26 April 2011

Activity #4: Drama Inmóvil

Fun activity #4 is "Drama Inmóvil," idea courtesy of Paulino Brener.

My students LOVE this. They beg for it- even the ones who will never talk in class. You must try it, and if you're anywhere around a unit building on present progressive, you should do this every day for the first five minutes at least.

I copy/paste my class roster into the fruit machine picker and it chooses a random student. That student stays seated and all the others come to the front (you may have to do this in groups - my largest class is 8 so we can do it as whole-class). The chosen student gives a place and/or situation, e.g. in a park, or at an amusement park, or at the movies. I say 'lights, camera, action' (in Spanish) and all the 'players' adopt a frozen pose of what they are doing in the situation. Then I go around with a pretend microphone and interview them with rapid question/answer style - "Where are you? Why? With whom? Who's winning?" etc. Then the chosen student selects who was the most creative (they just get cheers for it; there's no prize, but they don't care), I remove the chosen student's name from the fruit picker and do it again.

It's a winner. My dramatic students get crazy with it. My shy students do something expected but are eager to talk about what they're doing, especially because the q&a style doesn't involve me standing at the front of the class saying, "Now, remember to answer with a complete sentence" (who says that in real life anyway?).

I made a video of my students doing this and posted it as a private video on YouTube for Paulino. I don't have permission to show my students on my blog or on YouTube publicly, but if you are a teacher and you'd like to see how it worked for us, send me your email and I'll add you as a viewer.

25 April 2011

Myth #4: The Time Whine

If you don't know what I'm talking about when I say this post is about dismantling myths, go back and read this post.
photo by TonyVC

Only the very young or students who have high aptitude are going to succeed anyway (otherwise known as the 'time whine').

I don't know if you've heard or said this before, but I've heard it primarily as a cause of teachers not working with other teachers, or concerning students who won't elect levels of language beyond the 2 years required to get into most colleges. I call it the 'time whine' because that's where the complaint is rooted: "They can't gain any real level of proficiency in the time I have them, so why try?"

Another way this argument has been presented to me is that the primary responsibility of language teachers is to motivate students to continue past the 2 years required to enter most colleges.

Here's an idea - how about we forget about the time we have them or how smart we think they are and focus on what they should be able to do with the language after whatever time they're with us? Ask @tmsaue1 and his teachers at @JCPSWorldLang - ask anyone who teaches lower levels communicatively and stops teaching language the way only analytic learners can learn it. Ask anyone who focuses on standards and proficiency levels and real-life tasks instead of verb charts and vocabulary drills. We can give our students the tools to do something with the language no matter what amount of time we have them.

I've posted before about my preschoolers - I have them 10-15 minutes per week. Even then they can do something. They rarely ask me if I speak 'normal' anymore. They can answer questions like ¿de qué color? and ¿quién vive aquí? and ¿está triste o feliz? - not always in Spanish, but they can answer.

I went to the Central States conference last month and went to a session by John De Mado about unity within the language department. One of the points he made was that the entire department needs to agree that language is accessible to all students and to teach like they believe that.

How about we teach like we believe that anyone can learn to do something realistically practical in the amount of time we have them?

21 April 2011

Have you used PhotoPeach?

I have to thank @vivianagabi for giving me the idea to use PhotoPeach to do a project called "25 things about me." Her (Brazilian) students are at lower levels than mine, and take Spanish for less time per week, but it was a brilliant way for her students to connect with my students (by posting them on our blog) on an interesting level (dare I say interpersonal mode?). Here's how I plan to incorporate a variety of modes of communication:

We're in a unit on future tense. (I love how tech tools can be adapted for whatever you're studying at the moment.) We're going to start by giving a few ideas per person, orally and without preparation, of what we want to do in the future. We'll go deeper semantically by making each item really contain something that reveals a look into who we are as a person. We'll go deeper linguistically by including several idiomatic expressions, as well as irregular future and subjunctive after expressions of time indicating a future action. We'll prepare questions based on her students' projects to ask when we Skype with them. And we'll discuss what digital citizenship is and how to use the creative commons.

