Friday, March 17, 2017

Air Writing & Palm Writing - A Fun Friday Activity

Brain breaks are a good idea because they're a necessity. Your students need that little bit of down time with a physical activity that allows their brain to refresh and re-energize.

Likewise, teachers need that break, but sometimes a minute or two isn't sufficient. What do you do when that happens? That's simple - take what could be a one minute brain break and extend it to 10-12 minutes.

Full disclosure - I am aware that the following activity will not provide the most "bang for your buck" when it comes to providing Comprehensible Input. However, it IS in the target language, the students will enjoy it (not a single complaint from my students today), and it will give you, the teacher, ten to fifteen minutes of minimal energy expenditure, thus reserving your energy for the more powerful Ci for the remainder of the class. In other words, it's fun and something that you may want to try one time per semester to give both the students and the teacher a breather.

Today's activity is described below. There is also a second example of how I used to do this activity more than 6 years ago but with a few changes.

Air & Palm Writing
1. Students will work with a partner.

2. Students need to put the chairs in a semi-circle as show in the diagram. The squares represent chairs (or desks if you have them in your classroom). The students in the blue squares (chairs or desks) face away from the board and students in the red squares (chairs or desks). 

3. The student in the chair facing AWAY from the marker board needs a mini whiteboard, a marker, and an eraser.

4. Palm writing: The teacher writes a word or short sentence on the board. For example: Dinos la verdad. (Tell us the truth.) Only the students facing the board are permitted to read the sentence. Those students then have to write the sentence in the air while their partner (with their back to the board) writes the letters and words onto the mini whiteboard. As soon as they have the sentence written they raise their marker board for the teacher to read. First group to have the correct sentence earns a point. (You could give 2 points to the first group and 1 point to the second and third group so they don't stop writing as soon as the first group has the correct answer.)   

Before starting, I told the students that they are not permitted to talk while they are "air writing". To indicate a new word, they made a fist and pounded their fist one time into the palm of their hand. To indicate an accent, after they "air wrote" the vowel, they then said "chsss" to make a whoosh type sound.

Confession: After the first two rounds, I added some extra words not originally planned that had accents because I liked hearing the "chsss" sounds mixed in with the palm pounding. It was also fun for me to watch the students' expressions because they were FOCUSED and intent on being the first group to finish.

I allowed students to switch seats with their partners whenever they wanted to try to be the recipient or the "air writer".

Variation: After 4 rounds, I changed the rules slightly. Instead of air writing, the students wrote on their partner's palm with their finger (not with a marker!).

Next class period I will tell the students a story about a person that tells his friend what to do (it will have a lot of commands), so the sentences that they had to "write" had commands. After a group earned points, I asked the students to verbally translate the answer into English. can't justify 10-12 minutes for this activity, directly connect your sentences to a story that you recently told the students with one word in the sentence that makes it inaccurate. After a group wins the point for being the first group to write the sentence, ask for a volunteer to verbally change the sentence to make it agree with the story.

Back Writing
Years ago when I did this activity, the students wrote on their team mates' backs and they also worked in groups of 5 or 6. You can add the "back writing" as an alternative to "air writing" and "palm writing".

Admittedly, the activity falls more accurately into the FUN category than the Powerful CI category, but sometimes it's nice to be able to throw one of these activities into the mix for a breather. Then move on and provide more CI. 

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