Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Weekly questions: A quick way to build oral proficiency

Part way through the year last year, I realized that a number of students were having trouble answering basic questions that we'd gone over in class. When I started thinking about it, I realized that they were able to answer the question when we went over it, but that we didn't really have enough practice with it for them to be able to answer it a week later (or even a day later in some cases). I really feel like I should have thought of this years ago, but I decided to start doing a weekly question, where I ask students a different question each week, and I ask them the same question each day of a given week. I go around the classroom and talk to every student every day. This has a couple of benefits. First, I talk to every student every day, so there's never a day that I haven't had contact with a student. Second, students get enough reps with the questions to understand them and be able to answer appropriately. This year, I've added an element of accountability by taking a grade at the end of the week.

In the course I taught at the community college over the summer, I did a variation of this. We only had class two nights per week and the class moved really quickly, so a weekly question didn't really fit with the schedule, but I made a list of essential questions that students needed to be able to answer in Spanish. The book for the course was very grammar-focused, so having the list of essential questions helped point the focus back to learning Spanish to communicate. 

My weekly questions vary based on content. In Spanish 1 this week, our weekly question is ¿Cómo se escribe tu nombre? In Spanish 2, it's ¿Qué clases tomas?, and in Spanish 3/4 it's ¿Qué haces en un día típico? (and I clarify that I want them to name 3 things). Students sit in groups of 3-4 and ask and answer the question in their groups while I go around and talk to everyone. It does result in a few minutes of down time for larger classes since it takes me a little while to get around the class, but it's worth it to me to have that interaction with every student every day.