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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Choose Your Own Adventure in Google Forms


Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions
Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books or Games?  A new feature in Google Forms now lets users branch multiple choice responses so that each response leads you to a different page.  There are many potential applications for this in the classroom, but branching allows someone to craft a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

When drafting a Google Form, the creator can write part of a story in the “Page Description” box.  Underneath that text block, the reader can be given selection of choices.  Each of these selections give the reader the option to choose what will happen next in the story.  By checking the option “Go to page based on answer”, the creator can decide where each possible answer leads.

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Because the Google Form makes the creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story very methodical, its necessary to plan out all of your options and where they might lead.  I attempted to try this by creating a CYOA activity associated with a movie that we watch in class called ‘El Norte’.  I thought that this activity might be a good thing to do before we watch the film.  Anyway, as I started to mind-map my story and all the possible options, it easily got out of hand and complicated.  These webs can get quite complex if you want them to.  I would suggest that beginners limit themselves to only a few layers of options.  My CYOA story required 25 pages in a Google Form and I tried to be conservative in the last few layers.

There are a lot of concluding activities that could accompany this type of activity: a discussion, written essays, going through it until you get a desirable outcome, etc.  I think the educational impact of this could be great:  making the student think about choices and consequences and what actions lead to different situations.  I saw a lot of this application in Social Studies but think that it could be stretched to any discipline.

One thing that excites me about the ease of the Google Doc format is the fact that students could be writers of their own CYOA story.  What a great activity!  Make students draft out a series of choices and possible outcomes and put together an activity they can share with classmates.  They could examine the choices made by Romeo & Juliet, or John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a scientist working through a hypothesis.  Just as in a Choose Your Own Adventure story – – the possibilities are endless!

My Choose Your Own Adventure Activity: El Norte

Grammar Levels


I’ve received a few requests about my 5 Levels of Grammar that I referred to during my Sentence Proofreading Activity.  I just emailed it to the first few people but have decided to post it out there for everyone, since it seems to be intriguing.

The purpose of developing different levels of grammar correctness revolves around my desire to let my students know that although they aren’t perfect, they are close to perfect.  My students would make small mistakes in their writing and would get discouraged.  Then it would lead to them making bigger mistakes in the future.  When I give them these 5 levels, they feel it’s a safety net and grey areas:  it isn’t just success or failure, but an area in between that they can understand.

Level 5:

Sentence is perfect!  No mistakes and nothing that needs to be changed.

Level 4:

Few mistakes; mistakes are minor and involve changing something very small (usually a letter here or there).  This includes spelling errors.

Level 3:

Larger words or word order must be changed to make the sentence correct.

Level 2:

Major construction issues; sentence is missing a subject or a verb; components do not create a complete sentence

Level 1:

Does not resemble a sentence; string of words with no connected thought.

This is my own personal philosophy of sentence errors and most likely is not without errors itself.  Feedback is welcome.

Sentence Proofreading Activity


My students are great at knowing all the separate pieces and rules of the language on their own but stumble when it comes to putting them together for the purpose of writing for communication.  Something that always has been a challenge for me is to get my students to edit and proofread their work.  When I give them writing corrections, I feel that the feedback is oftentimes ignored and no learning takes place.  Recently my students have been doing a proofreading activity that has provided many teachable moments and I am now seeing positive results.

Example:

Pre-lesson preparation: My Spanish 2 students have been learning about house vocabulary.  While we practiced vocabulary and descriptions in class, I posted a prompt on Edmodo for the students to write about.  They had to go to Edmodo (an online collaboration website for our class) and type just one sentence describing their house.  After they had typed their sentences, I printed them all off on to a piece of paper and we worked with the sentences in class.

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Entrance Ticket: When my students walked into class, each student took a piece of paper and had to brainstorm at least 5 characteristics of a good sentence.  I told them to think about what a Spanish teacher would look for in a perfectly written sentence and also what a 3rd grade teacher would look for in a perfect sentence.  They had approximately 2 minutes for this brainstorming.

