Tag Archives: computer learning

Activity Corner: One-Question Surveys

(I thought it might be helpful to readers and myself if I described some of my favorite activities from time to time.)

In a One-Question Survey, each student has one slip of paper with a single question on it.  These questions are generally related, often by content.  They’re generally yes/no questions.  Each student is to ask each other student their question and tally up the results.

This is similar to my beloved Grid Activity, but with a One-Question Survey there is little writing, no record of how an individual answered, and it’s a much faster process.

The purposes can be to have students practice asking the same question repeatedly to work on their pronunciation and/or fluency, to reinforce key points of a lesson (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, content, etc.), or to gather data to aid in a math, Excel, writing, or conversation lesson.

Process:

  • Decide on your purpose.
  • Based on that, write as many different questions as there are students.
  • Model the process of asking the same question to everyone and tallying the results.
  • Give each student a different question.
  • Tell them to ask everyone, answer only Yes or No, and keep a tally of the results.
  • Debrief as a class.  How depends on your purpose.  Leave plenty of time for this – it’s the real meat of the activity.

Example (from Level 3):

Yesterday, we used a One-Question Survey in my Level 3 class in the context of our unit on cars and driving.

First, I modeled.  I took a slip of paper out of the pile in my hand and told them, “This is my question.  I’m going to ask everybody, including myself.”  I wrote it on the board, asked each student, and kept my tally on the board.

Then, I told them it was their turn.  I handed out questions we had talked about during the unit, such as “Have you ever gotten a ticket?”, “Do you speed?”, and “Do you cut people off?”  You can see we used all sorts of grammar.  This was for two reasons: a) it’s Level 3, so they already know a lot of grammar, and b) our focus was not on a grammar point, but on the content and vocabulary.

I asked them to ask all students, including themselves, and also to ask me.  I said that the only answers should be “yes” or “no.”  And I asked them to keep a tally.

When they were finished, we went through the questions and put them into an Excel spreadsheet that automatically calculated percentages for us.  This was to reinforce some of our computer lessons from last month.  At this point, it was time to go home.

Next time, I’d be more careful to make sure that each student understood his/her question.  In a few cases, students thought they understood, but they were mistaken.  We easily cleared this up during the debriefing time, but it would’ve been more powerful if students could have accurately explained to each other during the survey time itself.

Next time, I’d also like the debriefing to be more than just an Excel demo.  It could be a full-out Excel lesson, or even better, fodder for a conversation and/or writing assignment.  So, I recommend leaving plenty of time to work with the survey results.

Other content possibilities:

  • Warm-up: have students ask innocuous personal questions.
  • Graphs: use the data to practice graph-making, either analog or with Excel.
  • Academic writing: using the survey results, students can summarize, compare and contrast, predict based on, and explain the data.
  • Grammar: all questions should use the same structure.
  • Content: cut up a practice test with multiple-choice questions and have each student tally up answers A, B, C, and D.  Look at the results as a class.  Go over right answers and identify weak spots together that the students should study.
  • Google Docs: send students to the same Google Spreadsheet and have them enter their data simultaneously.

Journal: Easy Writing and Confusing Computers

Students: 12

One thing that went well:  We’re on our second big writing project, and this one is much easier for the class.  They’re writing letters.  I think it’s more concrete than just an opinion piece, so it’s less nerve-wracking, less academic, and possibly more useful.  Note to self: start with this one next time.

One thing to improve:  I’ve kind of stopped writing the daily plan on the board (i.e. 1. writing, 2. reading, 3. computers), but I think I should start again.  I just think it’s better to give the class a bit of a road-map of where we’re going on a given day.

One surprise:  The computer lesson.  Today’s topic was judging Google results.  I stated the goal (to judge Google results).  I demonstrated.  I checked for understanding.  We repeated the goal together.  The class had a sparsely-worded assignment to refer to.  But it turned out that a few people still had no idea what we were doing.  I discovered this when they emailed me answers that had nothing to do with judging Google results.  Sigh.  I shouldn’t have been surprised – my less tech-savvy students were the most confused ones.  Leveled computer classes, please!

Journal: A Quick Morning

Students: 12 (no public school today, so many parents had to stay home)

One thing that went well:  The Excel presentation didn’t put most people to sleep.  It should have put a couple to sleep because they’re already pretty quick with Excel, but I think they were too polite to flagrantly conk out. 

