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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Scaffolding Reading Comprehension in a Foreign Language Class

I wanted to share a lesson from one of my fellow's classes.  Helping students in Spanish 3 to get comfortable with reading their first novel that is fully in a foreign language requires a lot of support and scaffolding.  Not only do they need to understand grammar and vocabulary used throughout the novel, but they also must be able to piece everything together enough to comprehend the storyline. 

To facilitate this learning, we decided to utilize several instructional strategies (both with and without tech) that would allow students to process their reading.  As students worked through the novel, we tried to utilize different strategies (matching with each of the four goals below) to keep students on their toes and to keep things fresh.

The goals for the novel & strategies to help meet each goal.

STEP 1: Prepping for Comprehension + Working with Vocab / Verb Tenses

Before reading the first couple pages, students read a summary passage that one of last year's students had written. Using GoFormative, they edited the passage for grammar, verb tense, and agreement. In addition to exposing them to new vocabulary and helping them build their skills around using the correct verb tense, reading the summaries helped to prepare their minds for what they would see next.

STEP 2: Reading & Annotating chapter (supported with TPR)

While students could have used Google Docs or Kami (PDF annotation) to read and annotate the novel, we wanted them to do this on a hard copy so they wouldn't have to be navigating between multiple screens for the upcoming activities.  In addition, because this is their first exposure to reading a novel completely in a new language, we wanted to keep the "comfort" of being able to read and annotate with pencil & highlighter.  After reading and annotating the first 4 pages of the novel individually, the students reviewed the events they had just read about through a TPR "Total Physical Response" activity, where Mr. Miranda guided the class in "acting out" what had happened.

STEP 3: Sequencing Key events together

Students then got in collaborative groups to put together a sequence map of the events in the novel. Utilizing Google Drawing's Explore feature, they were able to bring in images that helped to communicate what was happening in the story.  The goal of building the Google Drawing was to ensure students had a level of comprehension of the key events in the novel.

STEP 4: Writing about the key events in the chapter & Analyzing vocab / verb tenses

Lastly, they used Verso App to write their own summary, taking what they learned from the sequence map and putting it together in complete, comprehensible sentences, focusing on the vocabulary and appropriate verb tense. Once all students submitted their summary, they were assigned another student (Verso App keeps student names anonymous) to critique, evaluate, and make recommendations for how to improve their writing.  Because all posts in Verso are numbered, it was easy to give each student a number corresponding to a different post to evaluate.

One of the challenges is getting students to summarize in their own words and not just take key phrases from the novel.  To overcome this, we had to make the Verso response a "closed text" response (can't have the novel out).  Students could still access their Google Drawing sequence map to help with their writing.

alternate STEP 4: Speaking about the key events in the chapter

Using either Let's Recap or Adobe Spark, students summarize the key events in the chapter orally rather than in writing.  With Let's Recap, Mr. Miranda just saw their face via webcam, which allowed him to watch their pronunciation.  With Adobe Spark, students brought in images to aid in telling the story of the chapter.  You can see a sample Adobe Spark here.  The students recorded them in class, so there is background noise.  However, that does not take away from the goal of the activity.

Overall Reflection:

Students found most of the activities helpful (either "a little" or "a lot").  They were most uncomfortable with activities that forced them to speak (using Adobe Spark or Let's Recap), but that is a goal they are working towards and should get more comfortable over time. 

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