Category Archives: Grammar and Structures

French & Spanish Learn, Practice, Apply Activities

I have written about lesson planning using the “Learn, Practice, Apply” sequence that I learned about from the teachers that I work with in Nicaragua.  I have found this simple framework very useful when planning lessons and activities in my language classroom.  I created Tab Books on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that follow this sequence.  They are interactive and students enjoy assembling them and working through the process.

French & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply Activities

I reformatted the Tab Books into a no-prep, 3-page activity.  They begin with scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material. Then they practice the material, and finally students apply the material in the last section. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These activities assure that  students get to this stage in the learning process.

French & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply ActivitiesFrench & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply Activities

Lots of topics available from time, weather date, possessive and demonstrative adjectives to present and past tense verb forms, as well as conditional and subjunctive.

Digital Google Slides™ Activities to Focus on Foreign Language Verb Accuracy

This activity is an effective follow up and extension to comprehensible input activities.  Once students have seen (in writing) and heard verb forms in context the next step is to begin the process of producing language.  I like to use activities that show students various possibilities and have them choose the accurate form based on their interaction with the language forms.If you are moving away from direct instruction of verb conjugations try this out with students.  If they have had sufficient contextualized exposure to the verb forms and meanings you will likely see that students can choose the correct form based on what “sounds right.”  When this happens we know that they are progressing in their proficiency and moving toward accurate language output.

French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

Here is another way that includes the infinitive of the verb.French & Spanish Digital Google Slides ActivitiesFrench & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

I then take it a step further and have students write a sentence that show that they understand the meaning along with the form.  They have some question words to support the process.

French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

This activity is also useful when working with students in a PACE lesson, particularly in the co-construction and extension parts of the process.  Keep in mind that this is best used with students when they are detecting patterns with forms in an inductive (implicit) lesson, rather than deductive (explicit) lesson.

Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.

Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions

The inductive (implicit) approach focuses on meaning along with the forms  communicatively.  The deductive approach focused more (or maybe even only) on the forms. Brown (2007) reminds us that “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

I have done these activities with Powerpoints with the entire class. You can take a look at some examples in the post.

I am also using digital activities more with students and now have them do this activity using Google Slides™ that can be shared directly through Google Classroom™ and students get their own copy. Ideal for distance learning, homework, in-person classes or blended, hybrid model.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language Sentence Creation

Students at the novice proficiency level typically speak and write in memorized chunks of language and phrases that they learn by memory.  As they progress in proficiency teachers can support their attempts at creating language on their own.  It is useful to guide them in finding their own ways to add on to the target language that they produce.  I find that one effective way of doing this is to begin by focusing on verbs that they know well and give them opportunities to use them in context.  First with various subjects and then by adding on to the verb phrases in ways that shows their understanding of the meaning of the verb.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

This activity is called Hidden Forms (Formes Cachées in French and Formas Escondidas in Spanish).  It is useful to use in PACE lesson as students engage in extension using the verb forms and structures that were introduced.  There is an added element of fun and strategy as students search for the correct verb forms in the grid.  Not necessarily the most communicative part of the activity, but I always think that students enjoy these small amusing elements and it has the added benefit of being done in the target language.

These Hidden Forms activities are all done in Google Slides and can be easily shared with students through platforms such as Google Classroom.  They work well whether as an in-class activity, homework or when doing distance or hybrid/blended learning and teaching.

First slide: There is a subject pronoun and an infinitive. Students write the correct verb form.Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Second Slide: There is a grid with subject pronouns, infinitives and verb forms. Students find the subject, infinitive and verb form together from the first slide. They then highlight the boxes and “color in” the boxes with the fill color tool.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence CreationDigital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Third Slide: Students write a sentence with each subject and verb form.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence CreationDigital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Watch a video that shows how students engage with these digital activities.

Take a look at these Google Slides activities that you can copy directly into your Google Drive to share with students.

You can also see paper versions of these activities in this blog post.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

At the novice writing levels, students write with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases.

Novice Low/Mid:

  • green
  • apple, banana, orange
  • Josué
  • soccer, football
  • movies, restaurant

Novice High:

  • 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 can be challenging for students because they are no longer relying on memorized phrases to chunk together.  We can help scaffold this process for students by supporting them in creating sentences.  Students often don’t knowhow to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate (French, Spanish)

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.

Here is an example of an activity that has been effective in showing students that they can in fact move up the proficiency ladder by creating their own sentences.  I call it “Staring with a Verb” (A Partir d’un Verbe, A Partir de un Verbo).