One thing to improve:  The grammar quiz I gave was both grammatically difficult and logically difficult.  The results might still be worth something, but I have to realize that they measure is not just their understanding of the meaning Present Perfect, but also their “If X = Y, and Z means X > Y, then Z is false” logical abilities. 

One surprise:  Time.  It went super quickly today.

Journal: Spreadsheets and Apples

Students: 16

One thing that went well:  This week was “The Week of the Spreadsheet,” and I think it went well.  I liked that I demonstrated what spreadsheets could do first (in daily mini-demos) rather than focusing on how to find Excel and how to save your document – it made many of the students curious, and a few even asked if they could make their own soon (Why yes! So glad you asked!).  I also liked that all of the instructions were computerized.  I had them download and print Word documents of instructions from my website (mwahaha, high expectations), and they did great.  I also liked the fact that they all had the instructions and I wasn’t trying to synchronize a class of 16 on each step, (“Ok, has everybody found Excel?  No?  What about now?  Ok.  Now, click in the first box.” – that would have been a nightmare).

One thing to improve:  In short, instructions.  Explanation-wise, I never made it very clear that the reason we were asking each other questions and writing down the answers in grids was so that we could enter that information into our spreadsheets.  It was pretty easy to clarify, but whoops, it was an avoidable hiccup.  Format-wise, a quick audio/visual presentation would have been easier for some of the students with lower computer skills.  I could have made such a thing with Jing - it just would have taken a long time to make, mostly due to my inexperience.  The Word docs served their purpose and it was handy that they could print, but I should really give upgrading to video a try!

One surprise:  I worked with a student during break, one of the ladies who’d scored surprisingly low on the quiz yesterday.  When we were finished, I went to get my water bottle out of my tote bag, and inside it I discovered a plastic shopping bag with three apples in it that I definitely hadn’t brought with me.  They were from a couple of other ladies in the class, they said from the Amish market.  Delicious.  And now I can say that I’ve been appled.

Journal: First Day of Computer Lab

Students: 18

One thing that went well:  The warm-up turned out to be quite a success.  We practiced each other’s names.  I kicked things off by saying we should test the teacher.  I went around the room and named everyone who was there so far.  (100% correct, not because I worked at it, but because names generally come easily to me.)  Then we split into two groups and did name chain drills that rapidly turned into free-form name repetition, which I had no problem with.  Next, we mixed up the groups a bit and repeated.  We wrapped up with a second test for the teacher because more students had arrived since my first test.  Everyone is very friendly but maybe a little shy, and they seemed to really enjoy this excuse to get to know each other a little bit more.

One thing to improve:  We’re doing some process writing, and we’re getting to the point where they need more individual time from me for guidance, corrections, etc.  I’m not really sure how to provide that in a class of 18.  Weekly conferences?  Email?  I’m not sure what’s best.

One surprise:  Our first computer lesson was not an unmitigated disaster.  Granted the room was locked when we got there (just like last semester), getting everybody up and running went slowly, and the room was seriously cold.  Still, they all got to my website, and all but one student successfully filled out the online survey I’d made to get a sense of their computer skills and their interests.  I didn’t realize I was missing someone because I had 18 answers and 18 students.  It turns out that somebody filled it out twice… with totally different answers each time.  Ah well.  We made it through, they’re more familiar with my web resources, and I’m more familiar with their interests and needs.  A surprisingly solid start!

Journal: Very Pleased!

Today there were 21 students.

For a warm-up, I gave out piles of four scrambled sentences.  Students worked on making four proper can / have to sentences out of them in groups of 3 or 4.  It was part grammar, part riddle: even if they created two grammatically perfect sentences, they might have to switch words in and out of them to be able to make all four correct sentences simultaneously.  And the thing is… they did it!  It was really challenging, but they were ready and willing and they did it.  I was really happy with their work, and I hope they could tell!

We then did some work with personal calendars.  I showed them the three-day view of my Google Calendar on the screen and we did some calendar reading comprehension.  I then had them write lists of what’s on their schedules today, tomorrow, and Saturday.  Next, they drew and filled in their own calendar grids modeled after mine on the board.

That’s when our fluency activity kicked in.  Everybody had to have a minimum of five conversations with other students based on their real life calendars.  It was more or less to this effect:

A.  Can you go ice skating tomorrow at 3?
B.  Sorry, I can’t.  I have to cook dinner for my family.
A.  How about at 1?
B.  Sure!  That sounds good.