Class Sharing and List Making: As a class, we took the characteristics each student generated to create a class list of qualities that a sentence needs to have.  My students were very attuned to the characteristics of quality sentences.  Every class identified punctuation, capital letters and proper spelling.  Most were able to speak about specific Spanish skills, such as proper word order, adjective agreement, gender agreement and correct conjugation.  This class sharing portion of the class was also interesting because many students wrote down good grammar as a characteristic of well written sentences but they couldn’t elaborate on what good grammar was.  They have been told over and over again that they need to have good grammar but couldn’t identify what good grammar meant.  Many teachable language moments came out of this class discussion.

Finding Perfect Sentences: After generating a class list of sentence qualities, each student received a copy of the sentences they had typed in Edmodo about their house.  I told the students how many of the sentences on the paper were perfect sentences, or sentences that had all of the qualities listed on the board.  They worked alone to try and read each of the sentences to find the sentences with no errors.  Since the paper I printed had each student’s name next to their sentence, there was a lot of personal responsibility for the sentences.  Most students focused on their sentence first to see if it was good or not.  Then I noticed that they zeroed in on the sentences of students they perceived as being smart and good at writing.  Once they had some worktime, we came back together as a class and identified all of the perfect sentences.

Levels of Errors: After the perfect sentences were taken care of, we focused on editing the remaining sentences so that they could become perfect.  I talked to them about the importance of the type of errors in these sentences.  For most of my high school students, minus 1 is the same as minus 25; if it’s not perfect, it is no good.  I drew a chart on the board of the 5 levels of sentences that I use when evaluating writing progress.

 

Peer Editing: I individually called on students to find the errors in the remaining sentences.  Most were able to recognize something wrong.  Sometimes I would give prompts, such as “This is a Level 4 sentence, so we’re looking for a small stuff”, or “Remember to check all of the qualities listed on the board to make sure that everything works”.  I found that the students were very good about finding the errors.  And they also enjoyed the labeling of the sentences in Levels.  While the activity progressed, I heard students debating whether or not a sentence was a Level 4 or a Level 3.  One said, “You just have to add a word here to make it correct, so it’s not that big of a deal.  It’s only a Level 4”.  The other countered with “But Level 4 sentences are so good that you just have to change the parts that are already there.  Forgetting a word is a bigger deal and it should be a Level 3”.  I did notice, however, that some students didn’t like that their sentence was being called out as a Level 3, or the lowest level in this particular activity.  While I know that those individual students didn’t like that part of it, I know that they seriously will learn from that mistake they made.  I also made sure that we spoke only about this one sentence written about that individual and not the individual in general.  Since each student was included in the activity, I felt that they were very respectful towards each other in that regard.

Post Formative Assessment: Some days later I would give a short slip of paper to each student at the beginning or end of class.  I would show them pictures of a house on the projection screen and ask them to write one sentence about that house, remembering the qualities of a proper sentence.  Almost no student made the same mistake on this sentence as he or she did previously.  The total number of correct sentences improved greatly and the students that did make errors made very small errors (Level 4 errors).  I was pleased with the outcome of this activity and will make it a routine writing and proofreading exercise in my lesson plans.

CrocoDocs Online Annotation Program


Another great online find!  A free online program called CrocoDocs allows users to upload documents, PDF’s, photos, PowerPoints, etc.  These items can then be shared with other users and you and other users can comment, highlight and annotate the material.  It’s a great collaborative editing tool as well as a discussion board.

I recently used this with my Spanish 3 class.  I put up our notes on Colombia and asked the students (working in groups of 2) to enhance the notes by adding a piece of quality, academic information to each slide.  For example, on the slide where I introduced the flag of Colombia, students added information about the meaning of the colors, the date of independence and information about the constitution.  After they are done adding their information, I can download the new annotated document with all of the new information.

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I think that this program could be majorly useful in classes where proofreading takes place or any kind of collaborative reviewing.  In this program, your comments just show up as suggestions rather than actually editing the information.

Students are required to have their own username and password to use Crocodocs.  I set-up 10 generic accounts for my students to use and I think it worked very well.  I had originally planned for the assignment to last 1 and 1/2 class periods (about 70 minutes total) but I underestimated how fast my students work with technology.  Most groups were done in about 30 minutes.  I’m pleased with the results and will be using this program again in the future.