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.