Pencils on Paper – Eight Activities

Sometimes we find that our students’ energy needs to be contained with some pencils-to-paper activities. When the kids have a pencil in their hands, they think that they are learning.
Let’s be honest and clear here. Our goal is first and foremost to make it to the end of the year with our mental health intact in a most difficult profession. We have by now been working for months on end to reach our kids with plenty of auditory and reading input. So when the stories and input well gets low, we simply cannot continue to do the same thing that we have done all year and so need to protect our mental health. There can be no greater goal for any teacher.
Here we provide a list of 8 tried-and-true written activities that still keep the language flowing:

Activity 1: Dictée is a nice break for teacher and students. At this point in the year, you might want to increase the frequency of dictée. There is no reason to not do this valuable learning activity every day if you wish.
Activity 2: Read and draw: After silent reading time, have students make one-page comics, using Mike Peto’s template or any other template, to illustrate a chapter in their books. These can be collected and used next year as support materials for the chapter books.
Activity 3: Listen and Sketch: Use a comic book template as you retell a familiar story in parts. Each part corresponds to a box in the comic book template. Have students sketch to show their understanding of what they hear. Retell a familiar story or tell a new story.
Activity 4: Write Inside the Story: This works well with Listen and Sketch. A template is provided for students to draw and write on. You can use a familiar story. The students will add details “inside the story” on the lines below the sketch boxes. Tell part of the story. Students listen and sketch in two boxes. Then pause and tell the students to write for three to five minutes, to add on details to the story. You might choose the best work and retell the new stories in the next class session. Once you are done using the sheets for this retelling, students can paste them into their notebooks.
Activity 5: Cloze Listening: You can use a previously-typed text that your class created, to produce a cloze listening activity wherein you remove selected words and students fill in the blanks. You can do this the random way or the planned way. The random way is to simply remove every sixth word and replace it with a blank. Then read to the students and have them fill in the missing words. You can also plan the words to remove, if you would like, selecting words that your students like, or that you think would be interesting to call their attention to, or words that are on your required list from the district.
Activity 6: Circle Stories: Students get into a group of five. The groups must all be five. If need be, you can have ONE group that is less than five, but these students will have to write the ending to their own stories. Students each have a sheet of paper. You give them a phrase in L2 to begin,everyone writes it on their paper, and then you let them write for 3 minutes in L2. At the end of three minutes, they pass the paper to their right. Everyone now has a different paper in front of them. They read the previous student’s beginning. Then you give them all a new sentence starter to begin their additions to the story. They write for 3 minutes, then pass. The process is repeated five times, so that each story has all five students’ work in it. The suggested sentence starters are:
• There is/There was…
• They want/wanted…
• There is/was a problem…
• They go/went to…
• Now they are…
After they are done you can do Author’s Chair, and have students read aloud. You can have them draw illustrations for the stories. You can use the better stories for visual storytelling. You can then Write and Discuss the stories. You can add these stories to the Class Storybook or the Book of the Class. Clearly, this particular Pencils to Paper activity has the potential to extend for up to an entire week, This is exactly what we want at this time of year from these activities.
Activity 7: TPR on Paper: In this activity we are equating the term TPR with the physical actions of drawing that the students do in this strategy.
Option 1, Working with a Picture: Give students a picture. Tell them that they cannot write or draw anything on the paper until they are told to do so. Have your own copy of the image to project for the class, so you can model the steps. Do so using these three steps. Imagine you have a picture of a blank head.
• First, students’ pencils are down. Say the L2 direction. “Put a long nose on the face.”
• Then model the action and say it again. “Put a long nose on the face.” You draw a long nose as you speak.
• Then repeat the direction as the students follow it. “Pick your pencil up and put a long nose on the face.”
Then, have them put their pencils back down and listen to the next instruction and modeling.
Option 2, Working with a Map: Give the students a blank map of your state and a pencil, a blue pen, and red pen. Sayay and model the following instructions using the three-step modeling and following-along process described above. Here is an example.
Pick your red pen up.
Write your name.
Write the day, Wednesday.
Put down the red pen. Pick up the blue pen.
Write the date, April 20, 2020.
Put down the blue pen. Pick up the pencil.
Draw a star on the capital, which is located here.
Option 3, Building an Image from Scratch: A third option when you you doTPR on Paper is to not work from an image or map at all, but rather to , simply build an image with the class from scratch. It is a lot of fun to not tell the class what the eventual image will be.
Option 4, Working with Cutouts: You can also do TPR on Paper with cutouts that students tape or glue into place. (We have found glue sticks best for this.) They could cut out pictures of food, for instance, and glue them onto a picture of a refrigerator or table, or pictures of places in town and glue them onto a map. This is an excellent option for students who are predominantly kinesthetic in their learning style, and which students are not exactly that in springtime?
It is a good idea to either review or place a poster on the wall that provides the students with directional words that you may use in directing the TPR on Paper activity. You may also want to use Ben’s kinesthetic system of teaching prepositions.
Activity 8: Picture Bingo. Google “Picture Bingo Maker” and you will find websites where you can print out picture Bingo cards with certain themes (body parts, shapes, animals, etc.) or make your own custom Bingo cards by uploading the images. You describe the pictures in L2 and students mark the square you are describing. Normal Bingo cards are also useful to provide input on numbers.