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to IntermediateMoving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

I created these activities in Google Slides so that students and type their sentences directly in the slide and then submit the document when finished.  This is particularly useful when using Google Classroom and ideal during distance learning.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to IntermediateMoving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

Take a look at some possibilities:

 

 

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options

I recently wrote a post about using choice boards in the foreign language class. I included 2 ways to use Google Slides and Forms to show 9 options that include the three communication modes and choices around learning style.  You can read that post here and copy the template to your Google Drive.

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options (French, Spanish)

The organizational part is step one, then we need to figure out what the actual choices are.  I compiled suggestions for each option below.  Since the choice board template is designed to be used for any language, theme or proficiency level I am keeping the suggestions and resources general so that you can easily adapt them to the content that you are focusing on in your classes.  Hopefully this list will spark some ideas and make the process of creating choice boards more manageable.

Nuts and Bolts:

1-Way Speaking:

  • Flip Grid
  • Vocaroo
  • Ad for Podcast
  • Ad for YouTube Channel
  • Voicemail
  • Movie Talk-watch a video clip with no sound and tell what happens
  • Describe picture or story or storyboard

Writing:

  • Create an Ad
  • Make an Infographic
  • Write a quiz
  • Make a Storyboard and write what happens
  • Comic strip
  • Write an Email
  • Write a text
  • Social media post
  • Movie Write -watch a clip with no sound and write what happens

2-Way Speaking:

  • Sign up for in-person or Zoom, one-on-one or small group
  • Role play
  • Themes in advance
  • Record (audio or video)

Listening:

Reading:

  • Websites
  • Book
  • Articles
  • Infographics
  • Lingro
  • Classmates’ writing

Art, Music, etc.:

  • Paint and describe (write or speak)
  • Draw and describe (write or speak)
  • Sculpt and describe (write or speak)
  • Write song lyrics

Web Activities:

 

Picture1

Culture:

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There is increasing research that shows that learner independence builds confidence and increases academic performance and language proficiency. I have seen an increase in choice boards among language teachers on social media.  These boards provide students with options of how to learn and practice content or a skill.  They also encourage students to be more responsible, accountable and independent as they work at their own pace. In a time of remote/distance/hybrid learning these choice boards are a great way to keep students engaged in or out of the school building.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

As I took on this challenge of implementing choice boards I soon realized that the challenge comes in the organization and keeping track of assignments. When students are completing different assignments at various times how do I manage it all?  So, I took to Twitter to ask teachers how they do this in their classrooms.  There were great suggestions from generous teachers all over the country.  I compiled responses and got to work creating two versions of choice boards.  One uses Google Slides and the other uses Google Slides and Forms.  There are apps, Websites and platforms out there that do this sort of thing for a fee, but I wanted to find a way that uses Google (Classroom) that does not require yet another username and password… and does not have an annual cost associated with it.

Be sure to look at this post if you would like to see ideas for each of the options.

The choice board is the same for both versions.  It is the way students submit work that differs.  Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There are 9 options on the choice board, which include the communication modes as well as culture, Web activities and art, music, etc.  There is also a “nuts and bolts” option which all students begin with.  This is for initial presentation of content through comprehensible input.  This is all done in a Google Slide presentation that is shared with students so that they each have their own copy.  In this first version all work is put on the corresponding slides either as an image or a link to a Google doc.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

 

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

This second version begins with the same choice board in Google Slide format, but there are links to Google Forms to submit work. Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Be sure to take a look at this follow-up post that has ideas and suggestions for the choice board options. I hope you have success with choice boards and that these templates help to make it a little more manageable for you.

Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning

Like everyone else I am figuring out what I can use during distance learning.  This is a speaking activity that I do in the classroom either as a whole class or in small groups.  It has transitioned well to the remote learning classroom, particularly with platforms that allow screen-sharing. You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.

I call this activity “Advance” (Avancez! in French and ¡Adelante! in Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Here is how it works.  This is for the Spanish version, but just replace the word ¡Caramba! with Zut! for French…any language would work with the template.

Set Up:

  • This activity can be done with the whole class broken down into teams of 2-3 or in a small group of 3-4 individual players. Project the slides if playing with the entire class (share your screen if doing remote teaching).  If playing in a small group they will need one computer or a tablet with Powerpoint or Google Slides. Be sure that they play in slideshow mode so that they can’t see the thumbnail images on the side.
  • Give each group (if playing with the entire class) or each individual (if playing in a small group) two objects that they can use while playing. This can be anything really… erasures, slips of paper, popsicle sticks or game pieces.  It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as each group (or individual player if playing in small group) has 2. I just keep track of this on my own in the distance learning classroom.
  • The object of the game is to have the most points at the end.  The teacher can set a time limit to determine when the end arrives.  It’s good if you can set a timer, but without students seeing the countdown. If players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.
  • Determine the order that the groups or individuals will play in.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

