Cooperative work and peer assessment is a very large part of my ESL classes. I like the students to work together to build their understanding of English as a team. A group can be more successful than separate individuals trying to find their way. Group work also lets me move about the classroom and see what the students are working on and if there are issues arising.
This past semester at the university, I had level 3 speakers, students who were finally building a confidence with their command of the English language. These students were a little raw, but just needed that time to actually use the language. This is my favorite part of teaching, seeing the students begin to use the skills that that have learned in a way that impresses themselves.
I was teaching a pop culture class. In the class, we covered topics from movies, music, food, Furbies, and so on. One topic that the students seemed to gravitate to was super heroes and comic books. This lead to an idea that ended up paying big dividends.
I like to build a group unity in my classrooms. A dynamic of my style is getting students to be comfortable with each other and to be OK making mistakes with their classmates and me. I had been looking for a good opportunity to come together as a group and this opportunity presented itself with super heroes as the key.
I decided to slightly introduce the conditional tense to my students. We practiced this by saying, “If I were a super hero, my power would be…” The students got to think for a little while and then present their power to a classmate. The students also got to choose a super hero name. Some students even decided to be villains. Each student then had to introduce their partner by using the phrase, “If he/she were a super hero, his/her power would be…” This allowed the class to hear the powers of their classmates.
The next day, we had a group of students from Japan join our class. These students got the opportunity to choose their own powers and names. After choosing powers, the Japanese students went to each student and interviewed them and learn their real name, their power, and their super name and wrote the information down. This helped catalog the powers and heroes and villains.
Some of the super powers were: Invisibility, ability to fly, super strength, super studying, the ability to change colors, laser eyes, flaming eyes, and super speed.
The students were then separated into four groups. The groups got to review the powers of the students in the classroom. They talked about ways of using the powers and what they liked about each super power. They were told to brainstorm ideas.
The students were then instructed to stay in these groups for the remaining classes. These groups would spend the next week working together on a super story.
Each group of students had to outline a story using the members of their class and the powers that their classmates possessed. They would develop the setting, plot, and the characters. Then the students participated in a group writing activity. Each student had to assist his or her group with writing a super hero story. The students had to agree on all aspects before it was written. The groups would check the grammar and spelling in the story and work together to get the most polished product that they could create.
The students worked hard writing the first draft in class. Some homework assignments were to bring ideas of improving the story and adding more details to their stories. Each group began with nothing more than a plot summary, but we worked together to change it into a story with the details that would help the reader visualize the action. Then, the students got the opportunity to use the computer lab and type up a finished product.
The stories were then read and judged by a level 5, debate class. A winning story was chosen based on the arguments of the students. The winning team got donuts as a prize. (They were gracious enough to share with the rest of the class.)
This brought the students together and built a rapport between them. In future classes, the students were comfortable in class and worked well on group projects. The peer review sessions worked really well. The class grew together and the level of English usage by the students increased greatly.
In the end, the class became a safe zone for using English. We had a great session that ended with a fantastic group project. I will detail this project more in my next post. It was a “hit!”