Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Highlights from ACTFL 2014 / Higher Order Thinking

I've just gotten back from ACTFL in San Antonio and I have a notebook full of ideas I wanted to share here for future use. My first session was given by Carol Gaab and was entitled "Inspiring Higher Order Thinking." I work in DC public schools and an entire section of our evaluation rubric is devoted to higher level thinking in class and so I was eager to attend. As always I found the presenter full of energy and with some excellent ideas. For this session, Gaab used her biography about Felipe Alou.
(1) She first discussed how she selected particular vocabulary words from the text by looking both for the major themes of the novel and the highest frequency vocabulary words. For this text, Gaab chose the word "dream."
(2) To reinforce the vocabulary, she gave students five examples of different types of dreams and asked session participants to distinguish between "waking dream" and "sleeping dream." For example, "Felipe dreams of joining the major leagues" would be classified as a "waking dream" or a "goal" and "Felipe dreamt there was a monster under his bed" is a "sleeping dream."
(3) In order to give students more opportunities to practice the vocabulary she gave students various sentences about the main character and students had to decide if each statement were "probably" or "possibly" true. I like this strategy which is very similar to Martina Bex's "This or That" activity and can be modified in a variety of different ways.
(4) Gaab then suggested personalizing the vocabulary. Asking the students questions like "Do you have a dream?" "Do you always dream the same thing?"
(5) Next, Gaab asked participants to indicate which of the following words could be used to describe a dream: Event, Opinion, Goal, Wish, Reality, Future. She suggested distinguishing between long-term goals and short-term goals and, to demonstrate, showed us an impressive video of one of her own ESL students discussing his long and short term goals on video.
(6) After this last activity, Gaab transitioned from talking about dreams to talking about stereotypes (all of this in preparation for the students listening to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech). She introduced the word "judge" and asked students if they thought they were a judge. Anticipating that most would answer in the negative, she showed the audience several pictures depicting various stereotypes (an overweight woman, two goth kids, etc.) and asked us to write down three words describing each picture. She then asked us to share comments in order to see whether we commented on economic status, looks, age, etc., proving to us that we do in fact judge one another.
(7) Gaab followed up with a selection from the "I have a Dream" speech. She suggested giving the students a transcript while they listened and, ultimately, taking the script away after the second or third listen. I would also try to personalize the speech as much as possible and circle key vocabulary after each listen.
(8) As a post-listening/post-reading activity Gaab gave us several sentences and asked us to distinguish the sentences as either something MLK would say or would not say.

All and all I thought it was an excellent session and took away a ton of ideas. We are gearing up to read "Los Baker van a Perú" after the holiday and I'm looking forward to developing some higher order thinking with this text.

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