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Working with / learning texts

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by mlapworth, Apr 7, 2013.

  1. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I'm not talking about getting students to learn their controlled assessments by heart.
    I mean learning and understanding how a text fits together, how the individual vocab and grammar items combine to make a text. Maybe learning a model text and then adapting and personalising it.
    Do people not do this with short texts at KS3/4 any more. Do people not value this sort of practice any more?
    Or are MFL lessons skipping straight from presentation to production, missing out the vital practice stage of the PPP model? (Or is the practice still there, but primarily focused on memorising vocab items?)
  2. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    I wonder whether time constraints are restricting the controlled practice part of teaching.I also whether the PPP model you mention, Martin, is standard practice. In the communicative competence thread there is a good discussion abotu methodology you may have been following. I am in doubt as to whether there are very clear methodologies being taught to student teachers. With the current eclectic approach to methodology, there may be just total confusion!
  3. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I think you might be right.
  4. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    I'm a student teacher, and I think you're probably right on this.
    We had one session on different theories of language teaching, so it was very brief (and back in October, when we had no experience to relate to it) and I don't feel like I got a clear idea of what the different methodologies are. Theory only really comes up for writing assignments, but because of not having a clear framework in mind to relate the reading to, it can be confusing. It's difficult to know what to read when you don't really know what the main schools of thought/their main proponents are .
    I feel like my practice is mostly influenced by the schools I've been in, rather than anything I've learned at university, and I think that's the same for everyone on the course. Obviously we have to do things more-or-less the way our placement schools expect, but I worry that I don't know what is more widely expected and this can be a problem in interview lessons. For instance, neither of my placement schools use target language much so I've not been encouraged to do so (although I am trying to use it more than is normally the case in my current school), but other people on my course have been in schools which have immersion classes! It seems like at this stage how we teach is so determined by where we are placed, although I'm sure it will change a lot as I become more experienced and see what works for my classes.

    I have come across the PPP model, which seems very sensible to me, but it also seems to mean very different things in different schools.
    In my first placement, the vast majority of lesson time was spent on practice, with lots of short activities using Taskmagic games, mini-whiteboard translation to build up sentences, correct the errors, worksheets, vocab drilling, etc.. The production stage was sort of tagged on the end and I found that whilst classes could, for instance, use the perfect tense accurately in mini-whiteboard practice, they got confused when they tried to write anything independently. They just didn't seem to link all the practice they'd done with the work they were producing.
    But in my current school, a lot more lesson time is spent on production and they produce much longer pieces of writing (ie: I've seen more writing from my Y7s this placement than I saw from Y10s at my previous school!). They use classroom displays and handouts to help them to include different tenses, but haven't really discussed or practised their formation and I wonder how much they remember after they've written the piece.
    It's a difficult balance to strike so I'd be interested to hear more about what experienced teachers think.
  5. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    This is what concerns me a bit about the rush to be creative with the language. It's difficult to write creatively unless you have an unlimited range of language to refer to, and while I can see the appeal of getting students to write / say precisely what they want to say, the only way of doing this is by giving students dictionaries so they can look up every word (and that way lies mayhem...), or answering their constant "Sir / Miss, how do you say ...?" questions. And then what they end up with is a load of text which they haven't learnt, and they don't really understand the structures / how it fits together.
    How about the idea of providing model texts and getting students to adapt them? Does anybody do this?
  6. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    Yep, that's exactly what I'm doing with my Y7s. I've produced model texts and initially used them as reading comprehension, then moving on to discussing the features of the text and what's good about it, and then what bits they'd need to change in order to write their own text about it. And then they're going to do their written task, with the model to refer to. This is what the school has encouraged me to do as assessment preparation.
    My main concern is the extent to which the work produced really reflects pupils' ability, based on how far they go in adapting the model text. If less able pupils don't adapt it much, they'll basically have copied a text and changed a few words, but it will tick all the boxes, whereas a more able pupil might experiment more and make mistakes, so officially perform less well. It's the first time I've done KS3 assessments, so we'll see how it goes!
  7. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    This needn't be assessed work, need it? Why not do this sort of thing routinely with short pieces of text? How about doing work in class that actually gets the students to learn the text? There are all sorts of exercises that can focus on the structure of a text and test students' understanding, but which go beyond comprehension questions or talking about the features of a text.
    You mentioned doing TaskMagic exercises in a previous post, but I bet they were all about learning vocab, right? What about the Mix&Gap part of TaskMagic, which provides all sorts of text reconstruction work based on any text that you put into it? Have you ever used that?
    I get the impression that this sort of text-reconstruction work is used far less nowadays in favour of 'cool' creative work. Fun with Texts came out in the 80s and is still used by lots of [old skool?] teachers. (TaskMagic came along about 10 years ago, and the Mix&Gap part of TaskMagic - especially version 3 - does all that Fun with Texts did, plus lots more.)
    This sort of text-based work can be so effective. And far more beneficial than just getting kids to put together a text from a vocab mat or whatever.
  8. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    (We're talking text manipulation...)
  9. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

