The following is a guest post that I invited Rich Madel to write after he mentioned this activity on twitter.
All world language teachers focused on providing rich, compelling, and comprehensible input to their students know the struggle: How can we mask the repetition of the same information, vocabulary, and structures in such a way that it seems novel and interesting and our students feel authentically compelled to engage with making meaning of the input?
We all know the value of repetition of vocabulary and structures embedded in strategies such as PQA (personalized questions and answers), TPRS, Movie Talk, and more. Today, leveled readers are written with this very focus in mind, often telling a compelling story by recycling little more than the same 150 words (in the case of some novice-level readers).
Telling the story is only one opportunity for input, however. What we do before the story and what we do after are critical opportunities to provide quality interactions with target language vocabulary and structures. One such strategy often used as a post-storytelling activity is for students to place scrambled events in their appropriate chronological order.
Working to order scrambled events from a story is a time-tested task that serves a dual purpose: it reinforces key moments from the plot that aides in comprehension and creates an opportunity for the teacher to repeat and reuse communicatively-embedded input. But let’s be honest, it’s not always the most exciting.
To that end, I present an event reorder challenge that takes the activity we all know and love and injects it with steroids. The end result is a whole class challenge that is exciting, promotes collaboration and communication, and vastly increases the repetition of the key events. Let’s call it, Rally Reorder! Below are the steps to prepare and conduct the activity.
Step 1: To prepare, I recommend placing each event on a sheet of cardstock paper such that the event can be read by all students when it is presented at the front of the classroom. (Cardstock is recommended since the individual events will be handled multiple times throughout the activity.)
Step 2: Separate the events facing down in a location that is accessible for all students in your room when it is their turn.
Step 3: Create a sequence of all of your students to participate by numbering off and ensuring that they know the order in which it will be their turn.
Step 4: Students will need to present the events by physically standing in chronological order with the event they select at random. Identify for the class where the student with the first event should stand and identify the opposite end of the order where the student with the last event should stand. There should be enough room for all of your events to be represented in a line by students.
Step 5: Establish a time to beat. I recommend about 10 minutes as a competitive timeframe for novice-level students with 10 events to reorder. The level of the students and the number of events to reorder may dictate more or less time as needed.
Step 6: Start the clock and allow the first two students that you identified in Step 4 to select any two events at random and work together to physically place themselves in order at the front of the room holding the events so that the class can see.
Step 7: Once the students have established their order, I like to narrate the events as they are written and presented while modeling a range of sequencing expressions. I then ask the class to confirm or deny the chronology.
Step 8: If they are right, the students return the cards to the pile and move back to their seats. Then the next THREE students select events at random and place themselves in order and we repeat Step 7.
Step 9: If they are right, we repeat Step 8, but this time the next FOUR students select events at random and we repeat Step 7.
You see where this is going, right? The class should keep working to add one random event into the mix at a time after each successful and successive reorder. Since the students place the events back into the pile face down, the events that they select should be random, thus ensuring that they are engaging with making meaning of the event on their and their partners’ cards. If they pull a card that they have already seen, then they simply reap the benefit of repetition and demonstrate their comprehension!
What if the class determines that their order is inaccurate after they’ve put themselves in place and we have narrated the events as they placed them? The entire class starts back at two students (whoever the next two students are in the order that you established in Step 4). This definitely adds some extra suspense, energy, and focus!
Given the competitive nature of any beat-the-clock activity, an extrinsic reward for the class adds an element of excitement. You can have one reward for beating the time you set in Step 5 or you can consider a regressive reward. For example, if you set 10 minutes as the time to beat, you could offer X reward if they do it under five minutes, but X – 1 if they do it under six, X – 2 if they do it under seven, X – 3 if they do it under eight, etc.
And there you have it: The Rally Reorder! Compared with a worksheet of a list of events that students number in order, the Rally Reorder provides students the opportunity to engage with key events many more times. More importantly, the repetitions of comprehensible input aren’t the only aspect that increases, so too will their energy and motivation!
Rich Madel is a proficiency-oriented Spanish teacher and Chairperson of his district’s Department of World Languages in the Philadelphia area. He was named Pennsylvania’s World Language Teacher of the Year in 2018. As a doctoral candidate from Saint Joseph’s University, his research focuses primarily on the intersection of second language acquisition principles and classroom pedagogy. Follow him on Twitter at @SrMadel.