Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Partner Crossword Puzzle

This activity is one which I have not done in a very long time, but someone on Twitter recently used it in her classroom and thanked me for the idea (I had presented this idea years ago, so I am glad to see that people are using it). I learned this years ago from David Jahner, my district's world language coordinator at the time. I was not a CI-teacher then but used it with the textbook. It is a basic partner activity involving crossword puzzles, but there is a twist. 

This listening comprehension activity involves crossword puzzles between two students,
where Student A has the target language clues for student B, and vice versa. This will require
making two different crossword puzzles and cutting/pasting the clues onto the other puzzle.
There are many crossword puzzle makers online.

  1. Student A will ask Student B for a particular clue, e.g. “5 down”
  2. Student B will read the clue in target language to Student A
  3. Student A will fill in the target language answer on his/her crossword puzzle
  4. Student B will ask Student A for a particular clue. The above pattern will continue until both crossword puzzles are completed.

Like I stated earlier, I have not used this activity in quite awhile and never in a CI classroom setting. I was a bit hesitant about posting this activity, because I can see both benefits and drawbacks. As a result, I will discuss both here:

  1. This is a great language lab activity, where partner pairs are scattered. Since partners are not seated directly next to each other, they must solely rely on listening.
  2. This is another post-reading activity to review a passage/story. You can take actual sentences from the reading or ask questions about the reading for students to answer.
  3. In using known sentences from a passage/story, students are continuing to receive understandable messages in the target language.
  4. It is a novel way to get students to interact with both the language and each other.
  1. Because students are working with crossword puzzles, it relies on them knowing the correct spelling of the words. As most students are at the novice/intermediate levels of language proficiency, their target language spelling skills are still developing. In doing a crossword puzzle, correct spelling is absolute key. In my opinion, adding a word bank does not really solve the problem and actually works against the concept of a crossword puzzle. 
  2. If one is using this to review a story, students need to know the story well by the time you introduce this. 
So CI teachers out there, try out this activity, and let me know how it goes, any changes which you made to it to make it more comprehensible, etc. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Making Conference Presentations Accessible

Allow me an excursus here from my usual CI-related posts to address something instructional technology-related (hey, I do have my Ed.S degree in the field) having do with conference presentations. 

We all have attended presentations at conferences where we would have liked to have had more time to digest what was presented or were not able to catch all of the links and resources which the presenter referenced. If we do ask for a copy of the presentation, either we have to get the presentation emailed to us, or the presenter sends a long Google URL link. If we are lucky, sometimes the conference allows for presenters to upload their presentations and handouts to a common sharing site.

Consider creating a website which will house everything related to your presentation! I leaned about this during my recent graduate studies, and I absolutely love this idea. I can upload everything in digital form which allows for my presentation to be paper-free. To see examples of my presentation websites, visit my Presentation page on this blog.

I use Weebly to create my presentation websites, because it is free and incredibly user-friendly. I divide my website into the following sections:
  1. Slide presentation
  2. Handouts
  3. Resources
  4. Contact information
  5. Evaluation (optional)
  6. Video of the presentation (optional)
Prior to the presentation, I will create the site and will upload everything to it. Because I use both Google Docs and Sheets, it is very easy to embed the presentation and handouts to the Weebly. I will usually also create a QR code which links to the presentation and place the QR code on the first slide of the presentation for participants to scan at the beginning if they wish.

  1. Creating a website allows for a presentation to be accessible to anyone at any time (or as long as you keep it up). Your presentation audience has expanded beyond the four walls of your presentation room to now the world.
  2. When someone requests to see my presentation, it is so much easier to give them a web address than a long URL code or to email the presentation. 
  3. Housing my presentations on my blog has allowed for people to view other presentations which I have given in the past.
  4. For my first couple presentation websites, it took me awhile to get the hang of it, but now I have found it quite easy to create a website due to the user-friendliness of Weebly.
If you are giving a presentation some time soon, consider creating a website for your presentation. Let me know how it goes!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dabbling in CI

