I got inspired by a combination of a post on Ben Slavic’s blog and an upcoming AAPPL test (link is thanks to our World Language Director).
The blog talked about giving a quiz that made kids dip back into their reading, but giving them every clue possible to make it super easy to skim for answers. The AAPPL demo (scroll down to the languages and test sections) would be worth using as a lab activity, even if you’re not using the test. At least the Russian practice tests are very nicely set up; you don’t need a login.
Kids worked in pairs that changed after every question. Everyone has read a particular one of our four books, so we used that one.
For the first part, I wanted to review meanings of verbs of motion in context, so I set up a small “quiz.” I listed a verb form, then the page and paragraph where that form was in a sentence. As soon as the information was shown, students had to find a new partner. I gave them just enough time, then pulled one name to answer. If the student got it right, they got a ruble (love the ruble system). My point was primarily to make them skim the reading that they’d already done, second to review verb of motion prefixes and suffixes (a sticky topic in Russian), and third to practice working in pairs on something easy to prepare for the real exercise. In my “old age,” I’m finding that it’s always best to pair something familiar with anything new. Jason Fritze has emphasized that idea when he says to use familiar vocabulary when teaching new culture, and I keep realizing how the advice fits many situations. “Something old, something new…”
The second activity was for students to use our “Star” questions. I’ve added a few new questions that have to do with kinds of information on the APPLL test, but I have also continued to work on tag questions. If the question is “What’s your name,” you can follow with “What’s your last name?” or “Are you named after anyone…” If it’s “What is your favorite music group,” it could be “Have you heard them in concert?” (This kind of training is good for life!) We put a question on the screen, students find a new partner, ask and answer the question and tag questions, and then I call on someone who introduces just this information about his or her partner. If s/he gets out something extra, I hand her/him an extra ruble.
This set of questions has been with us since the beginning of the year, when we interviewed everyone in turn. The translations were there to support beginners in the class. I’m too lazy to delete the English, also hoping to use them again next year. At some point I’ll have to copy and cut it back for beginners, and will probably take out the English on the advanced copy then.
When a band member returned from a small-group rehearsal at the end of class, I was happy to hear several kids say, “You missed a really fun class.”