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8 thoughts on “Pencils on Paper – Eight Activities”

  1. You know what I also have been doing lately? Along with the agenda for the day that I show to students (I often change the agenda but they behave better if they know you have a plan) is writing a daily can-do statement.
    Today we are doing some reading with the Invisibles and then we are going to do a reading with Señor Wooly´s “guapo” video……
    Today’s goal is: I can understand a short text with 90% comprehension.
    (It took me all of thirty seconds to come up with that…BOOM)
    You see here’s the thing….almost no teacher writes a daily objective….in admin school they are taught that good teachers write daily objective. When they see the CI teacher writing a daily objective and the traditional language teachers not writing one…..it can only help us.
    Sometimes working with the system will get us more of what we want (time for CI and especially NT CI)

    1. I love that you are teaching your daily goal in Spanish! I have the objectives for the modes in Spanish on my wall and we’ve learned gestures for them. Admin regularly go on “learning walks” at my school-they go into different classrooms and take notes, writing down how many classrooms have visible targets, what percentage of students are engaged. SO I thought I’d train my students to tell the admin the targets in Spanish…We also have to have content targets and HOWL targets on our papers-so I’ve been writing those in Spanish, too.

  2. These activities are great– there are just enough here to give me a springboard without being overwhelming!
    This is perhaps a variation on Activity 4 that I have used before, sometimes when there’s a sub. I give students each a printout of the story (the one we’re currently working on or a previous one) and ask them to cross out a few details or sentences and change it in whatever way they wish the story had gone. You could also have them draw the new ending or a changed scene from the story. My students have done really well with this because it gives even the quiet ones a forum to get their ideas out, and everyone has a feeling of having influenced the story.
    Sometimes they’re also really amusing and you get to know your students a little better. (The last time I did this (it was left for the sub), nearly the whole class decided that the main character really didn’t die but instead lived on to a ripe old age, even though they had voted overwhelmingly for it to go the other way! They expressed such relief when I returned because they had a way to make her live again!)

  3. Angela the story about how the kids needed you to keep that character alive cuts to a deep truth about this work – when they are invested in the story, everything becomes real to them and we are thus able to trick them into absorbing large amounts of language while they only focus on the meaning, just as Krashen says how it works. I love it when I hear stories like the one you told. It reveals the greatness of this work.

  4. Activity 7: TPR on paper … this sounds like the perfect addition to my rotation of activities. Thank you! Especially for my 100 minute class periods.

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