A few weeks ago the topic for #langchat was about timing and transitioning activities in a class. Then, shortly after, I was teaching a novice-high class of sixth-graders as part of an interview to perhaps go back to teaching next year (MAYBE). (Lesson plan coming soon.) Anyway, it made me think more about this issue of transitions.
Quickly, I’ll outline what I think are the characteristics of a class or lesson plan that lends itself to easy, smooth transitions:
- Frequently changing activities (I once blogged that they should change every twenty minutes, but now I advocate every 10 or so.)
- Activities that naturally scaffold and build on each other (e.g. front-loading vocab…summarizing resource…using resource…working with resource)
- Class routines that help students expect what’s coming and transition naturally
As I worked on my lesson plan, I thought about how to move from explaining a game (Buque de guerra) to actually playing it. Just let them loose? But how will I know they’re ready?
Well, why not ask them, in a way that gives me instant and informative feedback on how ready every student is, while lowering the risk for more timid students?
Here’s the transition: Before launching into an activity, or after a story even, ask students to raise their hands and use their fingers to show on a scale of one to five how ready they feel to tackle the activity (or understood what just happened). It’s fast, it’s low-risk (students can hold their hands as low as they want, as long as I can see), it gives me much more information than simply ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and it tells students that we’re done with one thing (instructions) and moving to another (activity), which is the essence of an effective transition. Oh, and it keeps us all in the target language. If this is a habitual transition in your class, all you’d need to say after the first few times is “hands, one to five, ready?” or something to that effect, in the target language.
I tried it with these sixth-graders. I explained the game, and asked for the scale. I got all fives except one, a boy showing four fingers. So we launched into the game, and it worked well. I know I’m not the first to use such a technique to gauge comprehension, but this is the first time it occurred to me to use it in gauge readiness for an activity. It worked!
What are your most effective transitions?