Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Mannequin Challenge as a Scaffold for Language Learners

I teach a fourth grade dual immersion class.  The majority of the students are Spanish Learners so at times it gets challenging to reach all students especially during Language Arts hour.  We are currently reading the book La trompeta del cisne or The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B.White.  In English the book is rated at a high fourth grade level, but in Spanish I would say it could be an eighth grade level book due to the high academic vocabulary and the fact that it was published in Spain and uses verbs and grammar with which my mostly Mexican and Central American student population are not familiar. 
Even though this novel is a much higher educational  level than what my students are accustomed to, I choose to use it every year due to its high interest level.  After the third chapter, all students, even the beginning Spanish Learners are hooked.  My secret... Scaffolding... Continuous, not stop and fun scaffolding.  It is so necessary when you are teaching a second language, no matter what the language is.  In previous blogs I have shown and discussed a few of my scaffolding and differentiating strategies.  Retelling Stories using Nonlinguistic Representations in a Dual Language Classroom and Retelling Stories using Nonlinguistic Representations in a Dual Language Classroom - day 2 discusses a lesson where I used sketches and illustrations to ensure comprehension for all.  

Lately, though, these types of scaffolding strategies have become boring and repetitive for the students.  So I have decided to change the lesson up a bit.  Lately I have been facilitating skits to illustrate in a multiple intelligence type of style plot summary.  After these skits we get into the grit of the lesson with inferencing, using citations, and dialogue analysis. 

Today as we were reading a chapter called "Serena" I asked my students to get in their diverse groups to discuss, reread,  and refer to text to create a short skit to act out the chapter.  As I walked around and observed, I discovered that the students were not being very successful in their creativity.  And as I reflected on the reason why, I realized that the chapter was much more descriptive than it was active.  It was mainly about the time that Louis, the swan decided to declare his love for Serena by playing her a love ballad with a trumpet.  These two swans were living at the zoo and the chapter was mostly about all the other animals in the zoo and how they reacted to the beautiful music played by Louis.

Now, I know that most, if not all administrators tell their staff that the best lessons come from preplanning, but at this moment, I came up with the best lesson that I could ever have planned.  I remember that I had seen this new phenomenon on Twitter called the Mannequin Challenge where people create a scene and stand like a mannequin to illustrate it.  I thought to myself as I saw the students struggle with recreating the scene through actions that this would be the perfect Mannequin Challenge activity.

As I struggled with the idea, debating on whether it was "Common Core" worthy or not, I thought the following thoughts.  What is my purpose?  Well, I wanted the students to understand the chapter so we could go further with it in the next lesson.  I thought, yes, the Mannequin Challenge would accomplish comprehension on text.  Next I thought, I wanted lots of conversation among students being that this is a Dual Immersion classroom and one of the best ways to learn a language is through speaking and listening.  I thought, well, the statues don't talk, but the students have to plan together to create the scene of the statues, so yes, this would also accomplish my goal.  So we did it!  And we got an added bonus of the students LOVIN the activity and wanting to read even more of the chapter.  What more could a Common Core teacher want?

I'm noticing that at times the video is not functioning, sorry about that.  Here is a photo that can help you envision the lesson if the video doesn't play for you.

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