As I was wrapping up stations last Friday, I asked students to respond to two reflection questions. What activities in class are most helpful for you? Are there any specific topics you need more practice with? The responses were for the most part encouraging and informative:
Lots of students mentioned more practice with numbers, dates, and asking questions. Of those three topics, asking and answering questions is the one I most value. I also got lots of requests for more English and translation (natural student instinct, or am I not being comprehensible enough? Something for me to reflect on). So, for today, I put together an activity for practicing questions similar to one I tried last spring, inspired by a post by Colleen Lee over at Language Sensei. I give students some English support (which makes them happy), but it’s primarily in the TL, which makes me happy. Here’s the run-down:
1. Solidify student comprehension of basic introductory questions.
2. Provide novel-feeling practice opportunities with introductory questions.
Flashcards – 1 set of questions in Spanish, 1 set of questions in English, 1 set of responses in Spanish, preferably printed on different colored paper. I printed mine from Quizlet, but you could easily create cards in Word or Excel.
Make enough copies for a set between every pair of students, plus a few extra for students who prefer to work alone. To cut down on prep, I had my first period cut the flashcards. At the end of the period each set was clipped together with a paperclip, and then thrown in a big zip-lock bag.
1. Give each pair of students a set of flashcards. Have them match the question in Spanish to the translation in English, and then the response in Spanish. I walk around and answer questions if they need help, but they can do this pretty independently.
2. When they finish, I have them pull out the English, and start practicing asking and answering the questions out loud. Here’s where it gets fun: I put instructions on the board for multiple ways to practice, with the difficulty increasing as students moved down the list. Voilà differentiation! If they need more support, they can look at the cards as their partner asks the question, and use the “answer cards” as cues. If they want a challenge, they can practice without looking at the question as their partner asks, relying only on their listening comprehension skills. I told them to work at whatever level was right for them, but I’ve found that many of my kids this year are quite competitive and like to challenge themselves – so they’ll go for the hardest level!
3. Go over it as a class. This gives me a rough gauge of student progress, and also gets in a couple more repetitions of the questions with proper pronunciation. I used Quizlet (rather than reading the questions myself – I love how Quizlet will read the questions out loud and shuffle the cards for me!), and went through the questions 3 times. The first time through, I had students translate the questions. The second time through, I asked them to respond in Spanish (everyone at once!). Third, I turned off the board (no visual support) and ran through the flashcards with only the audio, with students again responding in Spanish.
I plan to use this activity a few more times this week (though not spending as much time on it as I did today). Hoping to get all my students to at least level 3!