I was pleased that they were grammatically ready enough and that we worked with their real lives.  I asked them how it felt to use this language, comfortable, so-so, or uncomfortable.  Nobody said they were uncomfortable, and they seemed in good spirits.

Now we’re about to work on the most recent post from the homework blog together – my very first homemade audio post!

Journal: Moving to Fluency Practice

Today I had a total of 23 students attend class, though we were a class of 20 as class ended at noon.

One interesting challenge that’s come up is that my enrollment cap is thirty, but there are only 21 computers in a computer lab.  So far I’ve never had more than 21 students at computer time…

Anyway, we were very grammar-heavy in yesterday’s class, focusing in on the structural similarities and differences in using “can” and “have to.”  I really wanted to get beyond the form, meaning, and even pronunciation fo  of the words and into usage.  To do this, I needed to design a fluency activity.  This means I had to set the stage, step aside, and let them use the language. 

To set the stage, they needed a quick vocabulary review of different activities.  I tend to struggle with vocabulary, but I was pleased with how this one turned out.  By the end of this activity, they had gotten up out of their seats, reviewed the vocabulary, demonstrated some level of understanding by putting it on a spectrum, and put a huge word bank on the wall to prepare for the upcoming writing activity.

Here’s what we did:

  1. At home, I wrote 22 activities on 22 notecards in dark ink.
  2. I wrote on the board, “Shh!  Do not read the cards out loud!”  I drew a picture of a card and wrote “secret” on it.  I explained verbally too.
  3. I asked a student in the front to tape a card to my back.  Naturally, someone read it out loud.  :)  We repeated the directions and laughed.  I demonstrated that I could not see it, but everyone else could.
  4. I taped a card to each student’s back.
  5. First, students walked around silently, reading each other’s backs.  I demonstrated first, and gave them 5 minutes.
  6. Second, each student had to figure out what was on his/her back, still with no talking.  I demonstrated the charades game and told them they had to act.  I gave them about 7 minutes.
  7. After they’d figured out their cards, I had them tape them to the top of the blackboard, organized from great exercise through no exercise (for example, play basketball and talk on the phone were on opposite ends of the board). 

I was very happy that it was quick, interesting, and a nice transition piece.

The writing activity was to write three invitations using “can.”  For example, Can you play golf on Saturday morning? 

We then used these invitations to begin the part of lessons that tends to make me nervous: fluency practice.  For fluency practice, the teacher sets the stage and then backs away to let the students actually use their English.

Students paired off.  Using their written work either as a script or as inspiration, they invited each other to do things.  The invitee made up an excuse using “have to” (i.e.  Sorry, I have to teach class then.).  Then we changed the rules so that the invitee had to accept (i.e. yes, sure, good idea). 

Tomorrow, we’ll do a small amount of accuracy practice, probably sentence scrambles.  We’ll spend much more time making calendars and having some real conversations about them with even less of a script than we had today.  We’ll see what happens!

Journal: High Energy Day!

Today was super fun!

What surprised me:

  • We got a computer lab!  For the exact days and times I was hoping for!  Wooo!
  • I had 19 students!  Yesterday we were at only about 11.  Several were people who moved up from my class from last semester, so it was like a chain of mini reunions as familiar faces walked in the door.
  • How long one tiny grammar point, just quickly “covered” in the book, took to practice. 
  • The student who asked me to do the Homework Blog over the break told me that she used it a lot!  I’m not sure if she meant the blog specifically or my Computer Class page of resources, but either way, I was very excited to hear that at least one student got extra study guidance from it.

What went well:

I think I did a good job of staying out of the spotlight today.  I liked the emphasis on students learning each other’s name.  First we used a standing chain drill, then quizzed volunteers to try to say everyone’s name in the circle.  Then we sat back down and took turns being the teacher, asking one student how to spell his/her name and writing it on the board.

Overall, I like our textbook, particularly the TV series it comes with.  One of its weaknesses, at least for my classes, is that it crams a ton of material into not just one unit, but any given page.  I took one tiny piece of the grammar suggested for Monday’s lesson and we practiced it (meaning, accuracy, and fluency) for a large chunk of the class time.  Also, it was great to do a lesson in that format.  I learned it in TEFL class, and it’s just a great format. 

