Cheap technology trick

I signed up for the lab today.

Having typed up and embellished three stories that kids wrote yesterday to use the words “should” and “dreamt,” I gave them this assignment:

1. Read all the stories with your partner — read them in English, not Russian.

2. Draw a mural (sound like Laurie? I stole it) together that includes all the parts of just one story.

3. Each partner takes turns re-reading the story in Russian, while the partner points to the detail that each phrase or even word covers. Feel free to add to the drawing if you realize that you’ve forgotten something.

4. Then scan and e-mail me the murals.

It’s a pretty simple lesson plan. But my goals were: get lots of input, use the lab, have some fun on a Friday, and get those artists appreciated.

We’ll use the pictures next week for a speaking assessment.

13 responses to “Cheap technology trick

  1. Love it. When you say that they draw a mural, do you mean that they draw it on the computer or by hand. I don’t thing I quite understand the need for the “lab” except for scanning and emailing. Can you explain that for me? I really like the sneaky reading assignments where they have to dig around for “important elements” to get the story line across visually. There is so much communication between partners and negotiating meaning of text that goes on naturally without any input from the teacher (except brief clarification, perhaps). It really is “reading for a purpose–which is called comprehension). Yay! Sounds very fun!


  2. think, not thing :-/


  3. Jody, it’s just a good thing that you are not the technology police. You are absolutely right, except that in my case, I didn’t print out the stories, so they had to read on line. They liked the change of place (my other classes actually had to use some links that I’d made for them today, so I did have two classes doing more logically technologically-driven assignments), and so did I…some did use google docs as a place to build their murals, but it was not part of the requirement.

    I was thinking someone might notice that deficiency!! Just as long as it’s not someone at my school, that’s okay for now. People are always asking what projects I do in the lab, and I have to admit I don’t like projects. We’re going to do Nathan’s DYA story at the end of the year though. I love that. Need more of those.


  4. I’m with you on the projects–huge time wasters–so little to no input. The reasoning that somehow the projects will show acquisition is also a swiss-cheese argument–perhaps at upper levels where editing for presentation has some value–certainly not at lower levels. I don’t do them anymore. Life is better. My kids understand, speak and write more Spanish.

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that you were not using technology/lab enough. I know how that pressure can be at a school. If I go into the lab once a year, it’s news. The tech guys drop by, from time to time, with their ideas for “thematic output projects” they think I should try. Inside, I groan at the thought of explaining to them (one more time) how it is that language is acquired and that, as thankful as I am, I won’t be taking their suggestion. When I encourage them to help me find good sources of input at the appropriate language level for the kids, the conversation quiets and I never hear from them again.

    Have a great weekend and don’t think about school!!!!!


  5. Oh Jody, I didn’t even mean to imply that…I know we’re on the same page. I just thought it was funny that you saw right through me, and the admin who walked through yesterday didn’t notice a thing.

    The “assess acquisition” argument is as spurious as they come. I can do that in five minutes in a group story presentation. I just take notes on what they do/don’t do and arrange instruction around that. No technology needed…though I sure love my new Smart board for being able to write and save my notes!!

    We just had to do this evaluation in which we described our various uses of technology. One, amazingly enough, asked whether we do blogs and communicate with people around the country. Check!! But then we also had to say whether we engaged our kids in active use of technology to add to their curiosity and ability to be life-long learners (or something like that) in our subject. I don’t believe that anyone “gets” the fact that technology is actually interfering with many kids’ (and adults’) ability to focus; that it has done much to keep kids from reading — reading of books being one of those things that helps to develop focus — and that not every subject can be acquired more quickly because of technology; that projects, as you mention, often take away from our ability to offer more CI. (But I didn’t realize that myself until I started with TPRS three years ago, to be honest, even though I was a bit frustrated with the way many tech projects seemed to waste time.)

    That being said, I have a couple of kids who have used tech tools to jump way ahead in their learning. They read the Russian news every day or go on the Russian Facebook, or they practice the various vocabulary lists that I’ve put up on quizlet.

    But those are the kids who take every chance to talk with native speakers, and if those sources didn’t exist, those kids would be the first ones borrowing newspapers, looking at my files of “stuff” at lunch, and making vocabulary cards with me. I know, because the same kids existed in the old days.

