Input-Based Strategies & Activities

**Updated 1.19.19 with Individual Word Race**
**Check out the companion post on Getting Texts!**

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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Comprehensible Online 2018 Takeaways

In its debut year, Comprehensible Online offered a different kind of PD, allowing participants to watch as many presentations over three weeks as they could from their computers and phones. #pdinpajamas was trending for many teachers sneaking in loads of PD from the comfort of their own home. In fact, I was able to watch most videos during my part-time job (shhh)!

Like other conference takeaways, I’ll consult this post over the years, and the info will be here to share with all. I have a code system to help me spot new things to try, and others to update. High-leverage strategies I consider “non-negotiable” for my own teaching are “NN.” Strategies to update or re-implement are “Update!,” and those I’d like to try for the first time are “New!” I encourage you to give them all a try. Here are the takeaways from some of the presentations I got to, organized by presenter:

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Dictation & Trashketball Combo

We’ve heard from Bill VanPatten that true communication has a purpose (i.e. cognitive-informational, and psycho-social). In the latest Tea with BVP, Bill stated those two purposes more clearly in teacher-friendly terms in that “we communicate in order to learn, build, create, entertain, and socialize.” My students love creating, entertaining, and socializing, so those are the three main purposes in my classroom.

Dictation, however, can easily have NONE of those purposes, lowering it down to the acceptable “activity,” but possibly the unacceptable “exercise” level, thus, rendering it non-communicative. Many of us have used Running Dictation (see an overview at the end of this post) to keep students moving and engaged, but in order to give dictation more of a social and entertaining purpose, I’ve combined it with the competitive Trashketball.

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5.5.16 Tea with BvP Takeaways

Today on the show, Bill did not give the same definition of Forced Output from Episode 18 when he told a caller that anything more than one word responses (e.g.yes/no, either/or, fill in blank) was considered “forced” (listen to that brief definition, here). Why? He was thinking about that term in a new way, referring to what happens when you make someone speak in an activity or task, which may not have anything to do with what has been acquired (e.g. “I am teacher, you are student, do this.”). The definition of Forced Output was expanded by Karen Rowan on Mixler to include any “Output beyond the level of acquisition.” Bill’s previous definition along with Karen’s mean that although acquisition rates vary, all students can give a single word response, so it is the only thing we should expect. Anything else is a bonus.

We also got a definition for Output as “any learner production that is embedded in the communicative context/event.” Martin Lapworth noted that this immediately rules out  a lot of what’s been going on in classrooms involving certain acts of speaking and writing, which some teachers have misunderstood as Output for the sole reason that something is coming OUT of their head that other people read, see or hear. Here’s how we can categorize Bill’s take on some examples of exercises, activities, and tasks within the context of Output…

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