This was a weird Friday…the week before standardized testing begins…and a university student dropped in to do his “community service,” but I wasn’t exactly expecting him…we were in the middle of semi assessments that not everyone had finished…
I don’t generally give homework to kids, at least not specific homework. At our school, there are too many kids who don’t do it. Or they’re already really busy. Read Alfie Kohn, and he’ll give you more reasons than I have.
Today I really wanted to see how my beginners would finish dealing with a page of sentence starters about Chapter 1 of Poor Anna. (I would have liked to have given them spaces for ten sentences of maximum import about the chapter so far, and then have them illustrate the sentences, but something told me that would be too unstructured and thus too hard for many in the class.) They had about 15 sentences starters: Anna is… Her father’s name is…Anna has problems with … because… Anna’s mother said… Sara… Elsa…
I added empty boxes for them to draw about eight pictures to go with any of the sentences that they wanted. (Now I’ll use those pictures for another activity later, since I can’t draw…)
The issue was that three or four kids had already finished, and I couldn’t count on leaving the rest alone while I did something extra for them. I sat with them for a while to help brainstorm, and they came up with a format that they would each play a character and introduce themselves to the class. It worked out great! They asked me for a couple of words, but mostly they used what they knew from the book. “Anna” acted like a complete snob, while her brother bragged about how he lies around on the couch all day. They were basically doing an impromptu actor’s circle, and laughing as they practiced (and as they added in new kids who’d finished). It helped that two of the group are actors, and they know how to practice and get the eye rolls and body language in there. They were having a great time, while the rest of the class was able to complete the assignment and start to join them. I’ve had a problem this year with this kind of little activities, since kids finish them at very different rates, and I don’t want to send them home as homework…so I don’t usually do them.
This was able to come about because I saw what the part of the Intermediate class did in a similar situation (with help from the university volunteer). They had finished chapter 7 of New Houdini, and they did a Dr. Phil style interview with each member of the family. That worked because they had a native speaker helping with their questions and answers in cases where they weren’t sure. That worked out great because I had an example to give them, but they tweaked it to not really need me.
I know this isn’t rocket science, but it sure made me happy that it worked. It meant that the small groups re-read their chapters again for a new reason, and they were able to have fun together.