Maria I Ortiz, University of Cincinnati
Key Statement: This article focuses on innovative, engaging, and effective recoding for learning strategies to aid critical thinking for students discussing and interpreting second language texts within an online classroom experience.
Keywords: bichronous, critical thinking, literature
“Learning is a social process, and student participation and involvement in the process is essential” (p. 55) both in-person and, more relevant to today’s teachers, online (Silas et al., 2022). My 2000-level Spanish Conversation and Composition course online served as a test base to explore, integrate, and expand online presence, social engagement, connection, and participation of students. Here, I share a sample lesson in which language students read a short story from the course’s textbook, as an introduction to longer interpretive texts in a second language, and integrated online tools to “ReCODE Reading, Connecting, Observing, Discussing, and Evaluating” (Saenab et al., 2020, p. 3) for learning to promote critical thinking skills while sharing their knowledge and comprehension of the story. At the same time, they connected with other students via the comparisons made and contrasted their interpretations and points of view during a live discussion.
Lesson Plan Implementation
The course delivery formant was bichronous (Martin et al., 2020), meaning that there were live sessions via video conferencing platform twice a week, with both synchronous and asynchronous work and interactions. The students in this course included a mix of second language learners, as well as heritage speakers. This provided an ample range for assessment, as there were various proficiency levels interacting in this space. This presents a challenge because “[second language learning] encourages vocabulary acquisition in terms of cultural context in addition to the mastery of the grammatical structure of the target language as being critical for developing proficiency in the target language” (Rankin et al., 2009, p. 162). Thus, class activities should provide a multilayered space where each student can contribute at their own performance level of language proficiency and higher (as much as possible,) to further progression to a higher interpretive range.
The class was assigned asynchronous work to be completed a week before the class discussion, a live video conference session. Students were to read a short story (approximately 1,000 words) on the online textbook platform and, at the same time, complete comprehension questions, following the model of a flipped lesson. Students also had a PDF of the lecture on the learning management system to support the text accessibility online in case they wanted to print it and make notes.
During the live session, student engagement started immediately with music in Spanish while checking attendance to allow students a few minutes to settle into the social online environment of the class. Social engagement is crucial for effective active learning and has proven to be on the forefront of successful active learning. (Silas et al., 2022). As students logged in, the shared screen had a slide that read, ”Unmute or share on the chat: One word to describe this end to the semester.” This introductory activity aimed to promote reflection and follow-up on students’ well-being, while giving them an opportunity to ease into speaking in Spanish.
The next 20 minutes were dedicated to introducing literary theory, sharing the author’s biographical information, and listening to a recording with the reading on the short story by a native speaker from Argentina (to provide input on accent comprehension and authentic resources). After hearing the short story, students’ general questions about the text were answered, and clarifications were made about the material discussed.
Once these activities for prior-knowledge activation took place, the remaining 35 minutes of the class were used for literary analysis and discussion in an innovative way. Students were prompted, via a link in the chat, to go to Padlet, a virtual bulletin board for collaboration. They were given 15 minutes to work individually. This individual time and space are crucial for “MASTERY: The advantage to practicing a component skill in isolation is that it allows students to focus their attention solely on the skill that needs work” (Ambrose et al., 2010, p. 101). Each student could initially only see their post, both to assure authenticity of their work and further their mastery. As recoding for learning was the objective, students selected 2-3 options to share and discuss how they understood the story, using different literature analysis applications, as divided for each column on the virtual board: visual, conceptual, verbal, and cultural perspectives. Among the options, students could choose to:
Summarize the story using 7 words
Describe how they imagine the main character of the story
Add a picture that they understand best represents the story,
Write an alternative ending for the story
Leave a voice-recorded message for the main character
Students had a timer showing the allotted time for their work. As the instructor plays an observer role, remaining silent, and answering questions via the chat to provide uninterrupted thinking time for students was important. After 15 minutes, students returned to the online group to initiate discussion. All student’s posts were approved for viewing, and they had a few minutes to look at their classmates’ work. Then students unmuted and shared how they interpreted the story and asked questions about their classmates’ interpretations and perspectives.
While the discussion took place, students were prompted to make comments or add reactions to their classmate’s posts in the virtual bulletin board, as part of the non-verbal connection of the analysis in class, which promotes active engagement and further understanding and collaboration, resulting in “community in online courses [where] we should help learners see both ourselves and one another as human beings behind those names” (Darby et al., 2019, p. 81). In the final step of this class activity, students went back to work asynchronously by responding to a video discussion board on the learning management system to close the class discussion and analysis.
Conclusion and Further Considerations
The importance of recoding information for learning is essential to promote critical thinking skills, and in this case even more critical to furthering proficiency in a second language. In the lesson plan shared, the recoding integrated technology via a virtual bulletin board platform, which allowed for exploration and creativity. Students could find at least one or two ways in which they could show their points of view about the story. This strategy can be used with other subjects, in various modalities, from in-person, to hyflex, asynchronous, and bichronous, like in this case. I invite you to contemplate the possibilities, experiment and give them a try!
What are some strategies you could consider for transforming activities from your face-to-face classroom into other online modalities?
What accessible technologies could you use?
How would you promote and strengthen multi-community connections (with students in person and online in the same live session)?
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