    Wow. Talk about rants to the choir!


  6. You know, there’s nothing wrong for giving yourself credit for what your students are doing to the technology forces that be. As part of my ongoing homework assignments, my students are online all the time looking up music, talking to German friends through facebook, X-box and emails, doing vocab quizzes, etc. If the real purpose as your technology minders state is to establish lifelong learning skills, I think that those skills applied outside of the classroom demonstrate movement in that direction much more than long drawn out computer lab sessions do.

    The advantage we have over every other subject area is that for each language we teach there are literally millions of people creating usable material for us on a daily basis (videos, newspaper articles, music, social media, etc.) If I were ever pressed as to justify my use of technology, I would focus on what I feel is my responsibility to help my students participate in (not just “learn about”) that big German world out there, and then mention the tools I use to make that happen (videos, online articles, music, etc.).

    That said, I LOVE your cheap trick to get them to read more and re-process the stories again. So often when I do student generated stories the pressure from the students is to move on quicker to the next story so it’s hard to find processing time and get enough reps. What you are doing here gets them to re-process and even re-purpose existing stories which not only gives you the additional reps they need, but better justifies the initial investment the students made in creating the stories. I will be stealing that.


  7. I just thought of the other reason I did that reading: to remind them that I post our stories and other interesting stuff regularly on our class’ blog. I love it when I see that they subscribe to the blog.

    I haven’t started up the homework requirement this year yet…too many other moving parts for me up until now. When I do, I will do so in full knowledge that a lot of what they have been doing is using the Internet in ways that are tailored to their own interests. And I agree: the out-of-class sessions are a lot better in many ways than the whole-class things, because even though I would like them to just explore during that period whatever they’d like to do, it doesn’t work out really well because they’re social beings. Once a semester or so, the “explore something Russian” works as a lab assignment. It’s usually my first tech session of the year, so that I can introduce the new kids to the delights on my website, and then a much later one, when I am unable to think clearly for some reason.

    Here, for anyone interested (especially other Russian teachers!) is my links page for kids:


  8. Michele,
    I love your page of links! I got right on trying to make one like that for my kids. I have several web pages that are linked to sites for particular vocab or mini-projects. (e.g. imaginary shopping trip, converting euros to dollars at the end of a day in the lab, etc.), but liked your set up with the beginning things and more advanced etc.

    What is DYA? And does anyone want to share their rubric or whatever for the “have your kids go on line for homework” project. I had given it some thought and wanted to have my second year kids do something second semester where they go find something they like/love in French (a song, game, web-site, news, etc.) and then share what they find with the class. I would love to know what you guys are doing so I can head my plan in the best direction.



  9. Oops . . . got my acronym wrong: it’s CYA, or Choose your own adventure. That’s in the categories, and it’s Nathan’s brainchild.

    Also Nathan’s baby: the homework list. Nathan, have you shared that here? If so, could you point us to it, and if not, could you share it? It’s wonderful.


  10. I found the homework list, under the homework category, in this post: Nice to know that I’m occasionally organized!!

    I don’t really have a rubric…if kids write in their notebooks that they spent half an hour doing something, tell what it was, and make a comment about it, I accept that. They seem to tell the truth most of the time. I sometimes do the pie chart that Nathan does–telling what percentage of the class did what option. For that, though, I need to just pass around a piece of paper. Maybe I will do that: pass around a paper so they all write their 1/2 hour on it and then I don’t have to get the notebooks just to check what they did. They could pass that during FVR, which we are starting to do on Mondays.

    For this grade, if they do it, they get an A. If they don’t, it’s an F. But that’s an F where D’s start at 20% in my gradebook, and homework is under “Participation,” which is only 5% of the grade and it can’t wreck their grades if they don’t do it.


  11. Looks like you fielded that nicely. To add onto the “pass around a list” comment, what I do is create a table for each class that lists all of the student’s student numbers with several boxes to the right. (I keep a duplicate table “key” that lists the names next to the student numbers on the same positions on the table, so I can easily check who is what number). Then each Friday I pass around the list and have them list their quiz grades and a one sentence description of their homework on the list. I still have them give me a more complete write up of the homework (I use small pieces of paper because I’m too lazy to haul out the notebooks), but then I can just throw everything into the gradebook easily and not have to shuffle any papers each week.


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