Stress of the season hits me, just as much as any other teacher. I want to have fun with students, but also to set finals that demonstrate how much they’ve acquired.
Robert Harrell spent a lot of time on a Readers’ Theater (RT) demo in his ACTFL presentation. Once I participated, I knew I was going to use RT more effectively in my language classroom than before.
First of all, he made sure we understood the German legend that he had chosen to work with. Then strong readers read the dialogue from “within” the class. Next, Robert taught us some phrases to shout. He had an empty dialogue bubble which one person’s job was to hold up at appropriate times for their group. The readers read, and the class decided whether they were reading loud enough, quietly enough, with rage, with fear…I still know those lines from the German legend by heart!
I came home, and tweaked the RT exercise to be one part of our Semester 1 final. Earlier this week, I told kids (who are reading from four different books) that they should pick a section that would make a good RT section. Yesterday I told kids that we were going to practice for the final by picking a different, shorter section. For the final, each group member must be speaking for at least 90 seconds total. Yesterday, they had only to do 30 seconds.
From Robert, I had learned that props and labels help, so students had to find and/or create those. One person (at least) in the group had to introduce the book, and one person had to introduce the section of the book that the group would use. Those “narrators” could not read. They had to look at the class and speak. Oh…the group also had to pre-teach any book-specific vocabulary they thought the group might not understand.* The readers could read, but actors had to truly act.
Kids searched through their books for appropriate pieces, then actors kept re-reading their parts, trying to get them right for the group, and narrators kept scanning their sections. My goal was less to hear them speak than to motivate them to re-read. Students had a choice as to whether they were actors or speakers, and I’m pleased that I did the “short” pre-test run, because I could comment on the rubric and even adapt it a little before finals. The whole group will get credit for having all the pieces there (about 1/4 of the grade), and each person gets credit for a speaking part.
The RT itself was entertaining, partly because of the props, and partly because of the action and the voices. New classroom stars emerged! So glad I went to Robert’s presentation.
I presented at ACTFL too – on creating website portfolios. Today my students were finishing up adding their end-of-semester writing and speech samples to their portfolio websites. What improvement! They’re a lot less afraid now to record their voices, for one thing. The length of the fast-writes has almost uniformly doubled, and the speech samples were getting long enough that I had to move around reminding them to stop at two minutes. For the speech samples, I asked students to listen to what they’d recorded in August, and expand on that topic. I am glad to say that this works, though I missed getting the end-of-first quarter samples. Probably that’s for the best, since the longer period shows more growth. I haven’t looked at the “Language Acquisition” pages, on which they reflected on how they’ve worked on their Russian outside class. I wonder whether that piece will be instructive.
I was going to have students call Google Voice and put their recordings in myself, but I’ll try doing that with the second speaking section of the final, which will be a response to the characters, the acting, and/or the stories that their classmates present on Thursday. Should be fun to hear!
*Seeing the vocabulary that students thought their classmates might not understand was illuminating. Every group had at least one cognate. “Telegramma.” “Organizuyem.” “Militsionyer.” And one other that I can’t remember. I would never have bothered to post these words, because I’d assume the kids would understand them. I have to get over that!