For some time now, I have asked students to create activities for each other. According to Bloom, creating is a high level thinking skill, so asking this of students could be quite a challenge. Another reason for doing this activity is to help students remember things better. After all, you will learn more if you talk about the activity than if you just copy it from the book.
Still I found this activity not to be as effective as it could be, so I decided to add some scaffolding to make sure the activity would be more effective. Mind you, my mantra is still to spend as little preparation time as possible on my activities, so I thought of this during a lesson.
Step 1: instruction
I instructed my students they had to create four questions. They were allowed to use the book as a resource, but should not copy a question from the book. To make it easier, I scaffolded the topics of the questions. In this case the topics were:
Question 1: Calculate units
Question 2: Area and/or perimeter
Question 3: Volume
Question 4: text based assignment, a minimum of two lines of text.
Especially question 4 needed a little explanation. The other three could be rather straight forward, but I wanted the students to also think of a context around a question. We discussed this type of question before, so after I explained the assignment everyone understood what to do.
Step 2: create an answer sheet
After finishing their assignment, they would have to calculate the answers themselves. This step is important for two reasons:
- The assignments won’t be extremely difficult when students have to be able to answer them themselves.
- Possible errors in the questions will be found and corrected.
Step 3: copy questions and redistribute
When finished, the students copy the questions on a separate piece of paper and include their names. They hand these papers back in and I redistribute the questions.
Step 4: check and discuss
The students do the questions and check the answers with the authors of the questions. If the answers are not the same, the students will have to figure out who is correct and why. A short classroom discussion afterwards to discuss a selection of the questions can solve the final questions for those students who could not find the correct answer.
As I stated in a previous post, working individually is also CLIL. This activity works like a charm to get students to focus on their own work at first, to assure much needed think-for-yourself time. It is of no use whatsoever for them to discuss their questions, as they all produce different ones. I did mention this once, but don’t think that was needed as the students understood this quite well themselves.
Why is this CLIL?
The first part of the activity is focused primarily on individual creativity and content creation. Higher order thinking skills and creativity are both things that apply to CLIL, although it can be argued these aspects could be part of a ‘regular’ lesson as well.
The second part of the activity allows for discussion. Students have to walk around, find the person who created the questions and discuss the answers. This is obviously a speaking exercise as well as a listening exercise, but it is actually a lot more than just that. Students have to provide arguments as to why their answers are correct and need both subject specific language as well as general language skills to get their message across.
To help students in the discussion part of the activity, scaffolding can be used. Common words from the current topic as well as general language structures used to express opinion can be provided to lower the language barrier for students. Examples can be ‘I think the answer is .., because…’ Or ‘I do not think so, because..’
This activity can also be done in two lessons. The redistribution of the questions function as a lesson opening this way.
Feel free to download the activity framework and let me know what you think!