Sunday, January 12, 2014

How do we communicate? Do try this at home!

A fun and informative instructional strategy for my language learners is one that I learned about from @LarryFerlazzo called "Back to the Screen". (which he adapted from Zero Prep: Ready To Go Activities For The Language Classroom by Laurel Pollard and Natalie Hess) (What follows is my interpretation of the strategy.) 

Using short (2-3 minutes) videos or video clips, half of the class faces away from the screen, and their partners stand in front of them, facing the screen and watching the video. The ones who are watching, narrate to their partners what they see happening. (the sound is off) At the end of the clip, or midway through the clip, my students switch and repeat the process. 

The second group of narrators may or may not be watching the same part as the first group--it depends on the learning objective that day. At the end, partners will join to reconstruct the events in sequence. I've had them sketch the events with partners, write the events as a list, or retell the story in paragraph form. It can generate lively discussion, especially when they're searching for the right words or trying to remember which happened first!

I've also had partners pair up with other partners after a given time to compare stories and events, prepare short skits to reenact a clip, or simply share out what they saw. After everyone has shared, then we watch the video together, with sound. 

If time allows, I have them add or change one detail they may have gotten incorrect. 

Two things I tried differently this past week were to have students watching the screen: 

a) not use arms or body gestures while they were narrating events on the screen (YOU try it! a lot harder to do than it sounds!)
b) only use their bodily movements (no verbal explanation) to show what was happening on the screen (Try this without laughing! Impossible!) (But oh, how it grabbed their attention!)

Students realized how much more they used their bodies (hands, facial gestures, body movements) when they didn't know how to say a certain word. They also gained an awareness of how much we really do rely on visual cues from others when communicating and trying to help each other understand information. 

Using this activity can be a great vocabulary review, or a pre-assessment tool for teachers to determine what vocabulary students are missing in a given topic, too. Definitely a great tool to practice sequencing events and considering cause and effect--in addition to the actual content material of the videos.

Very fun and interesting stuff. And definitely a highlight. Check out the fun below. Kids were watching Ormie the Pig! as part of our unit on failure in the realm of setting goals. 

Narrating what she is tough to do without using
gestures and hand movements!

Like I said--SO hard to do, especially, as we found out,
when we don't know or remember the word for something!

Dare you to act out what you see on the screen without
laughing! (Great brain break--bonus!)

Fun and laughter is the perfect midday elixir!

Great job, kids!!
Who's next?....

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