The new wave of communicative language teaching focuses more on fluency, which is a great improvement from the past, but my teaching experience and research have taught me that there is a place for activities that focus on fluency and activities that focus on accuracy in the foreign language classroom.
From time to time I like to have students engage in activities and games that focus on language forms, even if the focus is not as communicative as I may want. I have found that this is an important step in building the skills that students need to communicate. Some of these activities include Dice Games, Card Games, Spinner Games, Verb Form Games, and Powerpoint Games.
Here is my rational
Fluency is the natural use of language that occurs when a speaker takes part in meaningful interaction that maintains communication despite inaccuracy, and requires negotiation of meaning and addresses misunderstandings.
Accuracy, on the other hand, focuses on correct use of language and structures.
Traditional teaching methods have focused more attention on accuracy of language at the expense of fluency. In the communicative language classroom instruction should provide a balanced approach that gives students opportunities to build fluency, while at the same time tending to the accuracy of their language, so that incorrect (inaccurate) language forms are not fossilized
This is an interactive activity for students to practice verb forms in a foreign language. Download the powerpoint templates:
Begin by typing the infinitives and corresponding verb forms on the powerpoint template. Be sure to put the verb forms in the opposite direction so that line up when placed on top of each other. Then, print out the two verb sheets and the the puzzle image that you would like, and photocopy the subject/infinitive sheet onto the back of the image that you chose. Card stock is more durable, but regular paper works as well. And finally cut out the squares along the lines dividing the subject/infinitive pairs.
The templates have 10 images to choose from (5 famous paintings 5 landmarks). There are also two version of the verb puzzle that can be used with any of the images.
Students match the subject/infinitive to the correct verb form on the puzzle board and place the subject/infinitive on top of the verb form with the image side facing up. They continue until the image is complete.
Students can do this activity in groups of 2, 3 or 4. Each player gets his own card. 1 die is needed and bingo chips (or anything that will cover the die on the card). The object of the game is to be the first to cover all 12 dice on the card.
Player 1 rolls the die and chooses one of the two die with that number on his card and says the subject and correct verb form in the target language or identifies the image in the target language. If correct, he covers the die. Play continues with the next student. Once two of the same number are covered on a player’s card play will continue to the next player if the number is rolled again.
The first player to cover all the numbers on his card wins the round. Students then exchange their card with another player and play the round again.
These activities can be created in WORD or you can download complete versions below:
You can download full versions of these activities below:
Spanish Verb Forms
French Verb Forms
All that is needed for these activities is a deck of regular player cards and a copy of the reference page. Students can play in groups of two or three.
Once cards are dealt, payers flip over their top card. The player with the highest value (ace is low, king is high) locates the subject/infinitive or the vocabulary picture that corresponds to that card (3 of hearts, king of diamonds, 4 of clubs, 7 of spades, etc.) on the reference sheet and says the correct verb form or identifies the picture. For more of a challenge the students can be required to say a complete sentence with the verb form or vocabulary picture. He then takes the cards and adds them to his point pile. If there is a tie for the highest card, the winner of the round is the player who speaks first.
Once the deck is used up, all players count the cards that they placed aside and record their scores on a sheet of paper. All the cards are reshuffled and play continues.
The teacher can decide the end point. (Go through the deck two or three times, first player to 30, 40, 50, 60 points).
You can download French and Spanish of these activities here:
I introduce these subject pronoun images early on so that students have a visual way to associate the subject pronouns in the target language. I recycle these images in writing and speaking activities as well. They can be used for any language.
You can download the images HERE.
A very interactive activity for student to practice verb forms.
After rolling the dice or spinning the spinner/top, players choose a square on the board that corresponds to the correct verb form. To score points, players need to fill in a square that is touching another square that is colored in and they mark the points on the bottom of the board. I usually use different variations of the activity to keep students interested.
Cut out the spinner shapes and place a pencil or match-stick through the center so that it can be used as a top. One spinner top has subject pronouns and the other has infinitives. You can also put a paper fastener in the middle with a paper clip attached to use it as a spinner.
Students use the dice sheet. One die is needed and a first roll corresponds to the subject pronoun and second roll to an infinitive.
Mix the first two versions and use one spinner and one dice sheet.
You can create these in a table using WORD. You can also download these activities below:
Mind maps can be used to learn grammar and vocabulary. They are also useful for organizing thoughts on a topic in the target language before engaging in a conversation or writing about a particular topic. Mind maps are maps of connections between ideas that a student creates on paper with various colors and images or they can be created digitally. Mind maps look like neurons and represent the schemata that is created in the brain as it attempts to connect concepts. It is a refection of how memory is created.
Each person draws a mind map in a different way. Some are clean and orderly, while others seem to be pure chaos. Mind mapping is meant to represent individual thinking patterns. Students can use colors, pictures or whatever they want to make their mind map understandable and useful to them.
Here is an in-depth article on how mind maps can be used effectively in foreign language learning.
In this game players are dealt 5 cards to begin and place a card face up on the discard pile that is either the same verb (any form) or the same form (Je/Yo/Io/Ich, Tu/Tú/Tu/Du, etc.-any verb) as the top card on the discard pile. When the card is placed down, the player must say a complete sentence in the target language using the verb form.
To make it a little more interesting I also put special cards that a player can choose to play:
- “arrêt” changes the verb
- “sauter” skips the next player
- “inverser” changes the direction of play
- “+2” requires the next player to pick up 2 cards.
The first player to use all of his/her cards wins the game. A very interactive way for small groups of students to review verb forms and practice speaking in complete sentences.
You can download full French and Spanish versions of this card game below:
This is a great activity to get students saying (or writing) complete sentences in the target language that demonstrate the meaning of the verb. Powerpoint animation can be a very effective tool for these writing and speaking activities.
Here are two possibilities:
- Students write sentences based on the subject and infinitive on each slide when a infinitive and a subject pronoun are revealed. Students also see 4 possible verb forms. An additional click can reveal the correct form for students to verify their answer and present a question word so that students can complete the sentence with an answer to the question word.
- Another option is for two students to go to the board (where powerpoint is projected) and each one has a fly swatter. The activity begins just as the first activity, but in this version the first student to slap the correct verb form says a complete sentence with the correct verb form once the form is revealed and the question word appears.
These are fairly straight-forward uses of powerpoint animation. You can also download complete version with 50+ slides here:
This activity helps students build sentences in the target language in a very visual, concrete and tactile way. Students cut out the individual words, assemble sentences and then write them. This is a great way to help with individual student problem areas (verb forms, word order, negation) in a very concrete way since the papers can be swapped out along with a concrete explanation.
These documents can be created in WORD or you can download several Spanish and French verb form versions below: