Dot Game Review


Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 11.19.28 AM.pngI love working in familiar games to review and practice vocabulary. One simple game my kids get excited about is the Dot Game.

In the Dot Game, you have a grid of dots. Partners take turns drawing lines, connecting the dots. If you draw the fourth line completing a box, you score a point and put your initials in the box. The objective is to make more boxes than your partner.

So how to turn this into an activity?

I create a grid of dots. I choose a word from our Unit to be in the center of the boxes that will potentially be formed.

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Students take turns drawing lines and making boxes. Once a student has made a box, their partner must use that word in a sentence. Sometimes I just do this out loud as oral practice and sometimes I have them write sentences using the word. It just depends on our focus.

It’s a nice way to review vocabulary while staying in the target language. Today I wanted my students to prepare for tomorrow’s writing assessment (I’ll be using a variation of Martina Bex’s BINGO writing activity). For the assessment, students need to write a paragraph about television and movies using the target vocabulary in their BINGO card (using words correctly to form at least one BINGO).

After we played the Dot Game today, I had students make a list of the words in their partner’s boxes. Then, they had to use those words to write a paragraph about television and movies—essentially the same standard that I am grading tomorrow. Today was all about practice. How can I use this list of words into a paragraph? What do these words mean? How do I use them?

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Students in this class circled the words they needed to use on their vocabulary sheets; in other classes I just told them to write their list on their paper.

Today this worked great for me as a Monday activity. It’s largely student centered so my job was to just facilitate the activities. I also love getting them to review vocabulary while staying in the target language and not thinking just about the straight translations of everything. Today they were focused on how to use the words to express thoughts rather than just trying to be a dictionary of terms. I feel like it gave them some good practice for tomorrow’s final writing assessment.

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SnapChatting Assignments


SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

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I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.

The Hunger Games Review Game


I resist most cultural phenomena on principle, but when a sixteen year old boy talks to you about how amazing a book series is, you have to take notice.  I only recently embraced “The Hunger Games” (as in I read the first book last week).  Coincidentally, I came across a review game activity based on “The Hunger Games” in my Edmodo World Languages community last week.  With a little tweaking, I knew it could be a major hit in the classroom.

The Set-Up

  • Arrange 12 desks in a circle/semi-circle.  If you have more than 12 students, place extra desks in tight clusters so that there are 12 little clusters of desks in a circle.
  • Prepare Questions:  I planned on playing five rounds during the game with 12 questions per round.  You could do random questions and pull them out of a hat too.
  • Fill 12 cups with beans.  I used jellybeans and put 5 jellybeans in each cup.  Label the cups with numbers #1-12.
  • Prepare the Cornucopia (see later)

The Beginning

  • Separate the students into the 12 separate districts (12 separate groups).  I always choose the grouping.  If numbers allow me to do so, I put my advanced students alone and match up my lower ability students so they may work with each other.
  • Give each district their cup of beans, stressing that they should not eat their beans.  The objective of the game is to acquire the most beans anyway, so they shouldn’t want to eat their chances of winning.
  • Begin with District 1 and ask the first review question.  If the student answers incorrectly, just move on to the next District.  If the student answers correctly, they may go and 1/2 of another District’s beans.  Continue by asking the next District a question.
  • After District 12 has answered their first question, the Capitol (the teacher) makes an announcement by drawing one of the Capitol cards.

Capitol Cards

I was preparing 5 rounds of the game and therefore I prepared 4 Capitol cards: one card to be read at the conclusion of Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4. Here is what I used:

  • Redistribution of Districts: The Capitol has decided to change the resources of each district as a reminder that the Capitol is in control.  All cups rotate one District to the right.
  • Quarter Quell:  The time has come for districts to face each other in battle.  During the next round, each District must challenge another District before the question is asked.  Whichever of the two districts answers that question correctly gets to take 1/2 the losing District’s beans. In case of a tie, the win goes to the lowest numbered District.
  • Cornucopia: All Districts are in need of something to make their success in this game easier.  These items are in bags in the Cornucopia.  At the signal of the Capitol, team members may go and retrieve one bag from the Cornucopia.  Bags may not be opened until the Capitol permits.  These items may be used for the entirety of the game unless otherwise noted.
  • Silver Parachute: Sponsors have agreed to give aid to one struggling team.  Give extra beans to the team with the lowest number of beans.  In case of a tie, the tie goes to the highest numbered District.

I filled 12 bags with a variety of things for the bags in the Cornucopia.  I had some bags filled with a few jellybeans, bags with vocabulary or notes and some filled with empty paper.  I also had an “Auto-Win” card, where students could play it and automatically get a question correct.  There was a “Blockade” card too, where a team could block others from taking their beans for an entire round.

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The Victor

After playing all five rounds of the game, the student with the most jellybeans was declared the victor.  I gave out extra credit to the winner.

The Fallen Tributes

I wondered about how to deal with “killing” other districts or being eliminated from the game.  In one class, we played that if a student was down to one bean, you couldn’t take that one bean.  That kept players in the game.  My second class was much more inspired by the notion of eliminating their competitors, forming alliances, etc.  It made for a more interesting game.  But, since it was a review game, eliminated players still had to answer questions, but they couldn’t take nor receive jellybeans.  They couldn’t win but they were still forced to play.

I thought it went pretty well.  It took awhile to count out half of the jellybeans when we got towards the end of the game but I can’t figure a way around that.  It was a nice review activity and I would probably do it again in the future.  It took some prep time but it was exciting and the students really enjoyed it.

Three Vocab Review Sites


I’ve been a fan of Quizlet for a long time and often use it with my students as a way to drill and review vocabulary.  I consistently tell my students that the best way to feel comfortable in learning a new language is to master the vocab, and drilling sites like Quizlet have been very helpful.

Recently I’ve heard great things about two other sites: StudyBlue and WordChamp.  I decided to invest a chunk of my summer in setting up my vocabulary on these three sites.

Quizlet

I’ve always found Quizlet simple and fun for the students.  They love SpaceRace, a game within each set of vocabulary that lets them type the translation for our word before it runs off the edge of the page.  I have documented evidence that notes a correlation between Quizlet use and academic performance.  Most of my vocabulary was already added to Quizlet in previous years, so setting it up for this year was a breeze.

Final thoughts: Great games, user friendly, a must for a language classroom

StudyBlue

I came across some rave StudyBlue reviews last Spring and thought it sounded promising.  It’s much like Quizlet, although a little more exclusive.  Each student has an individual “backpack” and can join courses and share materials with any students also enrolled in those courses.  After about 5 minutes in StudyBlue, it’s easy to figure out that it is tailored to college students looking to share notes and materials with other classmates.  I went back and forth with some support people asking questions about how a teacher might share material with students and/or make vocabulary lists public for all students enrolled in the class.  I’m still not really sure if it’s possible, how easy it will be and how troublesome the sharing process will be.  I know I can “invite” students to view my list by individually emailing them, but I don’t want my students to have to check their email to access a vocabulary list through StudyBlue’s website.

I’m really on the fence about this program, but it has a nice flashcard program for both IOS and Andriod systems.  The flashcard programs track difficult words and gives students statistics about their studying.  That could be really useful but I’m not sure my students nor I will be able to get through the confusing setup phase.  We’ll give it a try though.

Final thoughts: Possibly confusing and too technical/not-user-friendly, great mobile app

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WordChamp

WordChamp is not a flashcard or vocabulary drill site like StudyBlue or Quizlet.  It is a site specifically designed for language teachers and language learners.  I created an account (free) and a course (I created three).  I can create vocabulary lists, similar to the other sites, but WordChamp does a really great thing when I put in my vocabulary.  As I added the words, I saw a little speaker icon next to some of the words.  WordChamp recognizes (most) words in all languages and has audio of those words being spoken.  For example, I put in “lawyer/abogado” and I have a recording of someone saying the word “lawyer” and a recording of a native speaker saying “abogado”.  If audio isn’t available for a certain word or phrase, you can record or upload your own.

Once vocabulary lists are created, a teacher can create homework assignments for different classes.  Students complete these homework assignments online.  There are dozens of different types of assignments, and I’m still trying to sort through them.  There are simple translation exercises, audio exercises, speaking/recording practice and conjugation drills.  There are some more options too but those are the ones I’ve practiced with so far.

Final thoughts: Love the audio options, customizable homework assignments and potential

WordChamp Homework Assignment Options

Vocabulary Jenga


Normally I write about new technologies and projects I am using with my students.  This post isn’t further from technology.  Straight out of the ’80’s, I brought my Jenga game into the classroom for a vocabulary review.  According to my end of the year student surveys, this vocabulary game was by far the most fun and exciting for my students. 

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The planning and preparation is the hardest part of this review game.  You need one game of Jenga with all the little blocks.  Then place a piece of scotch tape on each block.  I write a vocabulary word onto the tape (so that I can reuse the Jenga blocks for years to come).  Since I write one word on every block, it is necessary to have about 66 vocabulary words, so I like to use this activity as an end of semester review.

The class is split into two teams.  One member from a team one comes forward and pulls a block out of the Jenga tower.  Then, without any help from their teammates, that student must correct identify the vocabulary word. 

If they get the word correct: they put the Jenga block down on the table and a teammate from the opposing side comes up and has to add that block to the top of the tower.  Then that student pulls a block from the tower and cycle begins again.

If the student gets the word incorrect: they put the Jenga block down on the table and another member from their team must come up and put the block on the top of the tower.  Then that student continues the process.

