By the time students get to advanced classes such as those intended to prepare them for national standardized exams, almost nothing should include only simple recall. We ask questions like why and how, ask for debates and opinions, ask for synthesis of authentic sources and troubleshooting common problems. How can we prepare students for this from novice levels?
There’s one easy way you can begin to inspire higher-level thinking in your novice students: ask for comparisons. Because of the level of thinking and life skills developed in advanced classes, one of the most common tasks is to compare things: my world with their world, this source with that source, and so on. You can start that from the very beginning.
Children and adolescents in particular love to talk about themselves. Resist the temptation to let them do this constantly; rather, capitalize on it. As you give them tasks that push communication about self, ask for comparisons with classmates. For example, they can compare:
- school schedules
- daily routines
- school situations
- family life
And comparison with each other isn’t the only outlet, although it sets them up beautifully for lots of survey/peer-to-peer talk followed by presentational speaking and writing. Look for straightforward descriptions of these things in the TL culture (think Facebook groups, TL forums, or audio-lingua) and ask for comparisons with those too.
Did you notice the proficiency pushed here? As far as text type, you’re asking students to use phrases joined by connector words (I do this and/but he does that). With topic, you’re asking students to move past talking about themselves (novice) to talking about their community/friends (intermediate).
As long as you let students remain in novice thinking, they’ll happily stay there. Keep pushing those higher thinking skills.
Foto credit: Pepe Palau