At the novice level, students are speaking and writing with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases. Her are some examples:
- apple, banana, orange
- soccer, football
- movies, restaurant
- My favorite color is green
- I like apples, bananas and oranges
- My name is Josué
- I play soccer and football
- On the weekend I like to go to the movies and to a restaurant
As students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases. This tends to be the most challenging for students as they begin to create with language and are not relying on memorized phrases to chunk together. Rather than changing the detail after a memorized phrase such as “my favorite ______ is _______” and “I like __________” they are moving on to changing subjects, using various propositions and varying their verb forms and tenses. Teachers can help scaffold this process for students by assisting them in creating sentences. Students are often challenged by how to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.
I have found that using question words with students is a simple and effective way to have students add details to their sentences that move from memorized, chunked phrases to discrete sentences that are created by the student. The more they do this the more they will grow in confidence and begin to do it on their own when writing.
A simple reminder of question words as students write about a topic will guide them toward writing discrete sentences that they create on their own and and will move solidly on to the intermediate low proficiency level. For example, if a student writes ” I like to swim.” suggest a few question words to help make the sentence a bit longer and more detailed. With whom? When? Where?
This will move the sentence from “I like to swim” to “I like to swim with my friend Julie on Saturday at the community pool.” The more students get accustomed to adding details this way the more they will do it on their own when speaking and writing.
Here are a few posts I’ve written that have some suggestions and resources for guiding students through this process of moving their speaking and writing from novice to intermediate. Click on the images to see the posts.