Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 2010: Megan Conners – Speed Dating Towards Improved Literacy Skills


2010 April Strateg of the Month
Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County


Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County does an absolutely amazing job of recruiting, training and supporting its AmeriCorps members.  If you ever need to find some of the most talented, creative, passionate tutors and staff members serving adult learners, look no further than this program.

Case in point: Megan Conners


Megan became one of our America Learns Network Superstars last October.  Since that time, she created and shared a number of additional strategies that have not only been included in her organization’s own America Learns Network strategy library, but also in the America Learns National Strategy Library – the most thorough collection of the best youth development, youth education, and adult literacy strategies that were created by tutors, mentors, coaches, and student teachers in the field.

Check out the strategy below to learn how Megan created a speed dating-based activity to help her adult English language learners become far more comfortable with asking and responding to questions.

Be sure to leave a comment for Megan at the bottom of this post to let her know what you think about her strategy!

Megan’s Strategy

Speed Dating
(Asking & Responding to Questions)

Created by: Megan Conners, Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County (America Learns Network member since August 2009)
Topics: English Language Learners
Asking & Responding to Questions
Arrangements: Small Group; Large Group
  • Index cards and tape for name tags
  • Speed dating questionnaire sheets with separate boxes for each student to interview half of the class (regular sheets; present perfect tense sheets)
  • Pencils or pens
  • A long table or desks pushed together

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Situation: I wanted to give my students a fun and interesting way to practice asking and answering questions in English.

The students constantly see questions on the board and in textbooks, but rarely do these modes of learning force the students to pose questions out loud.  In the end, they gain the confidence in answering questions, but not in asking their own.

My goal with this "speed dating" activity was to involve everyone in an exciting, interactive speaking and listening activity that would help them to become less fearful of asking questions to others.

Megan Conners and Her Students

Step 1: Give each student an index card with a typical English name on it.

Attach tape to the back and have each student wear it as a name tag (they love this!).

With only one male in my class, I chose to assign half of the students as boys and half as girls.
Step 2: On a new index card, ask each student answer the speed dating questionnaire questions for their own character.  (If your students need practice with the present perfect tense, consider using these questions instead.)

Remind them that as they answer the questions, they are not writing about themselves, but about the fictional person they’re acting as.  Tell them to be creative with their answers because the activity will be more fun that way.  (In our game, the characters with the crazy answers were the ones that proved to be more desirable.)

Depending on the level of your students, you might want to give them prompts for the answers, such as "I like to...", to which the student could respond in many normal or more imaginative ways.

My students prepared six complete sentence answers, but this number can be adapted depending on the amount of time you wish to spend on this activity.

NOTE: You can also consider brainstorming with your students about what questions should appear on the questionnaire.

Step 3: Tell your students that they will all be going speed dating!

You may need to explain and/or demonstrate this concept, and then move around the classroom furniture so that the "boys" and "girls" can sit across from each other.

Give them the speed dating questionnaire sheets, which should contain all of the written-out questions that they answered on their index cards earlier. Each boy should interview each girl for a set amount of time (we took approximately four minutes), and then the girl will interview the boy for the same amount of time.  If your students are ready for the challenge, encourage them to also ask one or two questions that are not on the sheet.

Everyone should write down the responses of the person he or she is interviewing, in complete sentences if time permits. 

After each pair of students interview one another, the students on one side of the table will shift down one seat, with the last person moving to the other end of the table.  Eventually, each boy will talk with each girl.

Step 4: Once everyone is finished interviewing, tell the students that they must decide which of the people they interviewed would be the best match for their character. They must then secretly write down the name of the character they chose on the back side of their questionnaire sheet.
Step 5: Now the game show begins!

As the teacher, you become the game show host.  Your goal is to make love matches.

Call up one student at a time (using his or her character name), and ask who they chose as their match. They must then explain to the class why they chose the person they did, using complete sentence answers.

For example, "Brian" might tell you, "I chose Sarah because she likes to go to the beach and she does not like to eat insects."

As game show host, you now ask Sarah to stand up and show the back side of her sheet. If it says "Brian," a love match has been made and the class will probably applaud and be very excited. If it does not have Brian's name on it and has for example, "James," written on it, you will ask James to come up to the front and show the audience who he chose. The activity continues in this way until everyone has the chance to stand up and try to make a match with someone else.

The important thing is that each time someone tells the audience who he or she chose, they also must explain "why" using complete sentence answers from the responses they received from one another during the interview process. The class will also have a great time pretending to participate in a real game show, and will be proud of themselves for asking questions, interpreting answers, and explaining their reasoning in English!

Attend a Planning & Action Hour!

Individuals attend these sessions to reflect upon, take stock of, and begin making concrete plans to improve their tutor, mentor, and/or coach training, monitoring, and support practices.

The session is ideal for administrators and coordinators of volunteer-, AmeriCorps-, and service learning-driven organizations.

>> Learn more & reserve your spot today.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Megan, thanks for the creative strategy! Will try this out with my learners next week!!