of communication.
I've broken these tasks down on a Trello board for students to keep a record of tasks they've completed. When students complete a task, they will post it to the class blog, and comment on the task's "card" with the date, as I did with the Google Doc card.
I really like the flexibility and layout of Trello (also an app for Android and ios!) for or my planning, and I'll continue to update my board as I get new ideas and discover new potholes in my plan. My Spanish 2/3 class has requested I add in the descriptions for each assignment possible Linguafolio standards the activity could meet and word count along with the instructions, so I will be tackling that this week.

Without a foundation of some key terms related to their topic, students can neither interpret nor discuss their topic. Of course we'll cover some basics in class (like Amy Lenord's QP3), but everyone needs something different with Genius Hour, so curating their own lists is essential, especially if they're ever to be weaned off of their dictionary addictions.

Google Doc
For lifelong language learning, we must model skills like gathering resources. In the L1, it might be building a bibliography to inform an article you're writing or just bookmarking some sites to compare cars you're thinking of buying. Rather than going back to the library, or Google, or the dictionary every time you want to write or talk about something, you should have your own personal reference. Students need to practice scaffolding their own learning, and taking notes to retain new learning so they can keep learning even without a teacher or structured class.

Phrasebook Google Sheet
Giving up on my crusade against Google Translate was a revelation. There are so many tools that it offers that can facilitate language learning! One of those is the phrasebook, where you can save phrases you look up. My 10 Commandments of Translatoring demand that students maintain a phrasebook of things they look up more than once and share it with me. So many students complained of retaining nothing last semester because all they did was look up every word on WordReference. This way, they will have the words/phrases stored in the same place, meaning they'll have incentive to remember a previous time using the same word when they check the list, thus fostering connections!

Semantic Groups
I always, always make my students memorize Sexton's Strategies for Vocabulary Retention: Visuals, Actions, and Connections. One of my favorite things to do for connection is simply scrambling the words up and having students sort them into groups of 7 or fewer words and coming up with group labels that explain their reasoning (hint: it should have to do with the words' meanings, not spelling, as a rule). For the individual vocabulary,  I envision them doing their grouping on a glog and adding visuals that represent each category.

Soundboard Glog
Come presentation time, I found that pronunciation of the personalized vocabulary was a pretty big issue. If they do their grouping on a glog, they could just add sound clips for each word to the grouped glog,  turn it into a  soundboard. As a side note, I think I'd also have them add relevant numbers--like years--so they wouldn't switch to English mid-sentence.

Word Cloud
I got a cool idea from Cynthia Hitz (@sonrisadelcampo) vía Amy Lenord's blog post. Help students find patterns of high-frequency words, be it for their own posts or sites they use for research by creating a word cloud of the text. I'm partial to Wordle, though Tagxedo is pretty cool, too. (I know there are more out there, but I haven't done enough with them to speak to their awesomeness.)

Action Glog (or video)
This would probably have to be a separate glog, as it would involve multiple videos that would take up a lot of space, though maybe it could incorporate the word cloud. For this, I would have students figure maybe their top 20 high-frequency words and come up with an action for each (where possible) and record themselves performing the actions. I like the glog for selective viewing, but a video could also work.

If you're looking for more reading on vocabulary, Amy Lenord (@alenord), Carrie Toth (@SenoraCMT), Colleen Lee-Hayes (@CoLeeSensei), and Sara Cottrell (@SECottrell) all have powerful posts on effective vocabulary approaches. Sara got the why (with depth and research!), Amy and Carrie covered the how, and, well, Colleen did both together!

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