This is an activity that does a great deal in a short period of time! It’s easy, can be done several ways, and is helpful for teachers and students. Win Win!!
Start by creating several squares or rectangles on a whiteboard or computer-projected document. I usually start with four and build from there. As you can see below, I label each square with a question word. (Usually in the target language, but in English below for my readers.
I have students create one as well. ( Use small white boards, index cards, or print a sheet/half-sheet out for them in advance.)
In the Who? Block, I ask students to list the names of two people/characters (actual or fictional, present-day or historical, human or not) that they admire that are positive role-models. I often use Harriet Tubman as an example. They are given 2-3 minutes to think of names. Then I have them share with a partner and “harvest” on to their own list any of the names they agree with. The pairs then match up with another pair and repeat the process on my signal.
At that point, each group can share out their ideas and we create one large list together from their suggestions.
We then repeat the process for the other squares.
Where: List school-appropriate places where your students like to be/go or would like to be/go. With novice groups, proper names (Starbucks, Disneyland etc) are used. With groups with more language, we add the target language tag (el café Starbucks) to the proper name. The proper name is important for interest! If your students know the target language name for a culturally-related place (countries, cities, landmarks), fantastic! The key here is places that are high-interest for your students!
It is amazing what you discover about your students during this exercise!! Be careful accepting names and places that you don’t recognize. Set them aside on a “To Google Later” list!!! Sly students like to try to slip those past us!
1. List items that can be recognized by the proper name. This one usually requires teacher support to get started:
Food/Drink: Coke, Mountain Dew, Orangina, Milky Way, Doritos, etc. Cognate-friendly languages can also use those ie: pizza, chocolate or more universal terms: crepes, tacos.
Technology: Ipad, Mac, Iphone, remote, Facebook, Insta, Minecraft, Playstation, Fortnite etc.
Shoes: Nikes, Toms, etc.
Transportation: Segway, Porsche, Tesla, Schwinn, Greyhound, local metro or lightrail (BART etc.)
Highly-recognizable Animals: Chihuahua, Condor, Gorilla, etc
2 Actions that students know in the target language:
TPR’d terms are the easiest to start with: walk, run, sit, stand, looks at/for, points to, dances, eats, drinks, sings, takes, takes pictures of, etc.
How: Because many teachers use TPR, these are interesting and accessible terms for many classes: Slowly/Quickly, Romantically, Without interest, Intensely, Carefully, Like a baby etc.
When compiled, we have a gorgeous, student-created, highly personalized list of things to use in discussions, stories, etc. We can create one list to use with all classes, or create one for each level/class.
It can be printed in large font, or hand-written on poster paper (students love this job!) It can be printed out for notebooks or projected on a screen. It can be done with words or in picture form for pre-literate students of any age.
This way it is visible whenever needed and it makes asking questions, personalizing discussions and co-creating stories so much easier!!
Look below for some examples. These are from this year’s Comprehensible Online presentation. Any questions? Just ask!!