Useful Junk: Your Lesson Plan for Pre-Winter Break

Good for: Semester or year-end review.  Technically, it could work for any unit review, but the thing about good Useful Junk is that if you overuse it, it’s no longer good.

Activity:  Be Your Teachers
Ha.  Bet you think I’m going to give you some boring-ass plan where the students “teach” the class, which really means a couple kids get up front, mumble something and since they have no classroom management skills,  nobody really listens.

Nah.  Too annoying.  I can’t stand being annoyed.

World Language teachers use a lot of skits.  Some of the best (and funniest) skits I’ve had my kids do were when I asked them to select one of other teachers and do a brief skit in Spanish imitating a lesson in that teacher’s class. Think about it a second.  I bet you can name the idiosyncrasies, the tics, the speech patterns of most of your kids.  Who’s your most soft-spoken?  Who’s the kid that taps the desk incessantly?  Who spaces out in .023 second flat?

You know your kids.  You spend every day with them.  The flip side of that is that your kids spend every day with you.  And whereas a high school teacher might have 175 (or more) students, the average student only has about 7 teachers.

They totally have your number.

The imitations my students did were dead on.  And all of us, teacher and students alike, were rolling with laughter.  Oh…right…and my kids were also speaking Spanish.  So now I’ve tweaked that idea for review days, giving it a little more structure than when I first used it on a whim.  Here goes:

The Set-Up:
1.  Put students in groups of ~4
2.  Assign each group a key concept from the review
3.  Go over the instructions very explicitly — especially if you don’t frequently use dialogues or skits in class.

The Instructions:
Your group is going to cover your assigned review concept via a short presentation in front of the class.  However, this presentation has a slight twist.  You are going to pretend to be one of the teachers from this school, attempting to teach a class on your review topic.  (The kids are going to fuss.  “But wait!  Mr. Smith teaches Science.  He doesn’t know anything about English! So address that right away.)  It doesn’t matter if you think that teacher doesn’t know anything about your particular concept.  If he/she had to learn it and step in this room in an emergency – how would he/she cover the material?  One of your group members is going to be the teacher, the rest of the group members are going to be the students.  Here are your guidelines:

Guidelines:
1.  In your presentations, you must cover… (insert content-specific requirements.  See my sample at the bottom of the page.)
2.  The presentation will last… (3 minutes is my max for this kind of stuff. That’s actually quite a long time for this kind of dialogue.  Longer and they won’t make the time limit and the rest of the class will check out.)
3.  Every student must speak, and must speak more or less the same amount.

You’ll get extra your-teacher-loves-you points if you consider the following:

4.  What mannerisms, expressions and other quirks can you include to really show who your teacher is?
5.  How can you somehow relate your teacher teaching this particular concept back to his/her real class? (This can produce some surprisingly bright connections)
6.  What personalities are the students in this teacher’s class going to have and how are they going to “learn” this material?

Accountability:  There are a couple of ways to grade this assignment, depending on how large a part of the review you want to make it.  I prefer to use it at the tail-end of semester review after I have covered all the material at least once and I have seen the students do some individual work, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of where they’re at.  This leaves Be Your Teacher as a fun winding-up the semester activity without a lot of pressure.  As such, I simply give the kids a simply 1 – 4 class participation grade (and weight it, if necessary, depending on the points we’ve accumulated this semester.)  1 = you were a warm body, semi-concious during your group presentation.  4 = you clearly hit all the presentation requirements.  A grading cake-walk.

The other option is to build this out as a mini-project and make a real rubric for grading.  If you do this, you’ll need to allow more class time and make sure your content guidelines are extremely specific, as well as your rubric.  The up side to this is that students will have to go much more in depth to the concept they’ve been assigned.  The down side is that they spend more time on that concept instead of dividing study time among all.  However, if you’re good and divide groups by ability and intentionally assign them the concepts you know they’re weakest on, it can be an added study aide.  You know your kids best.  Your call.

Teach’s Sample Guidelines: (used the intro paragraph from instructions)
1.  In your presentations, you must cover the specific concept you were assigned.  (The verb tener, ser, dates, possession, etc.)
            a.  teach the concept as if your students were not already familiar with it.  What do your students absolutely have to know in order to use this Spanish concept?
            b.  have students attempt answers, some correct, some incorrect with additional explainations from the teacher
            c.  questions about content for the teacher
            d.  communication between the students in the class.  Do they help each other with answers? Explainations?
2.  The presentation will last at least ninety seconds.
3.  Every student must speak and must speak more or less the same amount.

You’ll get extra your-teacher-loves-you points if you consider the following:

4.  What mannerisms, expressions and other quirks can you include to really show who your teacher is?  How can you translate these into Spanish?
5.  How can you somehow relate your teacher teaching this particular concept back to his/her real class?
6.  What personalities are the students in this teacher’s class going to have and how are they going to “learn” this material?

User tips:
1.  Warn them at the beginning they may not read off a sheet.  Otherwise, they will be monotonous, unprepared, and you will be bored out of your mind. 
2.  Make all groups do a dry run at least once before presenting.  Have the whole class (all groups) do the dry run at the same time so they aren’t self-conscious about other groups hearing/seeing them before they present. Time them to see if groups are hitting their time requirement. 
3.  As always, encourage creativity! 🙂

Have fun!

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