Leveling Up Comparisons with Cyber Sandwiches

Today I’m sharing another strategy that I use throughout my classes to scaffold student interaction, moving us from input to discussion, and finally, output. Not only is the Cyber Sandwich an excellent tool for scaffolding language, it also supports collaboration and comparison/contrast. As with many of the strategies in my classes, I love that it is a low prep/high yield tool easily adaptable across levels, languages, and units.

The Cyber Sandwich protocol is from the book Eduprotocols is explained in detail here (including a helpful explainer video). The highlights are:

  1. Students read/view/listen to a source of content and take notes on it. The content can be the same for both people or can represent differing viewpoints.
  2. They meet in pairs to discuss that content & create a Venn diagram
  3. They individually write a summary paragraph that incorporates content from both participants.

The activity is run through Google Slides, so it is easily adaptable to any version of the in person – remote teaching spectrum.

While at first glance this activity seems like something that teachers have been doing for a long time in their classes, the template with scaffolding for writing is what sets this version apart for me. Injecting sentence starters and connectors–much like in roving paragraph frames–supports ALL students in taking the next step on their language journey. Struggling students get help in getting started while more advanced students get help in creating more complex output. Another important point to consider is that working with structures like this throughout the curriculum is incredibly helpful for students who continue their studies through AP and IB classes (and their teachers too!).

You can download a copy of the slides with the Spanish sentence starters + connectors here. A request: If you teach a language other than Spanish and adapt it to your language, would you share it back? I’ll post it for others to access as well.

Update 4/19/21: Thanks to Stephanie Kasten (@amulsolo) we have a French edition too! Grab a copy here.

Leveling Up with a Sentence Framework

This is an update and addition to previous presentations/documents in collaboration with Erin Carlson around the topic of supporting and scaffolding student output. See more about her work here, including an article she wrote for The Language Educator.

In previous posts (including the one above) I have shared a handout that I used in my classes to walk students through the three formulas that Erin recommends for elevating the complexity of sentence construction, even for level 1. While that form is still helpful, I wanted an edition that was editable by others–including students–to make it more effective in remote & hybrid environments. You can download a copy here. Thank you to Rebecca Blouwolff for her suggestions in the re-imagining process.

There are two versions in the file: the first version has touches of Spanish; the second version is completely in English. Both are set up to print OR be used in a digital environment. Teachers can edit anything by editing the master, and students can write directly in the document using the text boxes provided.

I hope you find them helpful :). Thanks for reading!

Leveling Up with Roving Paragraph Frames

One of the things I have been missing most in virtual classes–and now in hybrid classes with restrictions on movement–is the active interaction between students as we go about our work of collaborating and growing our language skills. Roving paragraph frames is a strategy that I learned about from Sally Barnes at ACTFL 2020, and is based on work in Anna Matis’ book 7 Steps to a Language Rich Foreign Language Classroom. I love this activity framework because it promotes reading, speaking, listening, and writing while scaffolding growth for all learners AND giving us a chance to move.

Roving paragraph frames are a low prep, high yield strategy that can be used in any unit, class, or level. They combine sentence starters as scaffolds and end in a student-written paragraph. The general outline goes like this:

  1. Students are partnered up
  2. Teacher provides a sentence starter connected to a class topic–on a handout or projected and students copy it down
  3. Pairs collaborate to finish the sentence and write it on their paper
  4. Find a new partner
  5. Each partner reads out loud the sentence they wrote with partner #1. It’s important to read all previously written content with each new partner.
  6. Teacher provides a new stem to continue the paragraph. Pairs collaborate to make a new sentence without repeating any content from their original sentence.
  7. Repeat steps 4-7 as many times as teacher desires. I would use 4-6 total rotations for lower levels, but perhaps increase that number for upper levels.
  8. Send students to their seats to edit/wordsmith their paragraphs that they have now created with their sentences created during this process. This should be a smooth process due to the injection of structure and academic language provided by the sentence stems.

A sample frame for a lower level class might take shape like this:

  • It’s important to travel because…
  • Also…
  • And in addition…
  • I would most like to visit…
  • However…
  • Most of all…

There is no one set formula–the sentence starters can and will change according to the topic and complexity of the content. Here are my top 10 favorites to mix and match:

Using sentence stems gives all students a helping hand by giving them ideas to get started–an often overlooked part of the learning process. It also adds in a layer of more sophisticated language that starts to approximate the gap between their ideas and their target language production.

So… reading, writing, speaking, listening, interacting, and building confidence and language skills… what’s not to love? Not much, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the activity within our social distancing guidelines. Until I saw this tweet and realized that Google Slides could be our answer:

… and an adaptation was born.

I used Google Slides to make a template to convert this framework into a small group review assignment for one of my upper level classes. (Find the template here) Update 4/28/21: here’s a template all in English

The general idea is the same, but without the movement & change in partners. The steps went like this:

  1. Students were placed in groups of 3-4 and were provided a copy of the slide deck. One person opened the file and shared it with the others so that they could work simultaneously. The slide deck is currently set up for groups of 4, and no real adjustment is needed to have smaller groups–just skip the additional individual slides.
  2. Students reviewed the assigned content, then completed all 10 sentence starters on an individual slide in the slide deck (slides 3-6).
  3. At the designated time, they “met” as a group at slide 7. They took turns sharing their individual sentences and as a group they selected the strongest option and recorded it into the frame on slide 7.
  4. After working through slide 7, they were then tasked with reworking their sentences into a cohesive paragraph on slide 8 that summarized their views. Each group submitted one collaborative paragraph for review.

I really liked this activity for many reasons:

  • It’s versatile and very easy to set up
  • The students are doing the work and it is a confidence builder.
  • It promotes collaboration and language skills.
  • I heard students saying things like “we need to add more connectors” and coaching one another through improving their writing.
  • It allowed me to circulate through the room and offer timely feedback.
  • It was easy to execute in a hybrid environment with some students in person and others at home.
  • It was an effective way to review recent content and extend it by writing about it.
  • It complements other strategies that we’ve used in class like our level up framework.

All in all, it’s a keeper!