I was pleased that I had the good sense to ask students to self-identify their computer level before we went down to the lab.  Some people had already publicly told me they were computer beginners, so I wasn’t afraid to ask everyone who needed help getting to the internet to raise their hand.  I asked them to look at each other and to sit together when we got to the lab.  I explained that I wanted to help them without running all over the room.  It worked out well.

What needs improvement:

A couple of grammar details surprised me during class.  I didn’t have a problem handling these surprises, but they could have been prevented if I had prepped the point itself (as opposed to our practice of it) more thoroughly.  This is the type of thing that will get more and more automatic as my accumulated knowledge grows, but right now I need to keep on it!

Thoughts for Next Week:

I already miss having a beginning routine like we did last semester.  I don’ t think the dates practice will serve this class as well as it did Level 1.  Ideas I’m kicking around include spelling dictation practice and vocabulary games of some kind. 

Looking forward to starting the “Getting In Shape” unit!  I’d also like to incorporate some additional reading into our work.

Journal: Day 1 Again!

It was a lovely Day 1!

What a difference it makes to already know where to park, where to go when the copier is broken, who to ask for a computer lab, and some of the students in the class.

What surprised me:

  • how drastically the new pre-registration process cut down on first-day paperwork nonsense.  Yay office!
  • the profundity of an error in which a student wrote, “I am not grammar.”
  • I had exactly the same number of Spanish speakers as Korean speakers, meaning that I could make conversation pairs in such a way that they needed their English.

What went well:

I was happy with my pre-teaching of the grid activity, both content and process.  The students found out about each other and practiced some slightly tricky listening as well (“What do you do?” vs. “What do you do on weekends?”)

We got our minimal paperwork and policies out of the way with little pain and little confusion.

We were pretty focused on the question, “What is the most important to study?  Reading, writing, listening, speaking, computers, or grammar?”  We talked about the meaning, separated into conversation pairs, and then wrote responses.  I liked that they practiced different modalities while giving me input about how class should look for the next semester.

What needs improvement:

One of my students is significantly hard of hearing.  Being loud is helpful but isn’t enough.  I need to be much more mindful of how I can support what I’m saying with writing.  This will also help the students who can hear but have trouble understanding.

The class needs more structure, but I’m having trouble getting one into place when I don’t know for sure if I’ll be able to have a computer lab or not.  I did put in a very sweet request – I just hope it can work out.

Also, I discovered a few students who apparently have trouble sitting next to each other and getting in-class writing done at the same time.  I actually had them all at one point last semester, so we already have a good rapport.  I used this rapport to tell them I thought they were distracting each other.  I’m not here to treat adults like children, but I will be watching them like a hawk to see if I need to respectfully split them up, at least during the next writing activity.

Thoughts for tomorrow:

Stay student-centered.  Lay some grammar groundwork for the beginning of the unit on Monday.  Reading.  Continue trying to get a computer lab.  That should do it!

Journal: Computer Helper Update

Just wanted to quick follow up on how computer time went today. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I found that one student needed not just lots of help, but constant help.  I was not able to provide that alone as the sole instructure in the room.  I asked one of the other students if he could help her for one session, and he said yes.

I was conflicted about whether or not I should do this.

I decided to try it because the status quo was a waste of her time  and asking another student to help was the only workable solution I could think of.

Today I gave Teacher Student the struggling student’s online learning login.  I also told him and wrote down for him an end goal for the student, “She can use USA Learns with little help.”  I said today this is maybe not possible, but we can start. 

I also gave some related targets:  

  • she should stop mousing sideways (it looks very uncomfortable!)
  • she should understand
    1. the meaning of key buttons on the USA Learns interface (“next,” “listen,” “check,” etc.), and
    2. that she should click on them to cause the appropriate action to take place (i.e. if she wants to go to the next page, she should click “next.”).

Teacher Student said that she made progress with mousing and with understanding what the buttons did.  He also said that he liked working with her, and that he would feel good working with her again if need be (I checked twice, and I think he both understood me and was being honest). 

Interestingly, the student still absolutely hates computers.  Hates.  So even now that we have some of the mechanics more under control, we have a new problem that’s even more important to address: convincing a 70+ year old that it is worth her time to learn how to use this new-fangled contraption.

I have a few thoughts on making them seem relevant to her, but do you have any suggestions?  Thanks in advance!