32. Can you suggest second language development activities in small classes?

Small classes offer unique and extraordinary opportunities to provide maximum student participation in the learning and development of a language, whether a second language, or the language of a content area. For example, recently I had the opportunity to do a demonstration lesson in an actual class where only two students were present. The class is normally a small class but on the particular day of my demo, only two students were able to attend. What a great opportunity for maximum language development through maximum participation of the two students in attendance!!!

The teacher had asked me to demonstrate how to help English-speaking secondary students in a Spanish dual language program, read a short story in Spanish. The story told about a day in the forest, during a picnic, when the protagonists were attacked by a bear.

In planning the demonstration, the first step was to analyze the vocabulary in the story. I determined the meaning categories to which most words in the story belonged. For example, there were many words describing nature, the forest: names of trees, land formation, bodies of water, types of terrain, etc. Other words had to do with food since the protagonists were gathered for a picnic. There were descriptions of the protagonists, their physical and mental characteristics, their relationships prior to the picnic. Also there were specific words dealing with regional customs.

The next step in my lesson planning was to find pictures to illustrate as many of the new vocabulary words as possible. I needed to find pictures of "meadows" and different types of trees, typical clothes worn by the people in the region where the story takes place, foods, etc. My objective was to have students talk about a picnic they had attended, asking them where, when, who attended, what clothes were they wearing, what did they eat, what happened, etc. (If this would have been my regular class instead of a demo in someone else’s class, I would have asked the students, as homework, to find and bring pictures of the picnic they had attended, or bring any objects they took to the picnic.)

Another main goal of my lesson demonstration was the development of high level critical thinking skills by (1) comparing and contrasting different picnics including the picnic in the story they were about to read, and (2) deciding which picnic they would have liked to attend most and why. A very important language goal was to introduce as many new words from the story as possible through very active learning situations in order for the new vocabulary to become part of the receptive and expressive second language skills the students were developing. I strongly believe that one of the most important objectives to be achieved through reading is ACTIVE vocabulary development.

As the lesson began, I recounted a picnic I attended, to introduce, as I described my picnic, the meaning categories and the new vocabulary words and pictures I planned to introduce. Then one of the students attending recalled a picnic she attended and described the picnic in terms of the categories posted on the board. As she spoke, other words were added to the meaning categories. I asked the second student to compare and contrast the picnic I attended with the one the other student had attended. This activity allowed for a meaningful opportunity to use all of the vocabulary words posted on the board.

Then it was the other student’s turn to describe a picnic she had attended. More words were added to the board under the appropriate meaning categories. The first student then had the opportunity to compare and contrast the three picnics using all of the vocabulary posted under the meaning categories. Then I explained that in the story we were about to read, the protagonists attended a picnic. I asked the students what they wanted to know about this picnic. They began asking me questions: who, where, when, what clothes, what food, what happened, etc. Through questions formulated by students I was able, in my responses, to introduce all the new vocabulary and post it under the appropriate meaning categories. I showed all the pictures to clarify the meaning of the new words.

With the new vocabulary posted and organized by meaning categories, easily accessible for students to see and understand the meaning of all new words, I began reading the story, asking students to listen for words posted on the board that were used in this reading selection. I read a portion of the story and the students were able to tell me all the words I had read that were posted on the board. Then I read WITH THE STUDENTS: I would read orally, while they followed the reading silently. I would stop my reading every so often and they would read ONE WORD after I stopped. This very active reading strategy gave me evidence they were following along and understanding the story line as I was reading it.

Finally, the students cooperated in comparing and contrasting all picnics that had been described, my picnic, their picnics and the picnic in the story. They then decided which picnic was the most exciting, the one they would have liked to attend, and why.

In small classes, with few students, there is a great opportunity for the students to practice and become actively involved in using language. Similar opportunities are also available in larger classes if the teacher keeps all students involved by asking all students in the class, after each student response, "Do you agree?" This question allows ALL students to be actively involved in the communicative exchanges that should take place in language lessons at all times.



For more in-depth information, classroom demonstrations, and "coaching" of new and/or experienced teachers, Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK offers:

1. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
2. Cross Cultural Diversity - Multicultural Strategies
3. Effective Instruction for English Learners (L.E.P. students) Parts 1, 2, 3, 4
4. Promoting Academic Success in Language Minority Students
5. Cognitive - Academic Language and Vocabulary Development
6. Oral Language / Literacy Skills / Higher Order Thinking Skills
7. 50/50 Dual Language Programs: design, planning and implementation
8. The Structure of English / The Structure of Spanish
9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

Web Site Programs for Teachers: Numbers 1, 5, 7, 8, and 9.
Web Site Programs for
Paraprofessionals: Number 3.
Web Site Programs for
New Teachers:
Enhanced Cultural Sensitivity - The Challenge of Students Diversity
Identifying / Responding to Students' Language Needs
Phonemic Awareness: Teaching English phonics to L.E.P. students
Relationship Between Reading, Writing and Spelling
Improving Reading Performance -- Building Oral Language Skills)

Write and e-mail any additional questions you may have, and Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will establish with you, your school or district a Technical Assistance Service Contract. Dr. CARMEN SANCHEZ SADEK will answer all your questions promptly and to your satisfaction.


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