Monday, March 21, 2016

Tuesday Tips: Provide Choice Within Structure- Using Pattern Sentences to Practice & Reinforce Vocabulary

STUDENT CHOICE in the elementary foreign language classroom (really at any level!) is a key component to increasing motivation and engaging learners. Frequently choice looks like student generated vocabulary, which can be tricky with novice learners who have small word banks. On top of that, you still need a common vocabulary for the class so everyone can participate and understand the language being used. Too many new words, used only once or twice, don't get the repetition needed to acquire them, and may not be high frequency vocabulary that you know your students need to learn.

ENTER THE PATTERN SENTENCE... a most lovely and useful tool for practicing and reinforcing vocabulary, while at the same time providing choice- WITHIN STRUCTURE. Imagine the sentence 'Olivia sees (a) _____'... a simple sentence with a high frequency verb. Now, start filling in the blank... 'Olivia sees a dog.' 'Olivia sees a car.' 'Olivia sees an apple.' 'Olivia sees....'  you get the idea! Now imagine your students filling in the blank- here's where the choice comes in! Instead of you deciding what Olivia sees, they do. Suddenly, kids are more engaged, they want to share their ideas, and the noise level goes up in a positive way.

NOW, I LOVE CHOICE, but I really love 'directed choice'.. in other words, my students choose from what they already know, rather than me becoming the translator for things like 'platypus', 'werewolf' or 'unicorn', words I have picked up along the way (and, please, don't ask why!) but are outside the common word bank my kiddos are working with. To make this easier for my students, I provide a bunch of pictures or objects as prompts for them to use in filling in the blank. This also aids in memory recall, and helps that kiddo that can't come up with an idea on the fly. Once they start filling in the blank, ask follow up questions, like '¿De qué color es el elefante? or '¿Es el elefante grande?' '¿Es chiquitito?' or '¿Es la salsa deliciosa?' and so on. Get really silly and ask '¿Es el elefante delicioso?'... you can create all kinds of funny answers while still sticking to what they already know!

WHAT I LOVE about this, too, is students show what they know, rather than being asked to recall a specific word or phrase, demonstrating their personal word bank which is unique to them. They pick from the list provided, saying a word THEY KNOW!

PATTERN SENTENCES also allow you, and your students, to stay 90% (or more!) in the target language, using comprehensible input while practicing and reinforcing high frequency vocabulary. Throw in a few new words here and there to add to their learning, especially during the follow up questions, where you can use cognates and either/or questions to their maximum effect...and have fun!

DID YOU KNOW? Many of our minibooks utilize pattern sentences in the storyline! Starting with a story means you start with the structure in context, which then provides the leaping off point for student choice.. visit our SHOP today!

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