Tracking school questions and answers

If you’re like me, one of the problems you run into (no matter how you teach, what you teach, or grade level you teach)… how do you keep student brains from flittering away the moment you open your mouth to teach? One of the things that I really like about comprehensible input strategies, and ones that are becoming more commonplace in trainings and workshops, is the idea of  ‘everyone does everything’. Our students should be making their learning visible as often as possible whether it’s through a think-pair-share, a writing activity, a survey, clickers, or however else we want to assess their participation. By requiring students to make their learning visible, there is no hiding. Some may process more and faster than others, but everyone has to do SOMETHING to improve.

There are many varieties of strategies, but one I’ve been employing a lot this year at all levels is the PQA + quick quiz format. PQA can be about whatever the topic is that I’m trying to repeat. (Bryce Hedstrom’s ‘special person’ series is a good example of the power of PQA.) However, as Carol Gaab notes, circling becomes pretty repetitive pretty quickly (the brain craves novelty!) so I have to give them something to do while other students are responding. This is especially important in the 1:1 environment because it is just so, so, so tempting to look at last week’s football highlights on Hudl or check out those new fall scentsy holders on Pinterest rather than listening to teachers and other classmates (even though they really need to, to get in those reps!)

To combat that temptation, I have students take notes during the PQA. An example from a few weeks ago is Spanish 2, where we are recycling class information and adding new chunks like arrived late, forgot, brought (or didn’t bring), is/was ready, etc. To recap what we knew from last year, I created a simple chart in Google Spreadsheet and pushed it out to my students through Google Classroom. (If you don’t have access, obviously students can easily make their own charts.) Then I asked each student if they had X class. If they did, then I assigned that class to them. Of course, I could pick anyone for core classes, but only certain students take art, ag, cooking, etc.

After getting repetitions of the question, I then settled in to the meat and potatoes – each student was interviewed about their particular class and the other students had to fill in the information on their chart. On this particular day, we ran out of time, but then I could give a quick quiz. My quick quizzes are similar to other CI teachers’ accountability options – a 10 point, cierto/falso listening quiz about our topic for the day. I use them as a formative grade as part of our daily activities.

Taking notes isn’t necessarily the most exciting or engaging way to keep students active, but it’s a good standby for days when even your most enthusiastic storytelling skills aren’t keeping them as focused as you’d like. I also try not to use it too often – once a week at most. Again, the brain craves novelty, so I’m always trying to cook up new ways to keep students listening and busy so they focus on those ever-important repetitions.

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