I agree on the fact that in classes where students learn grammar rules and then apply those rules by translating sentences between the target language and the native language for most of the time there is little interaction among the learners and less emphasis on the communicative process, but I am also convinced that grammar structures need to be internalized and the more we work on them the better it is. Moreover, I think that error correction is necessary to advancement and students can greatly benefit from the thinking process required by the effort of translating into a different language.
What follows is my attempt ro make a translation exercise a bit more appealing to 21st century students.
The starting point being a pedagogical aim - in this case the ability to distinguish between past simple and present perfect and use them correctly - I asked myself " Is there a tech tool which could help me reach that goal in a more efficient way and could let me enhance the traditional task of translating sentences?"
I decided to use Todaysmeet, a free backchannel chat platform that students can join fast with no registration.
They worked in pairs on their ipads and what I did was to write and send sentences in Italian for them to translate into English.
Here is an example.
After each sentence I gave them a quick feedback and made sure they understood the mistakes.
We also had a "reward" for the fastest and most correct couple.
Some of the advantages of having integrated this tech tool into the class activity may be summed up here:
- it proved to be a powerful way to get formative assessment , fast and personalized ( I was able to see each student's answer directly on the screen and I realized immediately who needed extra practice on the topic )
- everybody was actively involved
- they had the possibility to see both correct and wrong sentences
- it gave us the chance to really work on mistakes in a meaningful way
In order to maximize the learning opportunities I asked them to save a copy of the transcript and to create an online multiple-choice test using Testmoz and recycling the sentences I had dictated. They chose the answers among the ones written by them during the previous activity. They didn't even have to make the effort of inventing wrong answers.
Finally we shared all the links to the different tests and in the following lesson they practised on the exercises created by themselves.
Here is the link to one of the tests . Have fun trying it!