Rebecca Blouwolff posted the other day some inspiration about savoring your “Go Tos” to remain sane during the insanity we call teaching in March. It truly resonated with me. It made me think, what were my “Go Tos?” What did I have in my bag of tricks that I could rely on when my energy was low and when inspiration was low? I then challenged other language teachers to share their top 10 so that we could have a large bank at tried and true, vetted “Go to” tools. Many that Rebecca mentioned, such as Edpuzzle, I too use a lot and couldn’t imagine teaching language without them. Check out her list, read mine, then be prepared to share yours! Let’s help each other out and finish March (the spring, and the rest of the school year) STRONG!
Being in the “Middle,” means I must routinely plan for and incorporate movement, games and chunked diverse learning experiences to break up the length of class into time frames and activities that appeal to this age group. Most importantly, I plan for the maximum amount of learning to take place in the short 45 minutes I have daily with my students. It is important to me that my students are speaking as much as possible during that time and before they can actually communicate, a lot of practice must take place. The following are my “Go Tos” that work with just every theme in my curriculum and allow my students to do some serious practice before a TALK interpersonal or communicative task.
1.Dice Cards, is a game of speed and a little competition to encourage active participation. The directions for play, set up and resources are linked.Once you make a few sets of these cards, you are good to go for a while. All you need to do is have 6 questions for each side of the die. Students roll a die and race to get their corresponding dice card into the center of the table. The winner gets to then ask someone in the group the corresponding question and lose their card. The student who gets rid of all his/her cards first, “wins.” Students LOVE this game and it encourages everyone to speak. Not true communication, but certainly a good repetition and language practice. Variation: Require all students to answer the question. A win win. Add in Nomination cards and this gets even more fun! I also have enough decks of playing cards and dice, which I got from a local casino, to play games and activities described by Joshua Cabral on his website World Language Classroom.
2. Schmile Blique-a chair changing game.
My students ask to play this often. Students sit in a large circle with one chair less than the number of students. The student with no chair is sent out of the room. Seated students close their eyes and raise their thumb. I walk around the inside of the circle a few times to confuse them while selecting one student by tapping his/her thumb. This person is “it.” The student who was sent out, returns and stands in the middle of the circle. He or she then begins asking random people a question (obviously based on current theme or I can statement). Everyone answers except the person I have selected. This person shouts out “Schmile Blique” or whatever nonsense word your language may use when asked the question. When students hear this word or catch phrase, everyone must get up and find a new seat, including the person in the center. The student who does not find a chair must now be the one to question the group after another person is selected as “it.” A few rules I insist on, besides the obvious no pushing, shoving etc., is that students may not move to a seat on either side of their current seat. A variations: Rather than no nonsense word, have students listen for something specific such an opposite expression. For example, the student in the center is inviting people to do something this weekend. Everyone accepts BUT the person picked. This person refuses or gives an excuse.
3. Je bouge parce que…Another chair changing activity.
Again, students are seated in a circle, with one chair less than the number of students. The student in the center says something appropriate to the learning objective/theme/I can statement such as “I move because I have two brothers.” If students agree or if the statement applies to them, students must get up and move to an open seat. The student in the center must also find a seat. And the person left without a seat must then say something starting with “I move because…” Variation: all students have a seat and teacher makes statements for input purposes before students take the role. This is a great way to introduce vocabulary and a fun way to practice structures and language before a communicative activity.
4. Amazing Race (La Quête): I love Breakout EDU and have created several myself. The problem with Breakout EDU is that often there is only ONE box. Students either work well together, or not so well. Some students take over and others hang back. I want ALL of my students participating, but love to challenge my students to think critically and use the language. So, I adapted the concept to an Amazing Race style of activity where students work in pairs to complete a series of tasks before other groups or pairs. That means every student must participate and learn! I based this on this Chi Prof post. I try to create one for every thematic unit. Recently with food, my students raced through tasks such as decide what people would/wouldn’t eat based on dietary habit descriptions, sort food by type of market, decide which food item was not like the others (Quel est l’intrus?), match foods with food groups, meal times, and textures/shapes/flavors. Every time I ring the bell signifying that a pair has completed a task, the other pairs work even harder to complete the one they are currently working on.
4. Survey, Pyramid, Comparison
We all have our students survey each other, but this twist makes them think and organize collected data. This trick I borrowed from Lisa Shepard and Rebecca Blouwolff. Students tally results, organize it into a pyramid and then write comparative statements in the TL based on the results such as “The majority. of the class likes _______ more than_______. Seeing this helpful. I have used these ladies’ set up so often, I no longer need to explain to students what to do!
5. Le Bus (speed friending)
This a take on the Ask Ask Switch activity. Students line up in two lines facing each other. Students have cards or strips of paper with questions. They ask each other their questions, One line is designated as the line that gets on and off the bus. When time is up, the person at the front of the designated line “gets off the bus” and heads to the back of the line while that line advances one person. Before moving, students exchange question strips with the person across from them. If you have an odd number of students, one student assumes the “chauffeur” position. When it is time to switch, the chauffeur goes to the back of the bus and the first person in the switching line becomes the driver.
6. Battleship A classic language practice activity.
Students are given boards with coordinates that are language focused rather than number/letter labeled. For example the vertical column may be structures to invite someone to do something and the horizontal row various activities. Students color in 10 boxes (boats) and then try to sink their opponent’s boats by pairing coordinates. I often leave the coordinates in their raw form which forces students to think and work on using the language accurately. Instead of saying Oui or Non when a boat is hit, students respond again with appropriate language. In the case of inviting, if an opponent hit a boat, the student would AGREE to the invitation. If it was a miss, he or she would refuse the invitation or give an excuse why he or she could not accept. Play continues until someone in the room sinks all ten boats or whatever number is agreed upon.
