One Verb Weekend Chat

Kyle who came to my workshop at Comprehensible Iowa this summer recently asked me about some routine things I do in my classes. Here's one.

I often do a Weekend Chat on Mondays. I think a lot of teachers do something like this. Below is my approach. I can't recall if I learned this simple twist from an other teacher or if I came up with it. Chances are the former, so I'll just say that I stole it from one of my many mentors in the CI world and apologize up front for not being able to properly credit. It's also possible that nearly everyone does this and I am oblivious.

For Spanish 1 especially, but also in upper levels, I prefer to constrict the question to one verb i.e. "What did you X?" (yell, eat, break, throw, drop, etc). For novices, this is nice because I don't have a bunch of extra verbs entering the discussion that force me to stop and establish meaning too much.

No need for this verb to be a new verb. In fact using a verb they're familiar with is a good idea, because it allows the spontaneous and more compelling language that naturally arises from the discussion to be more easily taken in... kids can follow the discussion better if the anchor (the verb) is easily processed throughout. And if they don't yet know it but you want to use it, I can't think of a better way to get a verb sound stuck in peoples' heads that some old-fashioned TPR.

One important thing to consider though... Will the verb you are using to anchor the discussion necessarily bring forth a lot of language your students don't yet know? Can you anticipate what types of questions you might be able to ask around the verb that your kids could understand today?

I start out by writing out the question on the board, and for novices, translating the entire thing so it's crystal clear what I'm asking. I give them up to a minute to think and write something down in their notebooks... they should make something up if they can't think of anything.

The discussion might go something like this:

(In TL unless otherwise noted)

Teacher writes "What did you throw this weekend?" and gives a moment

Teacher: Volunteer? Tim raises hand. Teacher: Yes, Tim, (pointing to the question) What did you throw this weekend? Tim: (in English) a hat. Teacher: Oh, class, this weekend Tim threw a hat! (establish meaning for "hat" if they don't know it yet) Tim, did you throw a hat on Saturday or Sunday? Tim: Saturday. Teacher: On Saturday you threw a hat? Tim: Yes. Teacher: Did you throw the hat one time or two times? Tim: One time Teacher: Class, Tim threw a hat Saturday, one time. Tim, Did you throw it a long distance or a short distance? Tim shakes his hand to imply neither... medium distance... no need to dig further. Teacher: Ok, Did you throw the hat on the floor? Tim: No... (in English) Tree Establish meaning for tree Teacher: You threw the hat into a tree? A big tree? Tim: Yes. Teacher: Did you throw your hat into the tree?

Tim: No

Teacher: Did you throw your dad's hat into the tree?

Tim: No

Teacher: Whose hat did you throw into the tree? Tim: My brother's. Establish meaning for brother Teacher, with incredulity: Tim, you threw your brother's hat into a tree?! Tim: Yes. Teacher: What's your brother's name? Tim: Jack Teacher: Is Jack bigger or smaller? Tim: Smaller. Teacher: You threw your brother Jack's hat into a tree. Hmmm. (raises eyebrow at Tim) Teacher: Class, Did Tim throw his hat or his brother's hat? (class responds and teacher restates) Did Tim throw his brother's hat on the ground or into a tree? (class responds and teacher restates) Did Tim throw the hat into a tree 5 times? (class responds and teacher restates) Teacher: Tim, Does the hat you threw say something? Does it say "Chicago Bulls" or something like that? (Draw a hat with a box for some words on the front if that will help) Tim: L.A. Lakers Teacher: Does your brother like the L.A. Lakers? Tim: Yes. Teacher: Do you like the L.A. Lakers? Tim: No. Teacher: Did you throw the hat into a tree because you don't like the L.A. Lakers? Tim: No. Teacher: Did you throw the hat into a tree because your brother said (establish meaning) something to you? Tim: Yes. (You may have to stop Tim from telling the story in English or giving away the suspense that you are trying to keep here. Don't let him do that if you can, kindly stop him and with a smile tell him we're going to figure this out in Spanish. Better yet, pre-empt this type of English explaining by reviewing expectations.) Teacher: Tim, did your brother say an insult ("¡beisbol!" Thanks Mike Peto!) to you? Tim: Yes. Teacher: Oh, class, Jack said an insult to Tim! Do you think Jack said "You're smart" to Tim? (class responds) Right, probably not, because Jack said an insult to Tim. Jack probably didn't say "You're smart" to Tim. Tim, Did your brother say "You're smart" to you? Tim: No Teacher: What did Jack say to you?

You get the gist. One can keep going as long as the interest is there and as long as the language is being comprehended by the students. I may move on to another kid after 1 minute or after 10 minutes, depends. I usually talk to 2-5 people during this Weekend Chat activity, and because we do a couple other things on Mondays, it usually goes anywhere from 15-30 minutes total.

An optional activity would be to Write and Discuss (on the board or projector) what was just learned about the students' weekend (e.g. "On Saturday Tim threw his brother's hat into a tree. His brother's hat says "L.A. Lakers". His brother's name is Jack and he's smaller than Tim. Tim threw the hat into a tree because his brother said an insult to him. His brother did not say "You're smart". His brother said...")

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