Style: "70's look"

So, first day back, the key item on the agenda is an abstract.  It intimidatingly dense in both syntax and vocabulary.  The particular challenges of this class are

  • relatively low energy, buy-in
  • weak critical reading skills
  • dominance of one language group (Chinese)
  • over-reliance on technology.

Plus, they’re jet-lagged and not all happy to be back here.

Still, I want them to understand the abstract, as it’s necessary for the course.  I also think the practice with difficult reading will be useful.  Plus, I don’t want them to hate me.

Here’s my plan:

1.print out abstract double spaced, large font, sentences numbered

2. assign one sentence to each group

3. ask group to

  • parse sentence
  • use cell-phone dictionary to provide definitions for words they don’t know
  • paraphrase sentence in less academic vocabulary
  • translate sentence into L1
  • write proofread product on chart paper
  • present  sentence to rest of class

4. ask students to write individual paraphrase of abstract.

In the class, everything went according to plan except for the last point of #3 and #4.   Instead of asking them to present, I had them  post the sheets of  chart paper in order.    Students walked from sheet to sheet, discussing, comparing, and taking pictures of the information. This was less time-consuming, and also better for interaction: more collegial, less top-down.   We didn’t have time for #4, so we did a quick re-cap together to confirm comprehension.

I liked the way this went because:

  • by making cell phones and L1 part of the plan, I headed off sources of conflict from the beginning
  • students could focus better on the reading when it was broken down into something less overwhelming
  • the kinetic element helped them stay alert
  • the L1 element was interesting and enjoyable, but it also fed into the main topic  for the term — linguistic aspects of globalization

What’s more, I think the lesson did achieve its immediate pedagogical goal — they came to understand the abstract on a much deeper level than they would otherwise have done.  I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to #4, but I’ll see if I can make time for it when I do it with the other section.