It’s the first day of class, I’ve just handed out the syllabus, and I already know the two questions that are about to be asked: “What’s going to be on the final exam?” and “Can I do extra credit?” This year I decided to get ahead of the extra credit question. If I am going to give extra credit points, I want the students to actually participate in meaningful work to earn them. I also tend to struggle with coming up with extra meaningful work for them to do. Enter English Skillology, my latest genius (I hope!) idea for getting ahead of my students.
At the most basic level, English Skillology is a choice menu. It includes four activities for each of the five skill areas in ESL: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and grammar. Inspired by a Monopoly-style choice menu of someone else’s, I decided to use a game board format for my own. Each skill is a side (grammar is in the corners), and has its own color. Students are then free to choose the number and type of activities they want to complete by the end of the semester. If a student were to complete all of the activities, he/she would earn 120 extra credit points.
I designed this particular board for my high intermediate students (I hope to create at least three more boards, one for each of the proficiency levels I teach.). In creating the activities I consulted two different sets of objectives: seventh grade Common Core ELA and the Core Competencies for my department at the college where I teach. Here’s a quick overview of the 20 activities:
- Author’s Purpose: 9 different genres/types of writing are listed, and students have to say what is most likely the author’s purpose in writing and why.
- Different Media: Students are provided with the text of Androcles and the Lion, and a short video of the same story. The task is to compare and contrast the two accounts.
- Inferences: Clues to the identity of six different people/things/places are given. Students must make an inference of the thing being described, insert a picture of it, and write a sentence explaining why they came to that conclusion. (This is actually a small piece of my board game It Might Be…Inferences with Modal Verbs available in both paper and digital formats.)
- News Comparison: Students find two articles, from two different sources, about the same event/topic, read each, and compare/contrast the two accounts using a Venn Diagram.
- Infomercial: Students will use Screencastify, or another program of their choosing, to record a 1-2 minute infomercial. An example video is provided.
- News Report: Students will use Screencastify, or another program of their choosing, to record a 1-2 minute news report. An example video is provided.
- Informative Speech: Students will use OnlineVoiceRecorder, or another program of their choosing, to record a 1-2 minute speech.
- Elevator Pitch: Students will use OnlineVoiceRecorder, or a program of their choosing, to record a 30-60 second elevator pitch. Links to articles describing elevator pitches and how they can help one’s career are provided.
- Active or Passive: Students read six different sentences about Dr. Seuss characters, drag the X to mark if the sentence is active or passive, and then rewrite the sentence as its opposite type. (This is a small piece of my Active of Passive Voice with Dr. Seuss Task Cards, available in both paper and digital formats.)
- CER Advertisement Discernment: Students will locate and then copy and paste an advertisement from the internet. Students must then identify and describe the claim, evidence, and reasoning presented in the advertisement. (The full version of this activity is available in my TpT store.)
- Informative Essay: Students write an informative essay, of at least one paragraph in length, on a topic of their choosing.
- Narrative: Students write a narrative, of at least one paragraph in length, on a topic of their choosing.
- 5 Ways to Kill Your Dreams: Students listen to the TEDTalk and complete the outline notes.
- A Skateboard With A Boost: Students listen to the TEDTalk and complete the vocabulary and comprehension questions.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: Students listen tot he TEDTalk and record three things they learned, two questions they have, and write a short paragraph reflection.
- Why I’m A Weekday Vegetarian: Students listen to the TEDTalk and complete the persuasion graphic organizer.
- Relative Clauses: Pretending to play Taboo, students will write three clues for each item/person/place, being sure to avoid the listed disallowed words. (This is a small part of the game Relative Clause Taboo, available in my TpT store.)
- Prefixes & Suffixes: Students will drag and rearrange the puzzle pieces to complete the six puzzles. Each completed puzzle lists an affix, a root word, a new word, a definition for the affix, a definition for the new word, and a photo. (This is a small part of level 2 of my prefix and suffix puzzles, available in both digital and paper formats: level 1 paper, level 1 digital, level 2 paper, level 2 digital, paper bundle, digital bundle.)
- Synonyms: Students will drag the synonyms to the correct box to match them to the overused words. (The full version of this activity, French Fry Synonyms, is available in both paper and digital formats.)
- Gerund / Infinitive: Students will type the correct form of the word in parenthesis. (The complete task card set is available in both paper and digital formats, as well as a Google Form version.)
So how did I create this extra credit menu? In the most general terms, here are the steps I took:
- I designed the choice menu and each activity slide in PowerPoint.
- I then saved those slides as images that I uploaded as backgrounds for the various slides (I use the add-on Slides Toolbox for this). This was to prevent any accidental (or not-so-accidental) deletions or edits by students.
- I added text boxes. Once again, in order to prevent unwanted deletions and edits I took steps. This time I made use of the master slide. Under Slide, click Edit Master. This will allow you to add and edit various slide layouts. I simply created master slides that included text boxes in the locations I needed them.
- I added videos for the students. The listening assignments, and a few others, required students to listen to a talk, or watch a short video. I inserted theses on the proper slides by clicking Insert and Video. This allowed me to find the video on YouTube and put it directly on the slide. Having the video on the slide has many benefits but the three most important to me are: no need to go to an outside site (less chance of clicking our way to distraction), advertisements are eliminated from the video, as well as watch next suggestions (again, less chance of distraction), I can choose when the video starts and ends (so if the beginning or ending is not relevant I can tell it to skip those parts.
- I set up the hyperlinks so when students choose an activity (by clicking on it in the menu) they will be automatically taken to the correct slide to complete it. I did this by drawing a square over each of the boxes in my menu. I then made the square and its border clear (tip: don’t make the square clear until after you’ve done the hyperlink so you can remember which links are finished and which aren’t). To make the shape a hyperlink, I click on it, clicked Insert Link in the menu bar (looks like a link in a chain), chose “Slides in this Presentation,” the number of the slide I wanted, and apply.
- Finally, I added a “Game Board” button to each of the activity slides so students could quickly return to the choice menu from anywhere in the document. To do this I inserted a rectangle, put the text “Game Board” in it, and then used the Insert Link tool to link to the first slide. Once I did the fist one, I was able to copy and paste it onto all of the other slides.
I’m really excited about this particular project. It was a lot of work to put together but I believe it will be very valuable for my students. I especially like how it allows them to earn extra credit by participating in meaningful learning activities. Don’t forget to download your own copy of English Skillology from Teachers Pay Teachers today–it’s free!