On this post I would like to concentrate on the Receptive processing phase of Dr Conti's E.P.I methodology. After the introduction of the new language/sentence builder through intensive modelling and awareness raising stage the next stage in my delivery is the receptive processing phase of the sequence of lessons that I have planned for a unit. I would spend on this phase approximately 2 lessons, but depending on your classes this may vary.
It involves a high intensity processing practice of enriched controlled input through receptive skills - listening and reading. I remain on this phase until I am satisfied that students' receptive knowledge is firmly embedded. The aim of this stage is to practise, practise, practise the language without cognitive overload. Students will still use their MWB in this phase.
In these unprecedented times, when schools across the country are not allowing students to use shared resources including MWB and if your students do not have their own MWB in the planner, you can always use a digital mini white board such as whiteboard.fi. You will have to create a class and share the code with your students. However, this requires students to have their own devices to join the class with their board to be then displayed on the main classroom screen.
This might not be an option for many schools on tight budgets, so another cheap alternative would be to laminate a piece of paper which can serve as a MWB and can be shared within the year bubbles.
So what activities could you use for this stage?
Please note, that students can still refer to their Sentence Builder during this phase if needed and this is only a small fraction of the activities that can be used. However, these are the activities I, as someone who is still rather new to this methodology, feel pretty confident using now.
Translations from L2 to L1 activities
These could include faulty (bad), running, mad or delayed translations. Below is an example of year 8 'Faulty translation', type of a task which I regularly use in my lessons. Students need to look at the text in L2 and compare it with the translation to L1 and try to find all of the mistakes. When I first started this activity, my students were rather confused as to why I would make mistakes in the translation, however once they have come to understand that it was done on purpose, this activity now often turns into quite a competition.
On purpose I do not tell them how many mistakes there are, but give them a time limit to find as many as possible in the given time frame.
One pen one dice translation - from L2 to L1. Students work in pairs, using only one pen and one dice. Students agree who will start with the pen first (it could be the youngest/oldest one) and can start translating from L2 to L1. The other person must keep rolling the dice until they roll an agreed number for example a 6. When they roll 6, they must say "sechs" and swap the dice for the pen. Then they can start translating. The winner is the one who finishes first.
If it is not possible to share a dice you could use an electronic dice such as one from teknologic
. I roll the dice and students translate.
Example of one pen one dice translation
Delayed translation - from L2 to L1. Sentence is displayed, after 10 seconds it disappears and students have to translate it. If students are confident and working well or tell me 'This is easy!', I like to challenge them and I add another sentence so they see 2 or 3 short sentences or one extended one and they have to then erase the previous translations and translate the whole sequence. We use MWB for this as well. Most of my classes get really excited about this and I have done this challenge even with my bottom set with about 70% of them able to translate 2 sentences at once with a decent degree of accuracy.
I strongly believe it is important to develop students' memory capacity and this type of task will do that.
Sentence puzzles - solving problems through thorough processing, using activities such as tangled translations or pyramid translations - L2 to L1 at this stage.
Pyramid translations - working in groups of 3. One person is the referee with the answers, the other two students take it in turns to translate each sentence perfectly. If they make a mistake, the referee must tell them and the other partner can start translating from the start. The first person who translates the sentences perfectly is the winner.
Example of pyramid translation
You could even use Tangled translations but only do the section where students translate into L1 and leave the section where they translate into L2 for the Structured Production or Expansion phase.
Example of tangled translation
Narrow listening activities
Spot the missing detail -
explain to the class they are going to listen to a text in which some words have been left out. Provide a hand out with the missing words/write missing words on the board.
There are no gaps to indicate where the omissions are. As the text is read out they can note the missing words on their MWB/on a sheet or in their exercise book.
When I teach my two top sets I do not provide this as so far they were able to complete this task without the support.
Example with missing detail
Example with gaps filled
Spot the nonsense - explain to the class they are going to listen to a text in which you have planted a nonsense information 'At the weekend I walked to Germany.' As you read the text students write on their MWB/a sheet 'possible' or 'impossible'.
Narrow reading activities
Spot the difference - students are given this activity on paper - in our department we have introduced booklets to save us time on photocopying, cutting and gluing (some examples on my resource page). Students need to correct each text to match the English as well as identify which text matches exactly.
Example of spot the difference
- teacher reads out two sentences, one correct the other incorrect. The student has to chose which one is the correct one and write the number of the sentence on the MWB.
Example of 'Error'
Every piece of text is created so that it is 'flooded' with the same chunks and patterns over and over again thus ensuring 90-95% comprehensible input and scaffolding via Sentence Builder is available throughout.
If you are still not very confident or if you are fairly new to this approach like my school is, I personally would add new activities gradually so that the students but also the teacher don't get too overwhelmed.
From my personal experience you will get more confident with the activities as you trial them, you will also work out which activities work for your specific class profile and which don't. Many can be also tweaked and adapted.
We have been following the Conti approach for the past 8 weeks and we have observed that initially the transition between the tasks can be somewhat time consuming because we had to spend time explaining the new activities to our students, however now we have completed a sequence of lessons, this should not cause any issues when delivering the next topic. We also feel more confident in our delivery and can now start to explore some other activities to keep lessons varied and engaging.
You might also consider as an individual or as a department to invest into the Sentence Builders books which provide a variety of ready made activities which can be photocopied and used in the class or as homework.
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