Saturday, April 16, 2016

El camino

What a beautiful day we had last week! It was time for a walking lesson.

I first heard about doing this about 15 years ago when I attended a conference that I don't remember or even where it was. However, the underlying theme of the session was wellness: students need to move to get their blood pumping so that the brain is active and responds more quickly. Yeah, that made sense to me and I love being outside and not cooped up in a room for an extended period of time. I can only imagine what our students go through as well. They definitely need a change of environment, too.

We have been reading a novel (only into the second chapter), so I thought this would be a great way to review the events and structures that they have been struggling with in the reading. I usually retype the novels and add links to cultural topics, translate some FYI words, and add comprehension questions and ancillary activities at the end. The students can also take their own notes directly in their book, too.

Using the comprehension questions already created, I copied them onto a new document and labeled two identical lists with "A" and "B". Before school I drive the route that I will be taking the students on and use sidewalk chalk to mark numbers randomly. For example, if I have 8 questions, I randomly write the numbers 1-8 along the route on the sidewalk.

Students need to have the expectations set out ahead of time to be sure this activity runs smoothly. Most of these are intact in the physical classroom, but once the classroom becomes mobile, kids tends to throw out the rules.
1) Respect
        -respect the community - stay on the sidewalk, don't run through yards, pet dogs or other animals. This gives us good relations within the community.
        -respect each other - we have a social contract in our classroom and they need to be reminded that this is still in effect even though we are not in the physical classroom; when we are together, it is our classroom and the contract is still in place with our group.
        -respect other classes - students get very excited for this activity and are very chatty as we head out the door and through the hallways to get outside. Reminding them that this is a privilege that they have earned to do this activity and we need to respect the other classes that are still "back home". There should be silence in the hallways, just as if they were going to the restroom.
2) All in target language: Again, although we are not in the classroom, the expectation that we are still practicing our skills. The best way to do that? Use it!
3) Observe the silence: Sometimes we get so involved in pushing the language, but honestly, just listening to nature can go a long way to igniting energy and excitement. Introverts love this rule! Also, it is very rare that no one is talking so they do get some additional listening practice as they are observing silence. 
4) Stay as a group - 1/2 block: Although we are on a walk, it is important to stay together, within a half block between the first person and the last person. I usually don't have a problem with students escaping or taking a longer or different route than planned, but it is important to stay as a group to keep a head count. Also, if they are all together, additional listening practice is built in and there is collaboration if they forget how to say something.

Before heading out the door, I draw a simple map on the board so that they know the route. They also need to know that the questions will be along the route in random order. Once they pass over a number, it corresponds to a number on their list and should be discussing it with their partner until they get to the next number. It may be that they are not able to discuss the entire question before getting to the next one - they can continue it later when they get to a question that is shorter and run out of something to say.

Students match up, using the A questions and the B questions. They do figure out pretty quickly that they are the same, but this helps it be a little more random. Some walks I will create different questions between A and B lists. I make the students stand at the door next to their partner and I quickly glance that there is an A with a B. This becomes their conversation partner on the walk. A quick reminder to be respectful in the hallways and we are off!

As we are walking, I moving forward and back, listening to students. I also engage them in random conversation when they are done answering the question, sometimes before they even start the question. The real goal: conversation, right? Who cares what they say as long as it's in the target language!

When we get back, we process the walk. First, we analyze the rules and how well we did with the expectations. I call out the rules, one-by-one and the students rate themselves 1-5 with their fingers. For example, one class had an overall rating of 5 fingers (max) for respect and staying together, but next time we will have to work on staying in the target language (2 fingers) and observing silence (1 finger, contributing to lack of TL).

Then, as a group we went through the questions again. Yes, it was another way to get in more reps! It also clarified the chapter content for the students.

In the end, they really enjoyed it and wanted to do this at least weekly. Hmmm, I think I'll keep that tucked in my back pocket for novelty. :)


  1. Sounds great and I will definitely use it this week since we finally have beautiful weather in the forecast!

    1. Thanks for trying it out! How did it go?

  2. Love this! We're doing our first novel in Spanish 3 and I'd love to give this a try! Gracias por compartir!

    1. De nada. Let me know when you've tried. I'd love your feedback.