Shrinking Summaries & Dictogloss

Last holidays, I joined a class of (primary) Indonesian teachers for beginner Spanish lessons with the amazing Margarita Perez Garcia. We all shared a single aim from these lessons; to improve our own teaching practise through experiencing TPRS as learners. This was achieved while learning a totally new language (ie getting a a glimpse of the issues our own students experience) as well as gaining a deeper understanding of TPRS . Probably the single main point we all appreciated was that you can never hear target structure repetitions enough; every time Margarita circled, we lapped it up like thirsty animals at a pool of water.

This term I trialled several of the activities Margarita did with us. Two that worked incredibly well for middle primary students and totally complemented each other were ‘shrinking summary’ and ‘dictogloss’.

One thing Margarita emphasised was the power of reading. To use the class created story for reading whenever possible. Facilitating reading and rereading of the class story provides opportunities for bonus repetitions of not only vocabulary, but also grammar, word order, spelling etc. The benefits are endless for implicit learning through subtle teaching!! I began the lesson with a reading technique Margarita did with our class; the teacher reads out loud the story and whenever he/she stops at a word, the class say the next word. This was a great way of keeping their eyes glued to the text up on the screen because they had no idea where I was going to stop while also increasing their familiarity with their story’ written features.

Next using the grouping option on Class Dojo (how I love this tool), I paired the students up randomly. Each pair then was given a piece of paper and a pencil and together they had to identify 5 ONLY sentences from the projected story that could stand alone to summarise their story. These were then written them down on their sheet of paper exactly as they appeared on the screen. I encouraged pairs to work together; one reading and one writing.

From that, each pair next had to create and write ONE five word sentence to summarise the five sentences they had chosen before finishing off with pairs choosing one word from the sentence that in itself summarises the story. Thus pairs would finish with five sentences, one sentence and then finally one single word, each representing a shrinking summary! My 3/4 classes found this task incredibly challenging, especially those students with developing literacy skills. Thankfully the random pair generator tool on Class Dojo largely resulted in splitting up students of equal literacy skills. For the odd one that was not paired up with a more confident reader/writer, I was able to support them however they needed.

Dictogloss beautifully follows on from the creation of a shrinking summary because it requires students to retell the story. I created a grid of 6 squares, aiming to get six main story events. This worked out perfectly because it meant that students could draw upon the five sentences from their summary. Had I done this cold, ie without a recent shrinking summary process, I have no doubt my year 3/4’s would have baulked at a task such as this. In doing it this way, it differentiated beautifully. The majority of the class could draw upon the sentences we had focused on in the previous lesson while the ‘4 percenters’ had the opportunity to offer up extra details. If you look at the photo below, you can see that every student has a grid and a student is sitting at the computer. I had planned to write the story out myself on the board, but instead I impulsively asked my ‘tukang Komputer’ firstly if they wanted to do the typing and each one delightedly accepted. The beauty of this was that it freed me up to wander around the class while eliciting responses. It also provided an added bonus for a focus on spelling, punctuation and word order. AND, it also slowed me right down!!

Here is one created by a class tukang komputer. Note the ending! This was not the original class created ending! It came about through this task! I’ve just noticed the ‘s at the end!! Oops; a missed opportunity!!

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