Here's mine- only 21 things though. In trying to make it an example of the deep, transparent, idiomatic, multi-time narration I want from my students, I found it an emotionally satisfying journey to reveal some deep parts of myself in pictures and phrases. I hope you enjoy.

21 cosas sobre mí on PhotoPeach

Update (June):
Here are a couple of examples from my students. Really they blew me away with their depth of thought, and all of them enjoyed the project immensely - especially the senior AP students who got to do it in lieu of a final paper. :)

21 cosas. (Karson) on PhotoPeach

Vida de Felipe en 21 cosas on PhotoPeach

19 April 2011

The myths aren't going to ACTFL

photo by azmichelle

I meant to post this two weeks ago when I got the news but forgot. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages did not accept my proposal for "Dismantling the Myths that Prevent Proficiency."

I'll still continue to blog about them, though-- I'll probably reach a wider audience that way anyway. Besides, I also didn't get invited to score AP exams, which is how I was intending to pay for the ACTFL trip.

Silver linings, eh?

13 April 2011

Fun activity #3: ¡Arriésgate!

Fun activity #3 is Jeopardy (¡Arriésgate!) courtesy of the great web 2.0 tool Jeopardy Labs (free and no account required!).

photo by Justin Levy

I've known about this tool for a long time but never just sat down and used it. It's easy to make and easy to use (except there's not really a function for no one to get the answer right--it keeps the question on the board until you give someone points for it).
I recommend that you stay away from categories like "conjugations" and "fill in the definite article." You can easily make it fun and more communicative by looking at your vocabulary and asking yourself, "What actual questions can I ask with these?" So you could have 'ropa' (clothing) 'comida' (food) 'opuestos' (opposites) 'en la casa' (at home) and then make all your "answers" target-language clues. So for 'closet' put 'where you put your clothes in your room' - avoid students getting confused by making all the "questions" start with the same letter.
Try mine (in Spanish, of course). My students are advanced so you can see some of it would be way over level 1.
And remember - answer in the form of a question. :)

02 April 2011

Fun activity #2: A conversar

I blogged a few days ago about coming back from CSC11 with some good ideas to make my class more fun (along with some suggestions via Diego Ojeda of #langchat "fame" ;-) and putting them together into a 10-minute class starter.

photo by Rohit Rath

The second one is "a conversar." For this one, students pull a conversation card (that I made) out of a card box and talk to anyone about question on the card. When they're done, they go back and choose another. The first time my AP class did it, I sat back amazed. I cannot get this class to speak in the TL for the life of me, and there was *loud* Spanish chatter for a solid ten minutes. Adjust questions for your level, and make them interesting - e.g. "¿cuál es mejor, un abrigo azul o un abrigo café, y por qué? instead of ¿qué es tu color favorito?

Here are some of the conversation starters I found on the internet and wrote on my own:
  • What's the craziest thing you've done?
  • What is the most serious mistake of your life?
  • Describe the happiest day of your life.
  • What's your best friend like?
  • Describe your favorite movie.
  • What is your favorite free-time activity? With whom? Why?
  • Who are your heroes? Why?
  • What did you do yesterday? With whom?
  • What books have you read recently? Describe them.
  • What do you want to be and do five years from now?
  • What has been an important experience in your life and why?
  • Describe your favorite restaurant.
  • What is your opinion about the problems in Libya?
  • What are your plans for tomorrow?
  • Describe an interesting trip you took.
  • If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
  • Why did you choose to take advanced Spanish?
  • What is your first memory?
  • What do you want to do during vacation (Spring Break, summer, Christmas, etc.)?
  • Do you like your neighborhood? Why or why not?
  • What would be the title of your biography? Why?
Enjoy and let me know if you have more good questions I can add.