When I was doing my student teaching (in English) our methods teacher said something like, “The complexity of your language is a reflection of your complexity of thought.” While I can get behind this statement for a native language, this isn’t true for a second language. I mean, I’m entirely capable of complex thought, but I certainly can’t express that in Spanish. Depending on the topic I may be able to express a complex-ish thought in French. And on any one day, I may or may not find complex thought expression in English a stretch.
This makes it easy to say oh, those novices, they can’t do any critical thinking.
Not True – Beyond DOK 1
Here is a simple activity, that I did not invent that asks students to think critically with very little language. Let me start out with that in the first hours of French, I tell this completely ridiculous story about a crab who has its heart broken by a chain smoking rabbit and who is ultimately consoled by a snail. It’s riveting.
This activity is actually what I think of as disguised input. (I suppose some people would argue that the best comprehensible input is disguised, but for me it means that this is not an input activity per se.) This activity is meant to give students the opportunity to hear the words chien, chat, lapin several times in a meaningful context and it asks students to think critically without producing a lot of language. They need to say impossible, possible, probable (with the French pronunciation-ish).
I put up the slide and then ask in the TL, “Rabbits eat carrots? Yes, that’s pretty logical.” “Dogs eat hamburgers?” You’d be surprised by the answer to that one. “Dogs eat cats?! What?! Dogs eat cats! Nooooooooon.” “Dogs speak French.” “Snails eat lettuce.”
You get the idea. We go through many, many possibilities. You’ll notice that the second row is all cognates except fleur, which is like a half cognate.
Enter Google Forms
This year I’m taking this activity to the next level with a Google Form. I asked students to read the statements and then answer and some of the statements were different than the ones I said outloud. And then you know what we did? We practiced numbers by talking about percentages of people who think it’s probable that dogs eat cats, etc. Because there is never not a good time to use numbers in context.
I didn’t do this next step because we didn’t have time, but to extend the activity I could ask students to make their own sentences that (im)possible or probable. Or I could ask them to move sentences and categorize them.
I make enough work for myself, so I love when I can re-use things I’ve already built. The next activity involves the students using aime/adore/n’aime pas/déteste with the same slide. Additionally, we re-tell the whole story by using aime/adore/n’aime pas déteste. This year I added in parce que for the students and they made amazing sentences for such limited hours of French.
I’m not suggesting that my silly story and activity will leave students enlightened, but it does allow for them to think critically and respond to a complex question with simple language.