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Now's Co-operative Newsletter (extra long issue)
7 February 2000, #04


Some of you are receiving this for the first time. Some of you may be wondering what's happening.

Recently my computer stopped working. I suddenly found myself with a lot of time. I jogged, I meditated, I read, I tidied up my rooms, I found some addresses that I had lost. I'm getting organised and part of the process is to look more organised! My apologies to all newcomers. If you would like to receive 'back copies' of this newsletter please let me know - there are around three.

There are around twenty of us on this list now and it is still my intention to send something out every couple of weeks. What gets sent will very much depend upon what I receive. I want this newsletter to be useful and thought provoking. I'd like it to become a forum for discussing issues relating to co-operative learning and co-operative games. I'll be sending out some of my own material and questions but I'd like to include ideas from everyone. So questions, comments and thoughts are all welcome.

Self Portraits

Name: Hideko Kato

Location: Hiroshima, JAPAN

Students taught: Me -- I am learning English as a second language.

Experience: I have been learning English for 20 years still being on my way to find an extremely effective way of learning English. Some co-operative games were introduced to our English class this year, and I became interested in the concept of using non-competitive learning method for English education. I would like to examine this method from a learner's point of view.

Interest: My current job is translating English into Japanese, but I am also interested in creating materials for teaching English to kids.

Passions: I like making friends with kids and cats. Anything creative, e.g. making music, drawing pictures or designing web pages, attracts me.





May God bless and guide you to accomplish great things, to really enjoy PEACE and HAPPINESS!

I've finished my Master Thesis and my graduation is getting near. I was accepted for further studies at a Bible College in Toronto and hope I can move there in spring.

Related to the newsletter: twice a month sounds OK to me.

Have a nice day!


Comments & questions

Tate Yamashita asked me about the example given with the Game Design Sheet. In particular she wondered about the passing of the ball and if it and the drill were unrelated as to meaning. She raises an important point.

As the example stands the passing of the ball was just something to do while conducting a drill. And as Tate commented "the game would be that much better (fun)... if the meaning fit the actions more". The point I wanted to make is that sometimes the game action can divert the students away from focusing on the English. I think this is most likely to happen when the action has nothing to do with the function of the English being used. So in my example the action was to pass a ball around as fast as possible while making a statement. But the statement and the ball passing were unrelated. Which means that when the students are asked to recall meaning from the game i.e. the information contained in the statements they find it difficult to do so.

To examine this here is an experiment which I invite you all to conduct. Play "I have Dash!" Get some flash cards of nouns and place them on a chair. Get the students to stand in a circle around the chair. Decide on an order. On the command "go" the first student runs to the chair takes a flashcard returns to the circle and says "I have a...(names the flashcard)". The second student does likewise and then the third until all the students have a card. Time the game with a stopwatch. When a time has been established repeat the game and challenge the students to beat their own time. Do this twice. Then play the following variation ("You have Dash!"). The students now have one flashcard each. Tell the students to keep their flash cards secret. Tell them they must return their cards to the chair but can only do so when one student tells another student correctly what that student has. If a student can't remember what any of the other students have the student must pass. A mistake ends the game. For example student A has a dog, Student B has a fish, Student C has a horse and Student D has a duck. The game starts. Student A passes, Student B tells student D "You have a duck". Student B returns the duck to the chair. It is now student D's turn. Student D tells student B "You have a fish". Student B returns the fish. Student B's turn again. Student B tells Student C "You have a pig". This is a mistake and the game ends. When the game ends players count how many cards they have remaining. Keep a record of every game and see if the students get better.

My guess is that at first the students won't be able to remember each other's cards. But once they know the game and they know that it is linked to the first game they will begin to take more notice of each other and be able to get rid of more cards. I also think that students may be inclined to cheat and show each other what cards they have. If they do then turn this into a game in itself. Tell the students there are two games and that showing the cards is the easy version. Let them play this 'easy version' and time it keeping track of their times over a series of lessons. After a while challenge them to do the 'hard version' keeping the cards secret. If you only have two or three students in a class you could play a similar game where each player has two or three cards each.

As described above I guess the game assumes that you are using known vocabulary. As an extension teach the phrase "What is it?" Then mix in some new vocabulary cards. This will make the second game even more challenging.

Changing and adapting games is a very important part of co-operative learning. Games are fun and they help students to learn. Easy games are boring. If you have the ability it's useful to discuss the games you play with your students. Get them to think of ways of making a game more challenging or easier if a game should prove difficult. Learning how to break complex tasks into manageable junks is an important skill which stretches far beyond learning English.

I'm jumping again.

The games described above assume that the nouns are singular and take 'a' rather than 'an'. I think it's important to go into this level of detail when planning a game because I want to avoid setting up situations where students make errors because of lack of information. I think it's important to avoid correction during games, as students should be using language spontaneously.

So how about some variations to deal with 'a' and 'an' and plurals? I'd introduce one new concept at a time. The game should focus on the concept. Here we go:

I have Dash!