  10. Another 'old skool' teacher here (well,trying very hard to be an ex-teacher actually), but I've been concerned for some time about the lack of practice most pupils seem to be given in what some people seem to think is a good lesson plan. Before I gave up full-time classroom teaching, I was criticised by two observers (neither MFL specialists) for spending too long on practice and not getting on to the 'useful stuff', even though (I thought) I had made the practice stage fun. I tried to explain the pedagogy behind what I was doing, but it fell on deaf ears and I was advised to give the pupils word mats/help sheets/writing frames instead of so much practice.
    It worries me that some recently-trained teachers don't seem to have a rationale behind what they're doing from a language teaching perspective. Lesson plans are supposed to include references to all sorts of cross curricular issues, which don't necessarily promote language learning. I find it concerning that student teachers follow the whims of placement schools, which (as stated above) can be very different. Some graduates' grammatical knowledge also bothers me, but that's probably off topic.
    I now earn a crust tutoring pupils privately, mainly GCSE candidates. Most of them hope that I'll write their controlled assessments for them, because they haven't a clue how to structure a piece of writing. I refuse to spoonfeed them and spend time 'playing' with texts, by (for example) cutting them up and getting pupils to re-order them, substitute phrases, add extra clauses, adjectives, etc. After a while, they get the hang of it and some even find it as much fun as I do! We practise structures until they get a feel for something sounding wrong. The sooner controlled assessment, which as far as I'm concerned has become a memory test, is abandoned, the better.
  11. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    Manipulating text is something I have always used.
    Getting students to identify different parts of the text ie the verbs, nouns, connectives, qualifiers.
    Identifying key phrases in the text and then asking them what key words can be removed and changed for others.
    Looking at ways a simple text can be improved by adding in qualifiers connectives etc
    Ensuring that they don't repeat the words too or use "boring" adjectives
    Thought all this was just common sense no deep methodology involved - certainly wasn't taught to do it during my PGCE days...(many many moons ago and would have been damned too as CM was the only way to do anything then!)
  12. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Practice is the most important part in my opinion - this is where the new voab, structure etc gets internalised and students show that they understand. There seems to be too much of a rush from presentation to production. Indeed, many now argue that presentation isn't necessary - just give them the vocab on a vocab mat and let them cobble together a piece of text jigsaw-phrasebook-style.
    Yes. This kind of thing focuses on form and meaning. In order to reconstruct a text students need to use all sorts of context clues (semantic and syntactic) to help them work out what sorts of words can go together / fill the gap / whatever.
  13. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    You'd think so, wouldn't you? But maybe extended text work is seen as a bit too hard / boring / demanding ...
  14. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Here's an example of working with a model text, practising the vocab, reconstructing it in lots of ways, then adapting it (and then maybe doing more reconstruction work based on the adapted text)...
    Choose a short
    example text containing key vocab and structures, such as this one, on
    the subject of "Ma maison" / "Chez moi" for KS3 French:
    Add a glossary of key vocab terms, so that students can understand the text, and add a few extra
    things that students might want to be able to use to describe their own
    situation, and you end up with this combination of text + vocab
    matching activities:


    The above link provides access to all activities. You have up to 60 interactive activities to choose from!

    Depending on how much work you've already done on the topic, you
    could start with either the text work or the vocab work. Whichever way
    you play it, the lesson essentially has 2 parts:

    <h2>1. <u>Learn the model text and vocab</u>

    <h3>(a) Vocab

    Within the vocab group of exercises there is a wide range of differentiation. For example, Flashcards can be used to present vocab or for students to test themselves. Snap is a recognition exercise, where students need to decide whether or not the match is correct. Shuffle
    presents up to 10 matching pairs in a drag and drop match activity.
    There are various multiple choice matching activities, with different
    levels of difficulty: 1 in3; 1 in 4; 1 in 5; 1 in 10; or multi choice games such as Million. Then there are various click match and memory
    activities (with varying numbers of matching items - the more the
    items, the harder the exercise). And then there are the text input
    activities, where students have to fill in the missing letter for the
    entire list of items: Vowels, Consonants, 50:50, Initials, No letters; also Anagrams, which provides a bit more support. Then there are games such as Hangman, Snake and Invaders. Lots to choose from!

    <h3>(b) Text

    The text activities are a great way of getting students to memorize a whole text.