Last semester, Dr. Matthew Panciera, an associate professor in Classics at Gustavus Adolphus College, visited the Latin department at my school (Bob Patrick, Rachel Ash, Miriam Patrick, John Foulk, and me). He had seen many CI presentations at last summer's ACL Summer Institute (in fact, Matt presided at my session), and he wanted to see actual CI implementation in the Latin classroom. For two days, Matt observed all levels of our Latin classes from Latin 1 to AP among five different teachers and saw many different, compelling ways of delivering CI in Latin (everything from Circling with Balls to Movie Talks to the Word Chunk game). When he came to observe my Latin 2 classroom, we were doing 4-Word Picture Stories - not exactly the most dynamic CI activity to see in my opinion. Afterwards, when I showed Matt what students had written, he was amazed at what they were able to produce just after one year of Latin. Yes, there were grammar errors all over the place, but students were communicating! On his last day, during a conversation with me during my planning period, Matt asked me "So how does one begin dabbling in CI? How can begin using CI as a newbie?"

This is such a great, honest question, and at the same time, a HUGE question to answer. I know that there are SO many teachers out there who have heard of CI through various means (social media, blogs, Facebook groups, word of mouth) or have attended presentations on various strategies; perhaps, they have even attended a NTPRS or IFLT Conference. As a result, these teachers wish to implement some CI into their curriculum but are unsure about it or even where to begin with it all, because it all feels so new. I completely understand this, because I was once there, and in many ways, still am.

With the second semester now underway and with many teachers asking the same question as Matt, let me respond here:
  • Pick the low hanging fruit first. As I have stated many times before here in this blog, if you are a first-timer/newbie to CI/wanting to see what CI is all about, begin by taking 1-2 CI strategies into your traditional curriculum and running with them. Pick the fruit which you are able to obtain easily from the tree before attempting to pick the fruit at the top! I would never recommend jumping all-in without having a strong foundation, because after the honeymoon period wears off, most likely, you will have no idea where to go with it all (I can tell you all about that from firsthand experience). As a result, you will blame the method as faulty instead of realizing that you bit off more than you could chew. I know that there are CI-implementers out there who will completely disagree with me on this and argue that one needs to go all-in when using a CI approach or needs to adhere fully to CI tenets before beginning. My suggestion has always been to start off slow in order to build up your CI muscles. 
  • Attempt to understand the "why" behind a particular CI strategy - It is easy to get caught up in activities without really understanding and reflecting on its efficacy. When implementing those 1-2 strategies, pay close attention to how it delivered comprehensible input - essentially, why did this activity/strategy "work"? How did this strategy/reflect comprehensible input? See here for more about this. 
  • Remember that immersion is not necessarily CI. Just because one decides to go full target language immersion in the classroom does not mean that the messages are understandable. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive though - see here for my feelings on the matter.
  • Focus on a reading in your textbook. Pick a reading in your textbook which you wish to cover and "CI it up" through various ways.
I know that there are many teachers who view CI strategies as just another tool to add to their toolbox of traditional pedagogy, since according to them, "there is no one single way/method to teach." Essentially, they are dabblers. I know that this deeply angers many CI-practitioners, because it almost sounds like blasphemy - in their minds, "How dare you implement CI with that kind of thinking? It is so contradictory."

Guess what? I completely understand dabblers, because I was once one. Ten years ago, I was teaching straight from the textbook but also was implementing (not exclusively though) TPRS, circling, and PQAs as part of my teaching arsenal. My methodology was very traditional, but these CI strategies were great tools to implement every once in awhile and to add novelty to the curriculum. By no means, however, did I embrace CI - far from it! Over time (we are talking MANY years), though, I began to see how these strategies were truly helping my students acquire the language in a way which my traditional teaching was not. As a result, I wanted to pursue it. The point is that I had to arrive to that conclusion myself on my own time. Pointing out my flawed argument and telling me that I was wrong for embracing traditional teaching only put up walls. Instead of arguing, we should be rejoicing that that some type of CI is being implemented with these teachers!

I am not completely interested in getting into long dialogues arguing about CI (I will defend my use of CI though). Quite honestly, the way I see is that all I can do is put information out there about CI and my usage of it, and to leave it there. I cannot change peoples' minds about CI, nor do I want to get caught up in that. Folks have to come to their own conclusion about CI on their own timeline, and guess what? They may NEVER to come to the same conclusion about CI as I have, and I have to accept that - see here for more about my feelings on the matter.

So for those of you out there who wish to dabble with CI, go for it. I hope that as a result you will come to the same conclusion which I have about CI. Here's to the journey!