Same and Different

This is a great reading activity that will give students experience with ‘testing vocabulary’ and require them to use higher levels of thinking. You could also use it as a listening activity, but you’d probably want to have done it with a reading first since the immediacy of listening would make it more challenging.

Begin with a story that you’ve just finished asking in class. My example will come from the story “Siéntate“.

Nathan is a very dirty boy. He goes to his friend’s house and sits on his couch. His friend says, “Nathan, please get up!” because Nathan is very dirty and his couch is clean, but Nathan doesn’t get up. His friend yells,  “GET UP!” and Nathan gets up and goes to Mrs. Bex’s house. He sits in one of Mrs. Bex’s chairs. She says, “Nathan, please get up” because Nathan is very dirty and her house is clean, but Nathan doesn’t get up. Mrs. Bex yells, “GET UP!” and Nathan gets up and goes to his girlfriend’s house. He sits on her bed, but she doesn’t yell at him. She kisses him.

First, you are going to write a new version of the story; changing a few small details:

George is a very big boy. He goes to his friend’s house and sits on his couch. His friend yells, “George, get up!” because George is very big and his couch is small, and George gets up immediately and goes to his grandma’s house. He sits on his grandma’s bed. She yells, “George, get up” because George is very big and her bed is small. George gets up immediately and goes to his house. He sits on his parents’ couch and they don’t yell at him because their couch is big like George.

I posted the story (in L2) on the Promethean Board, but you could hand students a physical copy of the story if needed. I read the story out loud, checking for comprehension, circling, and personalizing the text as I went.

Next, write a series of questions (in L2) that ask students to compare the two stories. I have put the targeted ‘testing vocabulary’ in bold:

  1. Identify the problem in the original version of the story. (Nathan is dirty.)
  2. Identify the problem in this version of the story. (George is big.)
  3. Identify two similarities between this version of the story and the version with Nathan.
  4. Identify two differences between this version of the story and the version with Nathan. (Questions 3 and 4 could also be combined and worded compare and contrast this version and the original version.)
  5. Identify the solution to the problem in this version of the story.
  6. Identify the solution to the problem in the original version of the story.

Because my goal for including ‘testing vocabulary’ is to support the school-wide goal of increasing student performance on standardized tests, I gave students both the English meaning of the word and the definition of the word in English.

I presented the questions one at a time, discussing the meaning of the testing vocabulary, and then had students write down their responses on a scrap piece of paper while I circulated to monitor and give suggestions and encouragement. We discussed possible answers to each question before I revealed the next question and repeated the process.

This activity could be done in many different ways:

  1. Reading assessment–students write down their answer and submit them for a score. (I didn’t want to do this the first time because kids didn’t know the testing vocabulary.)
  2. Develop answers with a partner or small group.
  3. Students write their own answer, then share it with a partner. As partners, they pick one answer to share with the class.
  4. Spontaneous discussion–don’t require students to write it down. I like the writing down piece because it gives students the processing time that they need. Students that need longer to process the material are able to without having their thought process cut short by a speedy classmate.
This activity was phenomenally successful, and I was so impressed by my students’ ability to answer these critical thinking questions in the target language! SIXTH graders did this!

6 comments

  1. Encouraging higher order thinking is something we are very focused on in our Teacher Education Program right now. I LOVE this idea. I think I have been thinking way to complex. You put it so simply! Thank you! I can’t wait to share this idea with the other Spanish teacher candidates! 🙂

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    • So glad to hear that this will work for you 🙂 I love practicing critical thinking because I am always left feeling like I have the most intelligent students in the world! Give them a challenge, and they rise to the occasion!

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  2. Hi, I did this activity this morning with a 7th grade class, roughly 7B, and was BLOWN AWAY. I had to run out and find another teacher and gush about how they were able to explain and even debate what the problem was in our story, and what the solution was, all in Spanish. I wish I had a video camera to show their families! This is a great activity.

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