    You can start with the Multi-Choice activities such as 1 in 3, 1 in 4 or 1 in 5, which split the text up into several chunks and students have to rebuild it by selecting from the alternatives.
    The tile exercises can be used to great effect. Start with 2x3
    (6 chunks of text) and once the exercise is completed, click on +tiles
    to work up through the levels. Each time there are more chunks of text
    to re-order (and obviously, each chunk contains less text) so it gets
    progressively more difficult, until you get to 4x6 (24 chunks of text).
    Million is similar to 1 in 4, but if you make a mistake, the game is over.
    Next word
    has 3 levels of difficulty. By default, the exercise requires you to
    rebuild the text 1 word at a time by selecting from 10 possibilities. If
    you click on +word, it will be 2 words at a time. Click it again and
    the exercise will work 3 words at a time. So it's a good idea to start
    with 3 words then click on -word to work back to 1 word at a time.

    There are 2 gap-fills. The random one, which is different every time and automatically generated. And the user-defined
    one, which is added by the person who creates the resource. The random
    one is great because each time you restart the exercise you have a
    different set of gaps. The user-defined one, however, has the advantage
    that it allows you to focus on specific words in the text.

    Then there are the text input exercises. Students can complete these
    by typing in the missing letters, or they could just use them to help
    them to recite the text orally, to check they they have it memorized.
    These are: Vowels, Consonants, 50:50, Initials, No letters.
    Note that 50:50, Initials and No letters also have a +/-gaps button,
    so you can choose to have fewer words blanked out. By default, it works
    on every word, but you can work with as few as 1 in 5 words.

    In addition, you also have the anagrams
    exercise, which blanks out the whole text, and presents an anagram for a
    word when you click on it. This also has the +/-gaps button, so you can
    have a text with every 5th word blanked out, where an anagram for the
    word appears when you click on it.

    And finally there are the Invaders and Snake games based on missing letters from the text.
    of the above activities are better suited to students working by
    themselves on their own computer / laptop / ipad, but many of them are
    ideal for use with the whole class using a projector / interactive
    whiteboard (any kind).
    How long you spend on all of the above
    depends on you / the time you have available / the progress made by your
    students. (It's clear, though, that you'll need to be selective...)
    <h2>2. <u>Write an adapted / personalised text based on the model</u>

    </h2>My idea is that if students have learnt the model text and they
    understand (a) what the words mean and (b) how they all fit together,
    they should then be able to write their own version of the text.
    They could go back to the textivate home page containing the text: http://www.textivate.com/rkcjn1
    they could remove all of the [#] markers, either manually, or by
    clicking the "Extra gap-fill" icon (the gap-fill icon with the number 2
    in it) and then clicking the button to "Remove all gaps" - which is MUCH
    Then they could start adapting the text to fit them.
    Maybe you could present extra vocab on the board as and when required.
    they are happy with their text (and maybe after you've checked it - up
    to you), they can then choose from all of the activities listed in 1(b)
    above, this time based on their own text.
    How is this NOT going to be productive in terms of your students' language learning?
  15. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    I wouldn't even give them a list of key terms initially but see if they can work out meanings of invidivual items or general meaing of whole text - I'm far too harsh!! [​IMG].
    Going to look at Textivat too
    Part of a lesson I did, when being observed recently, was exactly this - dissecting a text - the HT who observed me was imrpessed by the challenge set the students and the way they rose to that challenge - got outstanding for the whole lesson (other elements too and the production did not happen that lesson).
    It's also not learning something parrot-fashion or all students copying out the same text and changing key words (strongly against that) but understanding how everything we learn fits together and seeing it fit together toegther too by showing a model.
    The less able do copy and replace the more able can really manipulate and add to (differentaition when teaching mixed ability?!) ...they can only do this if they understand how to do it because they understand the function that every word has in a piece of text.
  16. salsera

    salsera New commenter

    "Practice is the most important part in my opinion - this is where the
    new voab, structure etc gets internalised and students show that they
    understand. There seems to be too much of a rush from presentation to
    production. Indeed, many now argue that presentation isn't necessary -
    just give them the vocab on a vocab mat and let them cobble together a
    piece of text jigsaw-phrasebook-style."

    So agree with this.
    Vocab mats are useful but as a support during production and after lots of practice!

  17. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    So many people tell me that their students find textivate really useful for learning their CAs... (if yours aren't using it - tell them they should - it costs them nothing and will make a difference)... so why not apply the same principle to working with and engaging with shorter model texts at every stage? Not just for assessment.
    The difference is that you can work with text that's at the level of the students and which practises the language that you're working on right now. (Rather than the pure memorisation which some engage in prior to CAs to learn a text that they may not understand fully). Doing this sort of text reconstruction and manipulation work with texts at the right level really gets them thinking about how language fits together, and the repeated exposure offered by these sorts of exercises helps students to internalise the vocab and structures.
  18. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

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