Before we get to the good stuff, the usual ‘Scrambled Eggs’ caveat applies - I think I created this activity, but if not, please direct me to the originator so I can give them credit. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, you can read up on what went through Paul McCartney’s mind when he first played “Yesterday” here. In any case, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve gotten this activity from someone else, so speak up if you can help out.
The basic idea is that the students have a choice to write or wait.
- If a student has chosen write, they will try to write the entire sentence in Latin as you read it out loud.
- If a student has chosen to wait, they cannot write until after you’ve written the sentence yourself.
- You need a short piece of story (between 5-10 sentences is a good amount) that students haven’t read before. The activity really doesn’t work as well with seen material. I will explain why in a bit.
- You also need the ability to write or project the story ‘live’. I typically use a blank Google Document for this with the font enlarged. But I think this activity could work with old-fashioned writing on the board if you have enough space.
- Print that short piece of a story out so you have a copy to read for yourself.
- ***Spice Alert***🌶🌶🌶 To keep things interesting, I use stickers to give to the students that represent their two options - Write or Wait. I really prefer stickers that come in rolls rather than sheets for this. But before you pick some stickers, you will need to think about how to deploy them:
- You can give them blank stickers of 2 different colors (like these) and have them add the words ‘write’ or ‘wait.'
- You can give them blank colorful ones and then use a ‘fun’ type of sticker for the second option. Disclaimer - this is my preference.
- You can give them 2 different fun stickers, like these. The difficulty here can be for students to remember which sticker is which.
- Decide how many of each option you want to give students. If you have 6 sentences, you can give 3 writes and 3 waits. Or 2 and 4. Or 4 and 2. Giving numbers that are far from equal, like 5 writes and just 1 wait, takes a bunch of the fun and, according to students, a bunch of fairness, out of the game.
- Students will need standard writing stuff in your classroom - pencil/pen, notebook paper/large index cards.
- Hand out the stickers.
- Give students the special instructions for the stickers (e.g. write ‘wait’ on the red stickers, and leave the smiley face stickers alone).
- Have the projector at the ready, and have the students number the first sentence #1. Then ask ‘Write or Wait?’. Give students 10 seconds to decide and place their stickers on their papers, right next to the #1.
- Read the sentence out loud (Don’t put it on the board yet!) one time, at a moderately slow pace. It should be fast enough that there will be some mistakes but not so fast that no student in the class will get every word. N.B.: This takes some practice to pace it well.
- Pause long enough to make sure all students have stopped writing.
- Now repeat the sentence out loud as you put it on the board. I love typing it, and have the good fortune of a technology setup that allows me to do that easily. You can make it work writing on the board too, though, so technology isn’t absolutely essential for this lesson. Good to remember when your school’s WiFi glitches out!
- Do your normal classroom procedure for clarifying meaning and confirming that students understand before you move on. In my class, that means students' to ask 'Quid significat?' questions. When they understand and want to move on, they use a thumbs-up or the ASL sign for 'all done’.
- Repeat steps 4 through 8.
- Once students get into it, they will often celebrate or bemoan their choice to write or wait. This is good. This activity should produce high engagement from students - it taps into 5 of the 8 C’s of Engagement: Competition, Challenge, Curiosity, Controversy, and Choice. Here’s a quick summary of the C’s from Harvey Silver at the Thoughtful Classroom, and here’s a longer explanation if you’d like to become more familiar with them.
- As for the idea of Choice, I absolutely love activities based on choosing one of two. The students get the benefit of a choice, and if you structure it correctly, they feel like that choice matters. In this activity, it gives them a sense of control over what they are assigned to do and allows them to shape their experience during the lesson. But you avoid many of the problems that come with giving students unlimited choice or a choice they have to persevere through even if they discover it isn’t a good one.
- If you’re planning on asking students a story while typing it up in front of them, as Bob Patrick describes here, this is a great way to scaffold some of the skills they will need for that kind of lesson.
Thanks for reading!🌶🌶🌶