  1. Place the cards on the chair in separate boxes; i.e. divide the cards according to type. If a student makes a mistake blow a hooter. Any student can then offer a correction. When the students have the correct answer get them to all shout out together the correct statement three times. Then the game resumes.
  2. Or if a student makes a mistake sound the hooter. The card is lost. The student must run and put the card under the chair. The student then takes another card. If some students have difficulty with the new concept indicate to them which box contains the 'a' cards.
  3. Or don't tell the students but take note of the number of mistakes. Then when all the students have a card. Tell the students how many mistakes were made. Add one second to their time for each mistake made.

You have Dash!

  1. A single mistake with 'a' or 'an' ends the game. I'd only play this variation with confident players. But if you were slow at blowing the hooter you could give the student who made the error time to self-correct.
  2. Don't tell the students but keep track of the number of mistakes. When the game is over adjust the students' score by the number of mistakes made.
  3. The students should return each card to the correct box. The boxes should be labelled. At the end of the game go through the cards in the box and adjust the students' score according to the number of mistakes made.

In general I'd be careful about focusing on the errors of children, especially if they are very young. Usually just giving the time to correct the error is best. But how do they know about the error unless it is pointed out? Well usually other children will notice. If none of the other children notice then you haven't taught the concept well enough. When I taught at kindergarten we used to play a game with vegetables and fruit. The children (around 30 of them) would sit in a circle around a basket of fruit and vegetables. We got them to call out what they wanted "Get me a banana". The teacher would run and get a banana. This went on until all the children had something. Then we'd produce three shopping bags, one, blue, one orange and one green. We'd tell the students to return their fruit and vegetables. For example, "Put the bananas in the orange bag." All the students with bananas would come forward, they learnt from each other where to put the bananas. If one student made a mistake the other students naturally helped out. The students could cope with the command because they'd already learnt about colours and the preposition in. It wasn't necessary to model the language. They could also try to follow the command because they were acting in a group. There was no individual pressure. Sometimes a child would put something in the wrong bag and none of the other children would notice. We let it go. If we'd been using the lesson planning sheet we could have taken a special note about that student but the lessons weren't that structured.

The attachment: The Lesson Planning Sheet

This was developed last year as a planning tool at Hunt for English. Feel free to use it and if you like it please pass it on to others. I only ask you acknowledge where it came from. Also if you make amendments or have suggestions I'd love to hear about them.

How it works:

The sheet is designed for classes with up to 10 students. The names of the students are written in the names column.

The lesson targets are written down in advance. At Hunt for English we would plan out lessons by the month. The first week would contain the most targets. Subsequent lessons would introduce one or two new targets. This allowed the teacher to re-introduce previous targets or additional targets of particular interest to the students of that class. For example here are the targets for an opening class of first grade elementary students:

Reading: c, a, t, individually and as the word ‘cat’
Speaking: ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’
Understanding ‘Who are you?’ and the reply: ‘I’m…..’
Understand ‘yes’ & ‘no’
Play a game without talking – use gestures only
Recognise basic colours: red, green, yellow, blue, pink, orange
Compare this with the formal targets for the fourth week:

Reading review: c, a, t, n, introduce ‘h’, target word to read hat
Trace: review c, a, t, n, introduce h
I should point out that we didn't use text books and generated material used in the classes ourselves.

At the end of the class the teacher would write down any additional targets which were covered in the lesson. The teacher would check if a target was actually introduced and how it was introduced by making a check in one or more of the boxes marked V - Visual, A - Auditory, K - Kinaesthetic, S - Song, L - Logic. These categories were adapted from the NLP theory about 'languages of the brain'. Another interesting way of considering presentation is to use Howard Gardner's idea of 'Multiple Intelligences'. The point is that it is important to record how a concept is introduced. The more ways a single concept can be introduced the more likely all the students will get it.

During and after the lesson the teacher would make a check for each target against each student's name. Comments about each student could also be written.

The teacher would also check whether the students had attempted the previous week's homework or not.

In The Materials Used box we would record what games and activities were actually done. This would be done after the class. It was the job of the teacher to assess the class and decide how to reach the targets.

Finally the teacher could record the feeling about the class in the Comments box.

So to reiterate formal targets are decided before the lesson. The rest of the sheet is used to record the process of the lesson itself.

One plan was to transfer the individual information recorded about students to a database. If designed properly the database could be used to provide students and teachers with information about learning habits and styles. But workload prevented this from being carried out.

Another idea which was discussed but not implemented was to create an entire course of 20 lessons. The theory was that a class would stay on the same lesson until all the students had got all the concepts in that lesson. Conversely if a class were very fast they might get through more than one lesson within a single time period. This meant in theory that different classes would proceed at different rates. Since we gave all the classes a homework tape every week this could have proved administratively difficult.

I think that students should be able to proceed at their own rate. But also I think students should be able to choose the direction in which they proceed. I'll be returning to this theme in future newsletters.


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Contributions, requests and comments are very welcome.

Note: Now's Co-operative Newsletter used photos to link to other sites. Some links have been replaced as the original websites have disappeared. Accordingly notall photos lead back to the sites they came from. Spelling has been left as was - ouch!

getfile:Lesson Planning Sheet

Word Document A4, 1 page, 30 KB

For the record:

As was, apart from some formatting. I even left the signature in the wrong place which is how the orignal newsletter went out.

As far as I can determine there never was an issue 3!

last updated: 5th August 2005

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