 

Play:

  • Begin on the first slide.  The first player (or individual player if playing in small group) identifies the picture or responds to a prompt either by speaking or writing.  If correct (clicking on the slide will show the correct answer) the group or player gets a point. If the answer is incorrect no point are awarded or lost and play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • The next group (or individual) can decide to advance (¡Adelante!) to the next slide and identifies the picture or responds to a prompt. However, there are slides that say “¡Caramba!” instead of a picture or prompt and the group (or individual) loses all of their points.  At any time a group (or individual) can choose not to advance and skip a turn.  They can only to this twice in the game and must hand over the an object mentioned in the set up.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

  • If a group or individual decides not to advance the play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • Once a group (or individual) has used both of their “skips” they must advance to the next slide when it is their turn.

Tips:

  • Players should not assume that there are not 2 “¡Caramba!” in a row. There is no pattern.
  • Change up the order of the slides and location of the “¡Caramba!” if you use the activity multiple times so that students can’t anticipate where the “¡Caramba!” are.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of students they can be required to identify the picture (novice level) or use it in a complete sentence (Novice High to Intermediate).  If it is a prompt it will require a novice high or intermediate response.
  • Set an alarm on a timer and when it goes off the game ends and the group (or individual) who has the most points at that moment is the winner.  It is best to play between 20-30 minutes, though the teacher can adjust this based on the dynamics of the class. Or, if players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.

You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.  Fill in the prompts to fit your needs on each slide.  Copy as many slides and  ¡Caramba!/ Zut! that you would like and put them anywhere you would like, and as many as you would like.

Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level

If you teach multiple grade levels, or various proficiency levels, you probably like to find an activity or project that can be used across levels.  I would like to share a project with you that you can use with novice and intermediate learners.  It is essentially the same concept. It differs only in how students engage with the content that they produce.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (french, Spanish)

Students create a time capsule that is a snapshot of their life over the past year.  I typically do this as the school year, so you will see 2019-2020 in the examples.  I have students do this digitally in Google slides.  I have seen in done in a journal as well with pictures and writing glued to the pages.  While the tactile nature and opportunities for creative design are more apparent with the physical product I find that that it is logistically easier to manage when it is digital.

Students begin by responding to prompts in the target language.

  • Name:
  • Town/City:
  • Birthday:
  • Age:
  • Personal adjectives (3) to describe yourself:
  • Family (name, age, relation):
  • Gratitude (3 things you are thankful for or appreciate):
  • School:
  • Teachers and Subjects:
  • Friends :
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Music:
    •  Song:
    • Singer:
  • Film/TV/Netflix/Amazon :
    • Favorite Move or TV Program:
    • Favorite Actress or Actor:
  • Reading
    • Favorite Book:
    • Favorite Writer:

Once these are done students find pictures to go along with each of these topics and put them in google slides.  I provide the template and they fill it in.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

The final step is where the projected is differentiated by proficiency level. You can see a review of proficiency levels here.

Novice mid to novice high students write about what is “in” their time capsule and these sentences go on each slide with the images.  At this level I usually provide sentence starters as well, such as “My favorite actress is…” or ” My math teacher is…”  At this proficiency level the work is done in the present.Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

Novice high to intermediate low students write as if they were opening the time capsule in five years and write about they did, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. five years ago. For languages with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to distinguishing between the preterite and imperfect.  Students at this level tend (in my experience) to be better with the preterite. For the sentences that would require the imperfect I typically provide sentence starters. 
Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)Intermediate low to intermediate mid students write as if they were opening the time capsule in fifty years and writing about they used to do, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. fifty years ago. For language with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to using the preterite and imperfect accurately, and it provides an effective way to contextualize the tenses.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

I also include a speaking component.  Once students are done with the time capsule, and are very familiar with all of the content, I set up time for them to have a 5-minute discussion with me about their time capsule.

 

What If the Next Teacher Doesn’t Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching?

We are getting there.  More and more teachers are embracing proficiency-based language teaching.  There are increasing amounts of research that support an approach to language teaching that focusing on communication.  Along with Communicative language teaching we use proficiency levels and ACTFL Performance Descriptors that provide concrete benchmarks.  Simply put, proficiency is not what students know about the language, what rather what they can do with it.  Resources, such as Can-Do statements, help to keep our teaching (and student learning/acquisition) focused on what students are able to communicate.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As happy as I am to see so many teachers adopt this approach, I am often reminded of how much more work we have to do.  I find that individual teachers tend to implement communicative activities in their classrooms, but language departments and districts are slower to get there.  In May of each year I often get a reminder of the work that is to be done when my 8th graders ask me to fill out a form to recommend them for their high school language level.  I teach in a school that ends in 8th grade.  Our students go to numerous high schools after, so I get a look at what is expected and what programs look like when I receive the recommendation forms.

