Communication Breaks: Air Spelling, Two Second Turn & Talk, and Cloze

At iFLT 2019, Grant Boulanger paused to have had students close their eyes and spell a word in the air, syllable-by-syllable as he repeated it slowly. Students opened their eyes, and Grant wrote the word on the board, and continued with class.

But why?

Quite simply, this gets students to focus on listening, which Grant mentioned is important since most of what goes on in school makes use of other senses. Also, once the word is written on the board, any “mistakes” literally disappear into thin air. It’s like a fleeting dictātiō!

Consider using air spelling before establishing meaning of a new word/phrase when the class flow could use a short break from the input. In fact, this strategy is part of what I’ve been thinking of as Communication Breaks. These breaks pause or reduce input, allowing students either to think, or briefly interact in ways that lack a communicative purpose. Between these breaks and Brain Breaks, class should be over before students even know it!

Two Second Turn & Talk
This strategy, shared by Annabelle Williamson, helped give students of color a voice, raising the percentage of their suggestions and responses from 0-6% to 80-85%! How? When you ask a question, give students a brief moment to interact (e.g. one word, a quick thought, etc.), then open to whole close for volunteers. That’s it. Why is this a Communication Break? Not all speaking has a communicative purpose, even if there’s a reason to do it. This strategy is more about being equitable, giving students a brief moment to exchange ideas, resulting in the inclusion of more voices in class. It’s a powerful trade over any loss of purpose, communicatively, because it will contribute more, communicatively.

Cloze Sentences
The marvelous Mark Mallaney had a few different cloze activities after reading a story, each with an increasing number of words removed. Students had to reread the remaining text, process meaning, and collaborate to fill in missing words.

Why am I revisiting this?

First of all, a Cloze is super easy to create. Mark typed up a class story with students in class (i.e. Write & Discuss), then replaced some with blanks for the next class’ activity. For another activity, he had even more blanks. Those were easily created during his planning time, he said, pasting underscored blanks throughout.

Second of all, students benefit from that interaction time. Since there’s no communicative purpose to the activity itself, this is a Communication Break. Note how this Cloze activity, and longer Turn & Talks do include input. However, the lack of a communicative purpose could mean there’s less attending to meaning, less uptake, and limited acquisition. Still, these moments do have a place in the classroom!

Mark’s goal was specifically to give space to his intermediate students to start playing around with the language. My goal will be to give them the kind of break that allows interaction.

My other posts from iFLT 2019:

8 thoughts on “Communication Breaks: Air Spelling, Two Second Turn & Talk, and Cloze

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