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28 March 2013

Low-Tech, Whole Class Activity: Fun with Modals!

Last week I decided to change up my routine of teaching grammar. Usually I have students take notes using paper, the visualizer and/or the computer, but this week, I felt like changing it up and going super low-tech. So, we used the whiteboard, colorful paper, and post-its.
For the first activity, we just used the whiteboard and colorful paper. For the second activity, we used the same materials plus post-its. 
Image 1. Modals of Necessity: Must, Have to, Have got to
As you can see in Image 1, on colorful pieces of paper I wrote the three modals that were were working on for that class period (must, have to, have got to). First, the students told me the meaning and use of each modal (from their homework the night before), and I wrote what they told me on the board while they took notes (not pictured in Image 1). I added anything they had forgotten. While writing down the notes on the board, I checked for comprehension by asking questions to all of the students. After we had gotten down the necessary information about form and function, I erased the board, which left us just with the bright pieces of paper. Then I asked each student to write down in their notebook two sentences for each modal. After writing, they shared their sentences with a partner, and then each student came to the board and wrote down a sentence under its corresponding modal. For example, under "Must" three students wrote: "You must pay attention in class," "You must respect your teachers," and "Customers must pay for those products." The have to sentences include, "I have to make a decision now," "I have to finish my college," and "I have to finish my homework on time." All of these sentences show obligation and came from the students. They also got to come to the front of the class and write on the board, which is always pretty exciting! I only have 8-10 in my grammar classes, which makes activity possible time and space-wise.
After we took notes and discussed form and function (you can see the remainder of the notes written by me in with the black marker), I gave each student three post-it notes. They had to write one sentence using the first modal, must, on one post-it, and another sentence using the second modal, have to, on another post-it, and a sentence using have got to  on the last post-it. The students were given the option to write either a question or a statement. Most wrote statements, but a few wrote questions.

The next activity got the students up, moving, and communicating. One at a time the students came to the front of the class and chose a post-it to read to the class. Then, he/she chose second student to respond. If the first student read a question,the second student answered the question. If the first student read a statement, the second student had to make a question for that statement. We did this twice so that all of the post-its got asked/answered. Here are some example sentences: "When I was living alone, I had to cook all my own meals," "I have to focus on my final test," "You must finish your homework," "I have got to study hard," "I had to go exercise last week," "Must I study hard?" and "I must find a job to pay my rent." This activity was wonderful because it encouraged students to communicate and help each other learn.
 For the third activity, we used the whiteboard, colorful paper, and post-it notes.

Image 2. Modals of Ability: Can, Could, Be able to
I followed the same procedure in activity three as activity one for note-taking and two for sharing sentences. The next step was a little different. After we took notes and discussed form and function (you can see the remainder of the notes written by me in with the black marker), I gave each student two post-it notes. They had to write one sentence using the first modal, can, on one post-it, and another sentence using the second modal, could, on the other post-it (as seen in Image 2).

One at a time the students came to the front of the class and chose a post-it to read to the class. After they read the post-it, they had to guess who wrote the sentence.  Here are some examples of what the students wrote: "I can cook delicious Chinese food," " I can draw very well," "When I was a child I could play soccer, but not I can't," "I could get into a car through its window," and "I could dance jazz two years ago." This activity had students communicating and trying to make connections between the sentences and what they already know about their classmates. Its was fun and got the students laughing!

Do you have any fun interactive grammar activities to get students having fun? I'm always looking for new ways to introduce and reinforce grammar! 

18 March 2013

Written Corrective Feedback

As teachers, grading and providing feedback is one of the most important (and time consuming) parts of our job. I think it's essential that we think about how we provide feeback and purporse of that feedback. How can we best help students learn through our comments? How can we make these comments time effecive, especially when we have many students in only one class?

I recently came across a great presentation given by Dr. Rod Ellis on written corrective feedback on YouTube. He presents about different types of written corrective feedback and their effectiveness. Take a look because I think it's very clear, helpful, and practical.

Here is a shortened version of the video:

One of my colleagues often gives feedback for spoken presentations via the Voice E-mail function on Blackboard. It's basicially a long voice mail providing feedback that otherwise would have been written. He then gives the grade at the end of the e-mail in order to encourage to focus on feedback rather than the grade. I have tried this before, and I like it, but it never seemed to stick... I always go back to pen and paper feedback. Have any of you tried doing this?

How do you provide feedback? Why?

10 March 2013

Self-Assessment in Writing (and Speaking)

TESOL Connections just posted an interesting article about students assessing their own writing. You can find it here. I think it's a great idea to start early on with self-assessment, not just to be used with advanced students. It will encourage students to read and understand the rubric (does anybody else have this problem??), and it will also encourage self-reflection. This article is only about writing, but it's also possible to use with speaking assignments if they're recorded and made available to students to view (I use YouTube).

I often include a written portion to self-assessment assignments. For example, I provide a copy of the rubric for students to assess themselves and on the other side of the paper, I include a space for students to write about (A) what they did well, (B) what needs more work, and (C) the grade they think they should receive and why. I really think the written portion is just as important as the rubric portion. Students don't just have to decide what they did, but they also have to justify it. It's also a good way to track growth of the learner. If you use portfolios, these reflections could also be included there.

Are there any other ways we can use self-assessment to encourage and monitor language learning?