Here is one that I got this year, but it is a typical of many of these forms that I get from studentsWhat If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As you can see, it is just a list of grammar topics.  They place students in a language level based on what grammar topics they have studied.  There is no place to speak to what the student is actually able to communicate in the target language.  These types of lists are the opposite of proficiency, with a request to know what the student knows about the language and not what they can do with it.

The reaction when I put this on Twitter and Facebook was reassuring that there are many language teachers who are fighting the good fight.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish( What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

So, how do we respond?  I usually use it as an opportunity to educate about the ACTFL Core Practices and Proficiency Levels with a description of the students proficiency level.  I provide examples of what the student is able to do with the language at their particular proficiency level. Hopefully this creates some interest in learning more.  Just planting the seed, and hoping they will water it.

“Ben performs consistently at the Intermediate Low ACTFL Proficiency Level for Interpersonal Communication and at the Intermediate Mid Level for Presentational Writing and Interpretive Listening and Reading.  At the IL level Ben can confidently and consistently speak in discrete sentence that he creates on his own without resorting to memoized chunks.  At the IM Level he consistently writes, reads and listens at a slightly higher level with strings of 2-3 connected sentences.”

I would imagine that this is more useful than “Ben can conjugate regular verbs in the present tense.”  Even if Ben can talk about the verb forms how does that indicate that he can actually use them to communicate?  This is a frustrating situation at time, but hopefully the more often we use this as an opportunity to educate our colleagues the more the entire language teaching community will move toward proficiency.

One final point that I want to make.  I fully understand that there are teachers, departments and districts that firmly believe that that a focus on grammar and structures is the most effective way to teach a language.  I am always happy to have the conversation.  I usually have several of these conversations each time I do a workshop in a school.  I like to be challenged and appreciate the opportunity to show the benefits of a proficiency-based program.  The only thing that I ask is that those who disagree have empirical evidence to support their argument and beliefs, because that is what I am bringing to the conversation.

 

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities

I’m always a fan of resources that can be easily modified to fit different proficiency levels.  I love it when I find an activity or resource that I can pull out at any proficiency level and just get students speaking or writing by simply changing the output prompt.

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

I have been creating these Zut and Caramba cards for several years.  Sometimes I used index cards and a marker, sometimes I just printed out a bunch of pictures.  While students were able to produce language rather well with this on-the-fly type resources I wanted to up my game a little with this activity.  So, I got to work on a template and used it to create Zut and Caramba cards on lots of vocabulary and language structure topics.  As I said above I like resources that can be used at any proficiency level.  These Zut and Caramaba cards a perfect fit.Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

They can be used in 4 ways:

Zut (French) and Caramba (Spanish):

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • This activity  can be done in small groups of 4-5 or with the entire class playing in teams.
  • Students (or teams) take turns choosing a card out of a bag.
  • Once chosen, the player (or team) can do various things to keep the card depending on the proficiency level of the students. They can the picture, use it in a sentence or even ask a question about it.
  • If they choose a Zut or Caramba card they must put all their cards back in the bag, including the Zut or Caramba card.
  • Play continues between the players or teams and the cards/points change often because of the Zut or Caramba cards.
  • If a player (or team) doesn’t know a form or meaning it goes back in the bag.  Play continues with the next student.
  • After a certain number of turns or a specified amount of time, the player (or team) with the most cards wins.

Card Find:

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • Place cards (#1-40) in various places around the classroom or another space. Pair students up and give them 5 numbers (between 1-40) and the pairs set out to find the cards with their numbers.
  • When they find the cards that respond to a pre-determined prompt based on their proficiency level. Students can the picture in writing or use it in a sentence. There are question words to help inspire a sentence.  They can do this on a slip of paper or a small white board.
  • When they have all five they return to teacher for verification and get another set of numbers and repeat the process.
  • Each pair gets a point for each set of 5 that they complete.  You may want to make it 3 if this moves things along better in your class.
  • After a specified amount of time the pair with the most points is the winner

Do Now:Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • When they enter the room, students choose 2 or 3 cards and complete a prompt based on the card. Depending on the proficiency level of the students the teacher can have students identify the word in writing or use it in a sentence.

Exit Ticket:Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • Just before the end of class hand out a card to each student and they respond to the prompt and hand it to the teacher (who verifies the answer) as they leave the room. Depending on the proficiency level of the students the teacher can have students identify the word in writing or use it in a sentence.

These activities can also be done with language structures such verb tenses, demonstrative and possessive adjectives, direct and indirect object pronouns, adjectives and even comparisons.  Rather than identify images the prompts require uses these various language structures.

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)