At first the game seems pretty simple but eventually students will catch on that a they do not want any of their teammates up there with a wobbly tower.  It is in their best interest to get the words correct and force the other team to go.

Note on effectiveness of vocabulary review: I “stack the tower” a little bit in my favor.  Students will usually start by pulling blocks from the middle or bottom.  Then as the tower grows taller, they will want to pull from the near top.  I place difficult vocabulary words or words that I want them to review in the middle at the beginning of the game.  After a few successfull rounds of row building, students will begin to pick those same blocks again.  The more a word gets repeated in the game, the more they seem to remember it.

There is also some research out there (which I don’t have the time to cite at the moment) that suggests that adolescents learn best when under stress.  When this game gets intense, there is yelling, pressure and spotlight attention.  Almost always, a student that has a word in one of those pressure situations will mention it again a few days later.  He or she might not remember anything else from the game, but the words review during the tensest moments of the game seem to stick.

 

Popplet Mindmapping


I’ve had my students dabble in mindmapping before with vocabulary development.  I like them to think about how words are connected and hopefully those connections make the vocabulary more meaningful, thus they remember it.

At first glance, I thought that Popplet was going to be just another word web/mindmapping tool, similar to Inspiration or a few other word maps available online.  I discovered the following things while using this application:

The Popplet Bubble

1. Easy to use and maneuver: Each popplet, or tiny box, comes with very easy to understand options.  In each box, you can add TEXT, or draw a PICTURE or upload MEDIA.  After creating the content in one popplet box, you simply drag the grey connector dots out to where you want to make another popplet.  This grey line connects the boxes, thus building a very large web.

2. Media: When using technology, you have to ask yourself, “Why is this methodology better than paper and pen?”.  I like to justify my technology use.  I’ve had students make mindmaps before on paper and they are just fine.  But Popplet lets them add PICTURES and YOUTUBE videos to the map.  In a recent vocabulary section on adjectives, students took pictures of the words strong, beautiful and weak, and were able to incorporate those pictures into the map.  And who doesn’t love YouTube?  Students searched for funny videos that would showcase their Spanish vocabulary words.  For example, many students looked on YouTube to find pictures of clumsy people for the Spanish word “torpe”.  Or they used their favorite YouTube video (the Waffles video by Julian Smith was very popular) and tried to see how many Spanish words they could use to describe that one video.  Hands down this was the biggest plus for me and for the students.

3. Customization: Each popplet bubble can be made a different color, so students could color code the different levels or categories of their web.

4. Sharing: Popplet includes nice sharing options for a free application.  Students used the embed code to embed their projects on our classroom site at Edmodo.  They also used the links if they wanted to post it to their blogs.  You can invite others to share and comment on your Popplet and also post it directly onto Twitter or Facebook.

My students worked on these Popplets using the mobile laptops in my classroom.  Once they got started, you could have heard a pin drop.  There was a such a hushed enthusiasm to work that I haver NEVER experienced before.  They were very captivated by it all and worked so hard, so fast and with such effort.  I will definitely be revisiting this site again and I consider my use of technology well justified in this case.

Examples:

Right now, I’m unable to embed these lovely Popplet’s onto this WordPress blog for easy viewing, but I can include the links.  These are student created projects.  I gave them the bare minimum of requirements and they went with it.  Charlie Sheen was very popular in these, by the way.  Please check them out, share them and enjoy using Popplet! (I will be adding more examples in the next few days).

(Thanks to José Picardo for his inspiring ideas!  Visit his site @ http://www.boxoftricks.com)

Vocabulary Podcasts


Learning vocabulary takes a certain amount of time and repeated practice.  I can repeat words with the kids over and over again in class and I can also highly suggest they go over the words themselves.  Still I haven’t ever felt the students enjoy the repeating or fully embraced that concept.

I decided to have my students make vocabulary podcasts: recording of them pronouncing the words in Spanish, defining the word in English and then spelling the words letter by letter.  I had two goals.  1) Have them review the pronunciations and definitions of the words while creating the podcast, and 2) have the students create an audio file of the vocabulary words that could be downloaded and accessed on a portable electronic listening device (i.e., Ipod).

This was the first podcasting experience for nearly all of my students.  We experienced some equipment problems and time issues, but overall the assignment was a success.  The students all submitted their groups podcasts to a class created account on Podomatic.  From here, students are able to download any of the podcasts as a file that can be added to an Ipod or mp3 player.  They can also click a button and subscribe to these podcasts through Itunes.

Podcast Spanish 1 5.3

Today I showed the students how to access the podcasts and suggested that they use these assignments to prepare for next week’s quiz.

Please visit our Spanish Podcasts through Podomatic at: http://huffspan.podomatic.com/