Kindness Matters (LS-RO-92)

14 Romanian students aged 14 and 15, learners of English as a Foreign Language (current level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: +B1), worked with a learning scenario on kindness for a week, eventually producing elegant stories about the importance of being caring and considerate nowadays.

Main goal

The learning activities aim at answering these questions: How do we recognize/acknowledge kindness? How can we appreciate/create kindness?

Lead-in

The world of fairy tales is a world of beautiful princesses, handsome princes, good fairies, evil witches, dwarfs, giants, dragons and magic spells. Furthermore, it is a world in which good invariably triumphs over evil and in which there are usually important values to be learned by readers/listeners of all ages. Most importantly, they carry values about honesty, kindness, courage.

Step-by-step procedure

We started with the retelling of the story of Cinderella, acknowledging her kindness. Students first worked in buzz groups and looked for images of Cinderella on Europeana. They used Padlet to organize their findings. Afterwards, in a Round Robin setting, all students summarized in a common presentation the story of Cinderella. They illustrated it adequately with Europeana pictures and used degrees of comparison for adjectives and adverbs (the main grammar point of the lesson). The tool that we used was Thinglink, thus creating unique experiences with interactive images.

Making use of two similar techniques – Think-Pair-Share and Read-Write-Pair-Share – the students then interpreted Cinderella’s kindness nowadays and examined the meaning of ‘act of kindness’ and of ‘wave of kindness’. They made use of their devices and accessed the sites recommended: Kindness is contagious and Waves of Kindness. On Europeana, the students also looked again for instances of kindness in works of art presented on the website. The tool used was Coggle.

Final product

Fairy tales expose children to literature that can boost writing skills. They have stock characters, predictable patterns and reiterated themes, making them accessible models for student writing. To encourage kindness towards others, the students created their own stories with kind characters, illustrating them with pictures of children from Europeana on a Smore poster. They verified their own work against a checklist.

Finally, they assessed it and a peer’s work using the same rubric, read their peer’s assessment and edited their work. Then submitted it for evaluation to the teacher. Next class, the students reflected on their learning individually, then in a group discussion, they evaluated their learning.

Key points – in my classroom

1. The Writing-a-short-story checklist I used with my students is here.

2. The Writing-a-short-story rubric for self-assessment and peer assessment that we used is here. I myself used an identical rubric but with points specified when I graded their stories.

3. Relatively short, simple tasks are followed in my classroom by simple, (in)formative feedback straight away – see the various techniques used for formative assessment after each learning activity mentioned in the learning scenario.

4. For the student reflection part, I used the following reflective prompts:

1.) Preferences: The most interesting thing about … was … I prefer to work by myself on activities that … I like working with others when …

2.) Learning style and strategies: If I can, I try to avoid activities that … I find it easiest to understand when … When I don’t understand something, I …

3.) Strengths: I’m getting much better at … One good question I asked (or thought of) during the week was … One of the things I do best is …

4.) Areas in need of improvement: I’m still not sure how to … I need to get help with … The part I found the most difficult was …

5. Just as technology pervades our everyday lives, it is now an assumed part of the language teaching landscape. Because I work in a BYOD environment, I have made a point in teaching my students how to use a wide array of apps (available for both Android smartphones and iPhones). There are used for learning on a regular basis, making constant use of their technical proficiency and teaching them how to connect their personal use strategies to learning.

Daniela Bunea

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