7. Running dictation is by far one of the most active and engaging activities I do with students. You can find an in depth description HERE. I use it again as language practice. Students are paired up and take turns running into the hall. I am lucky and have TWO classroom doors, so I make one the entrance and the other the exit. Students exit to memorize one of the numbered strips posted on the wall. They return and dictate the sentence to their partner who writes it down. Sometimes students have to return to the hall because they have missed a word or two or cannot remember the entire phrase. Once completely written down, partners reverse roles. Play continues until one pair gets ALL the dictations written correctly. I then make the students who have not finished go copy down and/or correct the sentences missed. Once that is completed, I have the pairs cut up the dictation. Sometimes the sentences are a story to rearrange, sometimes it is questions and answers to match.
8. Scrambled sentences/Sort activities
I’m big on manipulatives. Middle school students need to manipulate and move. Often when I am trying to introduce new content and provide lots of good input tied with culture, I will create statements or phrases for students to read, think about , cut up and then sort logically, sort by opinion or sort by whatever categories I can determine. These type of activities are good for recall and retrieval practice too.
9. Lequel les deux? popstick photos
At the beginning of the year I have students take a selfie and print it out twice. They then adhere the photos of themselves to popsicle sticks. I keep them in a drawer and whip them out quite often to use in a paired activity called “which one of us or both?” Students sit with their partner and give their partner one of their popstick faces. Usually I start out making statements pertaining to our current unit such as “Which one of us watches more Netflix?” Students then hold up the popstick of the person whom they think the statement applies to the most. They can hold up both if they think it applies to both of them. After a few rounds students begin formulating statements themselves taking turns in the partnership making statements. This is great for when you don’t have time to start something new, but just sitting there isn’t an option.
NEW DISCOVERY: Do this with mini whiteboards and just have the students write the name of the person to whom it applies. Saves making the props!
10. Grab the marker
Another one to use when you have just a few minutes to spare or need to get gets moving. My students can set up in just two minutes for this activity because they love it so much. Seated across from each other, in our bus formation, students place a marker standing up on its end between them. Again, I ususally start before passing the talking on to students. If whatever is said is true, students must grab the marker before their partner. If it is false, students leave it. After a few rounds, the person at the front of the designated line “gets off the bus” and heads to the back of the line while that line advances one person. Play continues.
I’ve also played this sitting on the floor using an object like a bean bag or small ball too.
Okay, I could not stop at TEN! Here are just a few more of my “Go Tos!”
11. Vote with your feet/4 corners/This or that.
I have some signs up high on my walls that are permanent. They are of various degrees of like and dislike and another set of adverbs. I also have a line down the middle of my classroom that the janitors keep pulling up, but by this point in the year, my students know where it is. Students move to the various parts of my room and stand under the sign that corresponds to their answer. For example, if I ask “How often do you eat breakfast?” the student moves to the corresponding adverb: Every day, often, rarely, never etc. If I ask “Do you like to practice playing an instrument?” they move to a sign that corresponds with how they feel about this activity: Love it, Like it, Sort of like it, don’t like it or hate it. If it is a this or that question, students must go to either side of the line or stand on it. After all of these actions, students discuss with the people around them how they would answer and I randomly call on someone to provide an answer.
12. Je Peux is a new one this year for me, but a new found favorite. Students are given a sheet with at least 10 I can statements. Students must circulate and prove to classmates that they are capable of providing evidence of mastery of that I can. If a student demonstrates the I can to satisfaction of his/her classmate, a signature is collected. Students must get TWO signatures for each I can before bringing the I can to me to get the final sign off. I use this now within units before assessments to provide evidence and extra practice for mastery. If I desperately need something to do with students, I can easily whip up ten things for students to do to prove what they can now do in French. Students like it a lot and are quick to help each other practice enough to get the required signatures. It is never a waste of time and learning continues, even if you need a few minutes to collect yourself and refocus. You can read more HERE blog post by Sra Spanglish and
13. Fortune Tellers/Cootie Catchers
Middle School students are always making these, so why not put this paper folding skills to good use? Students can create their own (takes a bit of time) or you can use an online generator. Great for practicing spelling the outer words, identifying vocabulary as well as posing and answering questions.
14. Authentic Tweets
After reading Lisa Shepard’s blog post about using authentic tweets and how to search Twitter for as interpretive reading activities, I find when I can’t think of a new way to introduce vocabulary and structures needed to do a communicative task, I now turn to searching Twitter! Students enjoy reading these authentic tweets and I set the interpretive task up in an IPA format that is easy for them to do and acquire the structures. The best part is asking them to “respond” to a few of the tweets themselves. Since my students are not really old enough to use Twitter, we just pretend.
15. Six! (One pencil, one die)
Here I give students each a sheet of paper, one pencil, and one die. One student writes, one rolls. This continues until the student rolling rolls a six. When this student yells out “six!” the pencil passes to the roller and the die to the writer. What are they writing about? Whatever is the the topic/theme we are currently working on!
16. Question relay!
Sort students into teams, equal if possible. Line them up with a stack of questions at the front of the line. First student takes a question, turns to the person behind and ask it. This person answers, takes the question and turns to the person behind him/her and repeats the action. This continues until the question reaches the end. The last person runs up to the front of the line and puts the question in the discard pile. He/she then picks up a new question and play continues until there are no more questions. First line seated wins!
THIS WAS FUN SHARING! What are your top “Go Tos????”