Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spotlight (reflection)

Today, I began teaching our new textbook, "Spotlight 5" to my advanced 6th grade classes.  It's an interesting setup because I'll be teaching this book to both the advanced and intermediate leveled 6th grade classes and the difference will be in my pace and approach.

We warmed up with an exercise in which I wrote three words on the board (inject, alligator, love) and gave each team 30 seconds to create a sentence using all three words.  I wrote their sentences on the board and we analyzed them as a group for grammatical errors and unnatural constructs.  We ended up with some interesting sentences.. one from a group of girls being, "I love the alligator so much that I injected it with my blood.".. yikes!  We laughed, we cried.. it was a good warm up.

Since the text makes use of some difficult vocabulary, I took today to introduce how to use context clues to find words' meanings.  I also chose 31 words from unit 1 to include on a vocabulary list which they received today.  The list includes all of the definitions, but none of the actual words, the idea being that they look for these words as we read and discuss the text.  So, we read the first page of text and I wrote the 6 vocab words from that page on the board.  They were then given 4 minutes to work with their teams, using the text and the definitions page, to infer the meanings of those words(two classes readily worked as teams, but the last class was reluctant to do so and did not communicate as much as I had hoped they would during this phase of the class).  They then offered their ideas for the definitions of these words and I asked them how they had come to their conclusions.  Right or wrong, student contributions which were well-explained were rewarded with jewels, and we learned the meanings of the words in this way.  There were only 2 or 3 incorrect inferences made today and each student was able to explain how he or she had decided upon an answer.  We then re-read the page with greater understanding, and I asked them to confirm their understanding by offering examples of some things.  For example, the book stated "weather affects our moods", so I asked how a rainy day affected one student's mood.  Having gotten that answer, I asked other students if they disagreed, which inevitably one or two would.  I kept this going for 5-7 mins per class, trying to let them do all the substantive talking over two or three questions.

While class was productive today, I think I may have an issue with pace.  Though it was a dense page, we only covered one today.  The book is over 200 pages long.. so I'll have to make some adjustments.

One way to speed the classes along would be to assign the discovery of vocab definitions for homework... but this would negate the use of context clues and they might not remember the words so well..  I won't meet with this class again until next Wed, so I've got a few days to think on it..


  1. It sounds like you had the beginnings of some good responsive discourse going. This week I tried (with some success) the S to S questions. When you ask the student if rain affects their mood, you can then have that same student ask another student, then that student ask another. Make it like a question and answer chain. It starts slow but speeds up.

  2. Yeah, most of these Ss sound very advanced if they're able to do all this explaining. Lucky you. Curious -- the group that didn't want to work in pairs? Intermediate Ss maybe? You were asking them to do some pretty cognitively challenging stuff.

    A values choice: 200 pages, 1 page today, pick up the pace. You're right -- you can assign vocab discovery for homework. Do you HAVE to finish the book? I wouldn't lose the 'conversation' just so I can finish the book...

    Also -- are definitions your idea? What about synonyms or antonyms instead of defs? or is this for the national exam? If so, nice way your school is doing both exam prep and communicative development.

  3. How did you choose the words you used for the warm up activity? Were they part of that lessons vocabulary? I like the idea and I'll probably steal that from you at some point. I also have issues with pacing the class. For me I always get bogged down in the beginning when teaching the new target.

  4. Tom: yeah, I have to keep on pace to finish half the book this semester so they can finish the next half next semester. That involves a LOT of content cutting.

    As for the quiet group, I wrote a bit about them in a post for this week and I'll know more about them after making some observations in class this week.

    Trevor: Yeah, I try to mix words they know with words we learned in the last lesson. They really like that activity and sometimes request it on days we do something different lol.