Didn't feel like going to class yesterday, was feeling very cranky. I was caught up in forecasting the weather, so to speak, that is what the classroom climate was likely to be like: W. disrupting the class, I. arguing with W. in Spanish about something trivial. Not ready for it... and to top it all off, just after I'd arrive on campus, a bunch of students (not from my class) walking in the center of the parking lot had stared me down angrily because I'd had the nerve to stop and wait for them to step aside so I could drive by. Ah to be young(er) again!
On the way to class, I spotted a laminated topographic map rolled up and sandwiched between two metal bars beneath the telephone booth next to the bookstore. I unrolled it and knew immediately that it must belong to one of the students; the Natural Resources teacher lends these maps out for homework assignments.
N. had already arrived and put all the desks in a semi-circle when I reached the classroom . She asked me to count them in case her tally was off. I thanked her. Other students started to trickle in, greeting me and asking how I was doing. They could probably hear the somber tone beneath my cordial reply.
I had cut pieces of paper in half before coming to class. Each sheet had about a paragraph that outlined plans for the weekend written by each student last Friday. I gave everyone the bottom half of their sheet to write what they'd done over the weekend. Next, I handed back the top half and asked each person to compare what she'd/he'd planned with what actually happened. Finally, on the back I had everyone write down why some of their plans had changed then collected all the writing. The whole thing lasted about fifteen minutes.
What to do next? People definitely were ready to chat, so I asked pairs to share their weekends and decide which of them had the best weekend. After that, the rest of us listened to each person in a pair talk about the weekend before choosing which of them had had the best weekend. If our guess matched the pair's selection of the best weekend, we gave ourselves a point. Everyone seemed to enjoy this and listened attentively.
Once we'd determined who had the highest scores, I had decided that the group could use some feedback on their production of certain language items that had come up during the previous conversation. How to provide feedback in context? It occurred to me that I should keep the game element alive and formulate some questions for the class about what they'd just heard. I explained that each person would get one point for simply writing down the correct number in answer to a question on the board. All questions began with "How many people said that they..."
I proceeded to use the language that had come out slightly crooked during the conversation in my questions. For example, many students had said they had called *to* their parents *from* their country over the weekend. I wrote up: "...called their parents in their country?" (the first part of the question already at the top of the board). This created a lot of discussion about who had said what and the difference between what people had done over the weekend and what they had shared with (said to) the class.
Finally, I asked each student to write a question for everyone. The number of people who could not give the correct answer (a number) would be the number of points the questioner received. Although I'd asked for only one question, some students wrote several. This final segment of our game went well and included more disagreement and arguing about who had said what.
In hindsight, I think I would add more language into the mix somehow, getting students to use the corrected language I'd fed back to them. I'd also have groups ask as many questions as they like instead of keeping it as a class activity. I think my decisions were based on the facts that we were in a relatively small room and had only two hours together today with a ten-minute break. I also needed time to return essays and answer questions about what I'd written on them.
By the way, the topo map I'd discovered in the phone booth turned out to belong to the class clown, I., who never fails to respond to my calling on him in class with a wry "Presente." Shortly before I announced my find, I. claimed someone else's topo map was his when I asked why the map was laying on a chair near my desk. When I. learned that I had his map, he gave up on the story that the other was his, fell to his knees in front of everyone, crossed himself and pointed a thankful index finger at me. You can imagine the laughter.
At the end of it all, I felt better than I had before.
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