It’s Changed!


Recently I stumbled across a Spanish textbook for 3rd grade and I found some interesting ideas for story activities. In this activity, students get into a group and read a story. Then the teacher reads the story aloud. While reading, the teacher intentionally changes details in the story. You could change a character, the setting, an object, or a situation. The students have to pay attention to the story retell and call out “¡Está cambiado!” when the teacher says a detail that is different from the original version. Then they have to say what the change was and describe how the original version of the story differs. I think it would be fun to make this a competition and play it with individual or team whiteboards. I would give a point to the team or teams that call out “¡Está cambiado!” first. Then I would give a point to any team that can rewrite the part of the story that was changed so that it matches the original version of the story. They could even copy the original phrase directly out of the reading if you let them have it in front of them during the retell. This way they are getting additional input by having to re-read the original version over and over. I definitely plan on testing out this activity with my class and I will update you with you it goes when I do!

Source: Español, 3er grado, p. 113

Choral Reading

Just to give a bit of backstory before I talk about choral reading, my classes and I all started off the year with a common storytelling unit designed to assess where all of the students were at. I teach grades 5-8 and I wasn’t expecting them to know much more than colours, animals, some numbers, etc. I assumed the grade 8s would be at the highest level of ability, but I actually have some grade 6 classes that seem to know more than some of the grade 8 classes, so I’m glad that I have had this chance to assess them all a bit. You can read more about how I started off the year in my First Day post. After the first day of class, we moved on to some storytelling using the script I had written. Our characters turned out to be Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell in most of the classes, simply because I have some hilarious celebrity masks at school. They were a huge hit with every grade level. They also came up with some interesting pets for the two characters, including a mini-monkey, a giant purple frog, and a llama. Try circling the sentence “La llama se llama Justin Bieber junior” as many times as you can in Spanish! Yes, they not only had Justin Bieber as a character in the story, but several of my classes insisted that Will Ferrell’s animal was named Justin Bieber Junior.

Anyways, to get to the point of this post, after the storytelling we moved into a common TPRS reading technique often called choral reading. This was their first time trying it out, and it went really well. I created a PowerPoint presentation with the story broken up into various slides. I added funny or interesting photos to each part of the story that would help students understand it better and stay engaged. We went through the story together as a class using the presentation. On each slide, I read aloud the sentences in Spanish. Then I had the students chorally translate the sentences into English. I like to use my laser pointer for this, but you can just as easily point with your finger instead. I use the laser pointer to keep all of the students reading at the same speed. This time I was trying to get them used to the speed, so I was very strict about them only translating a word if the laser pointer/my finger was on that word. They had to pause until I moved to the next word. After we translated each slide, I circled the important sentences and asked a few questions about the content of the story. I also occasionally compared the content to information we had learned about students in the class or myself. (ie. Gabriela has dark hair, but I have blonde hair.)

As a final step in the choral reading process, I had students get into partners and translate the whole story (the last slide of the presentation). They each had to translate one sentence at a time, and they had to alternate. I walked around the classroom while they were doing this, and had very few students who were struggling. Afterwards when asked, the students told me how smart they felt because they understood everything in the whole story.

Find the Sentence

This great reading activity idea comes from Cynthia Hitz. This month, if you share your favourite reading activity on Martina Bex’s website (as Cynthia did), you could win a year’s subscription to Textivate. Textivate is my personal favourite when it comes to getting students to re-read a text in a fun and interactive way.

Prepare for the activity by choosing 10 sentences from the text/chapter that can be depicted in a drawing and write each sentence on an index card. Put students in groups and give each group a mini whiteboard. Choose 1 student to be the artist for the whole game or use a different student for each index card. Show the first sentence to the artist only and have them draw the scene depicted on the board so everyone can see it. Students then have to re-read the original text to find the sentence which has been drawn on the board. To get one point, groups must copy that sentence out perfectly from the text onto their whiteboards. You can either have them write the whole sentence, or just the first few words of the sentence in order to keep the activity moving more quickly.

Silent Acting

A new blog post by Cynthia Hitz describes an interesting activity idea to encourage a second reading of a text. This would work with a novel or a reading from a class story. First get a couple of actors up at the front of the class. Put other students in groups of 2 or 3. Choose selected sentences (8-10 would be a good number, depending on the length of the text) and have the students at the front act out one sentence at a time. The catch is, they cannot talk or use any props. After they have acted out the sentence, have the other students work in their groups to find the exact sentence that was acted out. One of the students in the group must write down the sentence that they think was acted out on a piece of paper or on the board. After a minute or two, they show their sentences and receive a point if they wrote the correct sentence down.

Source: Cynthia Hitz, Teaching Spanish with Comprehensible Input

Read and Discuss

Ben Slavic suggests five stages to the read and discuss portion of TPRS on his blog.

Stage 1 – Have the students translate a paragraph chorally. Be very strict and insist on hearing their voices during the choral translation.

Stage 2 – Talk about the specific content of the text you just read in the TL. Ask simple yes/no questions. Continue to insist on a strong, choral response from everyone.

Stage 3 – PQA the text you read by asking your students questions about themselves that relate to the content of the text. So if Brandon got Marianne’s attention by driving his father’s blue T-Bird in the novel, you ask one of your students if he has a T-Bird. For this part to work, it is very important that your students know how to “play the game” by making up cute answers to your questions.

Stage 4 – Do a dictation from a paragraph. Read each sentence aloud one by one and have students write them down. After you finish the paragraph, have them correct their sentences by looking at the paragraph in the book.

Stage 5 – Do a quick quiz. You can either have a student write the quiz while you are reading the paragraph or you can ask simple yes/no questions.

Source: Ben Slavic, Ben Slavic’s Professional Learning Community