After students have collected a certain amount of information and begun to absorb relevant vocabulary through repeated authentic exposure, they need to start thinking “So what?”
I don’t mean we should turn our precious angels into little nihilists, of course. I mean that input is well and good, but it needs to be processed—and it needs a reason to be processed. We need to train students to ask the right questions and find their own answers, but we can’t stop there, or all of their genius will end up out of gas on the side of a dead end road.
Discussion with classmates and experts and community members—whether in person in real time or online and asynchronous--is a good place to start processing their learning for a larger purpose, to keep the genius alive and circulating. In fact the discussion could be an end within itself in the right context, say a community meeting on preventing Type 2 diabetes or tips for teens in crisis. Novices, however, are not equipped to deal with the discourse required for discussion beyond reviewing their discoveries (Es interesante que…, Otros temas relevantes son…) and planning the next step of the discovering (voy a…, quiero…)
So in my Spanish I and II classes, we build toward a sort of semi-authentic presentation, just for me and their classmates.
Basically they have to involve everyone actively in their passion—in the target language—in under 15 minutes.
This is a tricky thing to do, even in your native language. Presentation Day often becomes Relax-Your-Brain Day, instead of a real day of pasión. So it helps to break down the process of engaging your classmates and build the presentations step-by-step. Please note: I have already forced several of these activities on my students, and some I just thought of and may or may not have time for. You take what you need—what they need.
By now, everyone has collected at least 30 words related to their passion, but there’s no way the class is going to retain even 30 cognates from 25 different presentations. So they have to choose what the class will really need—beyond our high-frequency words—to get what’s going on. I have them narrow it down to 10 words (15 if they’re desperate and have some cognates in there). They need to think about what they need to convey their summary and their instructions to the class. And they need to forget the translator exists except to quick-check for spelling mistakes.
Create a mini-video (think Vine) for each word, where you pronounce it, offer synonyms and circumlocution for the word in Spanish, make gestures, maybe draw a picture. Also, include any numbers that you’re going to use in your presentation. It is not cute to stop your presentation and say “nineteen-ninety-nine” in the middle of an otherwise illustrious target language explanation.
Illustrated vocabulary guide
Create an image with all 10 of your words. Find, doodle, or take a picture that illustrates each word’s meaning, and match up the written words and pictures on the image. Upload the image to ThingLink, and link your mini-videos to each word!
Give credit where credit’s due, but also pick your direction. You’ve collected, oh, 30-something resources. Which ones are worth using? Which could fit into an interesting presentation and lead into a super-cool activity? Cite the sources you decide on (at least 2 text, 1 video—gotta hone both kinds of interpretation skills) MLA Style and write a sentence about what you can use from each. Hint: your Diigo paraphrasing and summaries are fair game.
As we super-teachers know, pre-teaching is a non-negotiable when you really want someone to understand. So the young ones must decide what basic facts about their topic the class needs to know before they start bossing them around. Also, they probably need some warning about what they’re going to do. Sum it up in a few short sentences, what is loosely known as a “paragraph” in the trade. Hint: your Annotated Bibliography sentences are fair game.
What can the class do to get everyone moving and either interpreting or producing some target language—or both? What is something they would actually want to do? Give me a list of at least 4 ideas of what you can make your whole class do (affordably), ordered from most awesome/likely to most “if I have to.” We’ll talk about which you should do.
Boss ‘em around. Break down the process into at least 5 steps. Hint: if you can’t break it down into 5 steps, you’re either giving your classmates too much credit or have an activity that is too lame.
Put it all together in something that looks cool. Make you an infograph or a Powtoon; make a spiffy website or go old school with a trifold (please don’t make me watch a Powerpoint unless you absolutely have to). But get the vocabulary + images in there, the summary, the citations, and your instructions. Make it look pretty.
Record yourself attempting to present with a partner. Jot down every word you can’t think of in Spanish that you absolutely NEED so you can look them up to stay in the TL for the big day. Give your partner a few plus-deltas when it’s their turn.
Use your partner’s plus-deltas for you. Look up those words that kept you from keeping 100% in Spanish. Practice saying them. Practice saying them some more. Review your mini-videos while you’re at it.
And then, mes amis, it is time for Presentation Day, or as I like to call it El Día de Máxima Pasión.