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Modelling and awareness raising phase using a Sentence builder (Conti methodology of E.P.I)

In September, my department started to implement a brand new methodology of lessons delivery based on Dr Gianfranco Conti’s approach of ‘Extensive Processing Instruction’ (The Language Gym Blog). 

On this post I would like to write about how I introduce a new Sentence Builder (SB) to my students, specifically the modelling phase. I am still in process of learning and by no means an expert!

I personally plan and teach a sequence of lessons instead of individual lessons as it gives me the opportunity to go through various stages of E.P.I at a natural pace, it also allows me to adapt my delivery to the needs of my students and I don’t feel rushed to cover the content in a specific time frame.

Our Sentence Builders and resources are loosely based on the Stimmt text books. I introduce the SB on my whiteboard and students have their own paper copies in a work booklet; that has all of the tasks available and it also compliments my main PowerPoint; to cut down on time wasted on photocopying, cutting and gluing. 

At the modelling stage, when I initially introduce the SB I ask my students to highlight any vocabulary they have seen before first, once students completed this task – in silence, we annotate our SBs for pronunciation. As I teach German and my students often struggle with the pronunciation and spelling of the ‘ei’ and ‘ie’ sounds especially, I ask them to put a dot under the second vowel as that’s the vowel they would pronounce, underline the ‘e’ at the end of the word because that would be pronounced in German (it is not a silent sound like in English), double underline double consonants etc. Students find this really helpful and this method makes them more confident and willing to pronounce vocabulary they have not yet encountered.

If the SB is quite complex, I often take 2-3 lessons to get through the different sections to avoid cognitive overload. 

In this year 9 SB, I have introduced the future tense sentences in the third lesson, so I have spent 2 lessons practising the past tense firstly with the auxiliary verb ‘haben’ and then ‘sein’ as I felt my year 9 almost forgotten their past tense after the ‘Lockdown’.

As a class we do a lot of choral repetition with extensive focus on pronunciation as I want to ensure my students sound as ‘German’ as possible.

Some of the activities we use are: I say – you say, I start a word/sentence you finish, I utter sentences and students highlight what they hear, lots of modelling/dictations and translations using mini whiteboards (I absolutely love these and so do the students – the biggest benefit being the fact that I can see instantly what they know and what they struggle with) from German to English and vice versa. This often creates a fierce competition amongst the students and they love getting awarded with a scratch card (I have designed these myself) or an ERA point. The lesson is also  very high pace and rather demanding on teacher as well as students, but I personally like this. There is no time for disruption and time wasting.

These are the examples of some other activities, that I use at this stage:

  1. Spot the mistake – I read sentences and make a mistake on purpose, students tap their pens when they hear the mistake.

  2. Break the flow (example in a booklet – see resources section) – I also ask the students to re-write the sentences with correct punctuation and apply capital letters where appropriate.

  3. Delayed dictation (on mini whiteboards) – when we are at the stage where students have to remember 2-3 sentences I allow them to see the sentences again and once they have disappeared they can apply any corrections they have missed.

  • One pen One dice copying – during the Pandemic I have been using the digital dice which works really well – I use the dice from Tekhnologic.

  • Sentence stealer – another great Gianfranco Coni idea – instructions how to play this game are on the slide.

  • Find your match

  • Paired dictation – students have two different texts – one full and one gapped text. Students work in pairs dictating the texts to each other and filling in the gaps on their sheet.

  • Listening pyramids – fantastic idea I have first seen shared by Marie Massè on Twitter.

  • Die Schiffe versenken (Battle ships) 

  • Ping-Pong translations – can be played with a dice as well.

To ensure students follow up on what we have been learning in the lessons, I have designed Quizlet flash cards for them based on my SBs and also incorporated into all of our lessons Retrieval practice based on fantastic book by Kate Jones

Final thoughts

I teach in a comprehensive  secondary school with students from all of the social backgrounds, some of our students come from a very poor and disadvantaged families, we also have a higher then average proportion of students with SEN and many of our students don’t have the opportunity to travel so as a result languages might not be of importance to them, but this new approach has made them more excited about learning a language and definitely more open to it. What is the most important thing to me as an educator, is the fact that my students are enjoying the process of learning and have the belief they can do it.

One of my year 7 students told me this week: ‘Frau Bastow, I thought I can’t do German, but now I know I can and you make it really easy!’ 

I absolutely loved hearing this and I am really happy, I have discovered the ‘Conti’ approach because it makes sense and makes the process of learning a language accessible, enjoyable and students can see instant results. 

Homework has also been consistently completed and screen shots of the results proudly uploaded to our SMHW.                                                                                       

4 Yorum

28 Kas 2023

Thanks so much for this, I find your blogs and activity ideas so useful! I was just wondering if you’ve ever looked at how modelling and some of the guided practice


28 Kas 2023

Hi, I have found this blog so so useful and am sorry I didn't see it a year ago! Thank you for sharing. Something that is still confusing me about MARSEARS is how to structure it when you have separate sentence builders on one topic. For example, I'm about to teach the topic of food and I have a sentence builder giving justified opinions on what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a separate one on giving negative opinions and a final one on talking about drinks. Would you start from the beginning of this process with each one? Do you sometimes break sentence builders up into small chunks and spend a whole lesson just on one tiny section?…


28 Kas 2023

I really like this, I will try some of these such as the listening pyramid and I already did one pen one dice but as reading or translation but will try your copying as that would work well with lower groups, I only teach first person to start with though, do they not get muddled if 3rd person is there at the same time?


28 Kas 2023

This is very interesting for me as a German trainee one month in. Among the staff at my school, there is one big fan. I guess if you had a trainee that's the path you would set them on? Will look into it more!

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