Sunday, June 10, 2018

Looking Back

Our spring term is coming to a close this week, and I've been reflecting on which techniques and activities worked well this time around and what did not work well.

For my morning students, all over the age of 60, jigsaw activities seemed especially useful and engaging. This is the technique I used to help students become familiar with a select few of the sculptures we would see on our field trip to Windsor Sculpture Park. I used it again to help them get ready to visit The François Baby House and Museum, and again when we learned about staying safer in hospital. For the 'safer in hospital' module, one group became experts on VRE, one on MRSA, and one on C. diff.

Expert groups will later split up into colour groups.

What didn't work? Rushing. I have to remember that I cannot just tell these students what I expect. I need to produce an exemplar for them to model their work on and I need to provide the rubric ahead of time so that they really understand which criteria I'll be using to judge their work. Also, the next time we do reports or posters, I need to impose a maximum word limit. Although I stressed many times the importance of brevity for a poster to grab the attention of students passing by it in the hall, we still ended up with posters drowning in text. So I definitely learned my lesson and will provide both an exemplar and rubric next time. That being said, they are proud of the "my hero" posters that were part of preparing for a trip to Jackson Park.

In the afternoon class, a high level (CLB 1L-2L) literacy class, the techniques and activities that worked the best were Language Experience Approach books and multi-sensory lessons. In some cases, we had a multi-sensory experience that we then turned into an LEA book.
Tasting our way through the regions of Canada
Sometimes we cannot go out and take pictures of ourselves having an experience. In those cases, we can still make the new language and concepts personal by giving our opinions and expressing preference, which is how I turned the topic of "summer in Windsor" into an LEA book. Instead of going to Summerfest, the beach, fireworks night, etc., we talked about which ones we planned to enjoy this summer and then built a true story around that. This book becomes the basis of a week's worth of activities. We spend some time each day practicing reading it until we reach fluency, starting with choral repetition and ending with being able to read it individually by Friday. I love being able to load up our sentences into SpellingCity, which then gives us myriad games and worksheets using the same terms and sentences.
F. wants to eat cotton candy at Summerfest.

M wants to take her children to Sandpoint Beach via bus #2.

After helping compose sentences, students copy text into blank versions of LEA book.
And what didn't work? Well, they are a very agreeable group. I find that most anything helps them improve their language skills and helps them learn how to learn so long as I follow a few basic principles. Language must be taught orally first and must be personally relevant. Also, I need to change things up a lot--both week to week and also about every twenty minutes--while also maintaining certain predictable routines.

So if we use a reader from Bow Valley College, School of Global Access one week, we will write our own LEA book the next week, and follow that up with a chapter from the Talk of the Block series the third week. Within a given class period, I try to go back and forth between activities that focus on meaning (questions about the story, relating the story to our lives) and activities that focus on the building blocks of language (copy, pronounce, spot the intruder). I also try to switch every twenty minutes or so between a sedentary activity (writing) and one that gets us up and moving around (peer survey, flyswatter game, coming to the board).

To be honest, I think the ideal lesson is a multi-sensory one or a lesson that is based around a field trip. I have to admit, however, that I don't find myself having the energy to manage such lessons every single week. It takes a lot out of me when I cart 20 pounds of kitchen equipment up to the school so that we can make gingerbread cookies while learning fractions. But if I could snap my fingers and have a host of helpful elves appear every time I needed them, I probably would take students out into the world or into a kitchen or maker space almost every week.

How about you? Is your term coming to an end soon? How are you feeling about it? Which activities will you bring back again because they were successful? What might you abandon because it fell flat?

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