Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Updated 5.16.18**

When choosing the class agenda beyond each particular day’s routine, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember all my favorite activities. Thus, here are the input-based strategies & activities I’ve collected over the years, all in one place. Although this began as only reading activities, I decided that it didn’t matter as much whether students were reading or listening. Why? These input-based activities start with some kind of text either way, so beyond variety, what really matters most to me when planning for class is providing students with input, and what kind of prep goes into getting the text/activity. Everything is organized by prep, whether no instructions, no prep, printing only, or low prep. You won’t find prep-intensive activities here beyond typing, copying, and cutting paper. Oh, and for ways to get that one text to start, try here. Enjoy!

**N.B. Any activity with the word “translation” in it means translating what is already understood. This should NOT be confused with the more conventional practice of translating in order to understand.**

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Can-Do Statements vs. Objectives vs. Agendas

Here’s some clarification on related ideas that are often confused:

Can-Do Statements
“Can-Do Statements describe what learners can do consistently over time.” (p. 4)
Don’t use these as your daily objectives. Students can’t meet them after a class hour. If they can, you’ve written them wrong.

Objectives
“Students will be able to X.”
Don’t spend time on these. These are particular goals for the day, but are largely a fake school thing that have almost no effect on learning, and zero on acquisition (especially if the point is to create a more implicit environment free of metacognicide). Post them if you have to, but use a Google Doc or something (vs. spending any amount of time whatsoever writing on the board). Better yet, use one that could apply to any class (e.g. “Students will understand new words used to discuss [target culture idea].” If someone tries to give you the Wiggins & McTighe “understand is not a good/measurable objective,” just say something in the target language they don’t understand, and draw attention to that). The only people who care about objectives are teachers who buy into skill-building, or teachers who prefer to teach language itself as content matter, as well as administrators who have been told that their teachers need objectives, but not students (see below). If you’re in a real bind, use Terry Waltz’ random objective generator.

Agenda
“MovieTalk, Team Game, Survey, Quiz, etc.”
The day’s agenda is pretty much all that matters to students. It answers the question “what are we doing today?” and not “what skills will I develop as a result of your planning today’s lesson, o teacher mine?”

Teachers spend far too much time writing Can-Dos and Objectives when just a solid Agenda is needed. This allows maximum flexibility, and affords time to develop strategies to provide CI, as well as writing/adapting texts for the novice—the real high-leverage classroom practices. I’ve been implementing this in the daily & weekly schedule used in the Universal Language Curriculum (ULC).

 

post scriptum – Objective Traps
Cavē! The tendency to be satisfied—proud, even—with “students being able to X” on any given day has disastrous effects. If the skill or content is isolated, the day’s “mastery” means almost nothing in the long run. Take, for example, the K-12+ Spanish student in highly interactive, yet student-student focused classes (i.e. forced speech paired activities). Despite any success, or meeting of those daily objectives, she might later study abroad in Spain only to find out that she has limited communicative ability, and must undergo a silent period. How did all this—from an A+ student—go unaddressed? It’s simple; all those activities designed to meet objectives gave teachers the wrong impression from the wrong data! Furthermore, teachers tend to USE data like this as evidence when discussing best practices. Don’t fall into that trap!

Comprehension Checks as MGMT

Classroom Management is paramount. Without it, none of the strategies to provide students with CI stand a chance. They don’t stand a chance because students who aren’t paying attention aren’t receiving any input (I) at all, let alone input that’s comprehensible (C)! Of aaaaaaaall the systems in place to manage the classroom, though, comprehension checks are probably the most effective, yet most overlooked…

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Quick Quizzes – Contextualized Vocab

Here’s a variation on the 4 statement T/F Quick Quizzes that have freed me from unnecessary quizzes and tests; I’m able to focus on providing input, and making that input comprehensible.

Instead of T/F statements, this is a contextualized vocab quiz. Project a text, ask students to read it, and then underline, circle, or just tell them which words/phrases to write an L1 equivalent for. Upgrade? If you have time, write a parallel story based on whatever text students have already read. As always, these should be self-scored by students using some colored pens along with a discussion in the target language, which you then collect and put into the gradebook with 0% weight (e.g. a “Portfolio” grading category set to 0%).

That’s it!

Use these input-based quizzes along with the original T/F Quick Quizzes and the K-F-D Quizzes, and you’ve now varied your assessments a tad more without any sacrifice to best practices in providing input. They also might make for a quick follow up to a Discipulus Illustris Truths & Lies!

Grouping/Seating Strategies

**Click for ready-to-go pairs using Picturae Database images** Updated 4.25.18

Do you have one set of cards taped to chairs, and distribute duplicate cards to students as they walk in for randomized seating? Do you have a left side/right side of the room labeled for Total Physical Response (TPR) groups? Try adding these for novelty…

Pairs/Seating
Instead of cards taped to chairs, just shuffle and deal to students at the start of class (while they’re reading the one thing you’ve typed up?). Student pairs find each other, and either work together, or just sit next to one another for randomized seating.

Picture1

Grouping/Seating
Print and laminate images/names of things from the target language-speaking world. Keep them organized, and grab a new set every few days/week. For example, my room is labeled Rome and Pompeii for left/right, but I have other sets of cities, monsters, heroes, authors, social classes, etc. tucked away in a drawer. Next week, I could distribute 1/2 social class pulārēs and 1/2 optimātēs to the class, and have each sit on different sides of the room. This both mixes up the seating as well as gives new groups for TPR, etc. For small groups, say, One Word At a Time Stories (OWATS), I could distribute the chariot racing factions Alba, Russāta, Prasina, and Veneta, or just combine any pairs already formed, etc. This is just one more way to infuse target-culture into your class.

Required Homework: A Prep-Free Solution

My go-to homework is to read/reread a text from class. This is largely the honor system, banking on students finding the text compelling. There are those who want to see EVIDENCE that reading took place, though. Under such conditions, I don’t really want to hold a reading quiz the next day in order to catch and trap students who had too much Science the night before. Thus, I need a solution…

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Input Expectations: The Updated ONE Rubric

I’ve had great success reporting scores of any homework, assignments, and quizzes in a 0% grading category portfolio, and then using those scores as evidence to double check and confirm each student’s self-assessed course grade based on Proficiency Rubrics. However, I’m constantly open to streamlining any teaching practice, so I’ve just updated my rubrics, distilling them into a single one. Students still self-assess their own estimated ACTFL Proficiency Level, but that level is independent from the grade they also self-assess. So, what’s the grade based on? Instead of proficiency, it’s based on course expectations of receiving input! After all, input causes proficiency, so why not go right to the source?

Move over Proficiency-Based Grading (PBG)! Hello…Expectations…Based…Grading (EBG)? It’s not as wacky as it sounds, trust me. In fact, it’s probably the least-restrictive grading practice next to Pass/Fail, yet still holds students accountable and provides all the flexibility I’ve enjoyed thus far. Here’s the rubric:

Capture

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