Twists

We had a small but fruitful First Second Friday meeting last night. For those of you that don’t know, Michele Whaley organized a group back in 2010 that meets once a month to discuss and practice anything and everything that might be of interest to World Language teachers. The April 2014 issue of The Language Educator featured an article about it, in case I’ve piqued your interest 🙂 Click here to read the article (you must be an ACTFL member to access it).

Anyway…I’ve not been able to make it to many meetings in recent months due to my current stage of life (er, the current stage of life of my children), and I left last night reminded why it was that I cite those meetings as critical to my success as a world language teacher!

One great thing about collaborating is that everyone puts their own twists on prescribed activities. Here are some tried-and-true ways to maintain novelty even when using familiar activities:

  1. Diana Painter, the original mastermind behind “Chain Reaction“, shared how she extended the original activity in class yesterday. Her students had watched Alma, and on Thursday they did a chain reaction activity to review it. Then, on Friday, Diana gave them a printout with the same eight questions from Thursday’s chain reaction activity and blank lines for each of the answers. Then, instead of using the same answers that the students had worked with the day before, she re-worded each one so that students would have to think critically to complete this activity instead of relying entirely on their memory of the previous day. She read the answers out of order, one-by-one, and students scanned their list of questions to see where the answer that she had just read fit best.
  2. Cara O’Brien-Holen, who I am now going to dub the ‘twist-master’ (Cynthia Hitz and I observed her doing an awesome twist on Chain Reaction in the fall of 2013), shared how she had used Word Race Stories in class. Her students had so much fun with it that they ended up acting out the collaborative stories that they wrote! Having one student (or the teacher) read a story aloud while students act it out is an awesome way to get in loads of comprehensible input–especially if you are using strategies like circling, checking for comprehension, and personalization while it’s read! If the acting is excellent, pull another page from Diana Painter’s book and give out Cheese Awards!
  3. Michele Whaley reminded me that in Jason Fritze’s original Grab & Go activity, students rolled a paper die with question words on it to determine what kind of a question they would have to write. For example, if it was time for Bobby to write a question and the die that he rolled landed on “Who?”, then he would have to write a question about the text that began with “Who…?”. I’ve been using the activity to practice QAR with my students, but the method that I was using to get students to write different kinds of questions was much more complicated than this. From now on, I’ll write the different question types (Right There, Think & Search, Author & Me, On My Own) on four sides of the die, and on the other two sides I’ll write “Your choice”.
Betsy Paskvan talks to the Anchorage First Fridays group in 2012 (or 2010?)
Betsy Paskvan talks to the Anchorage First Fridays group in 2012 (or 2010?)

All that and more from two short hours of collaboration–I love it! I would highly recommended seeking out or starting a peer-guided professional development group in your area. A few that I know about are…

Please add more (with links and/or contact info, if possible) in the comments section!

4 comments

  1. So you live close enough to each other that you physically get together once a month? That is awesome. I do not know another teacher that lives near me that I think would be interested in doing something like this. I so wish I did. What an awesome idea!

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  2. I think it’s very funny that I came to read this after writing about our session. I wanted to read more about the Wordle activity, and got this first instead. You left out the important fact that you were the presenter! Lucky us. Thank you so much for all these notes.

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