Category Archives: Listening

Presenting New Vocabulary-Comprehensible Input and Circling

The role of the teacher in the presentation of new vocabulary is primarily to provide the students with comprehensible input that will help students to build on their current understanding of vocabulary in the foreign language (i) and expand their knowledge through comprehensible input (i +1).  This is Krashen’s Comprehensible Input Hypothesis.

post-its-comprehensibleinput

The teacher must be very aware of the vocabulary, particularly verbs and nouns, that the students have acquired previously and use this vocabulary along with visuals to present the vocabulary that is centered around a particular theme.  This will keep the learning of new vocabulary in the target language.

The teacher first presents several sentences linking the words that the students know (i) with new vocabulary (i+1).   Then, the teacher…

  • asks yes/no questions
  • asks either/or questions
  • asks a questions that requires negative response
  • asks questions that require one-word answers (questions words are used here)
  • asks an open-ended, detail oriented question question that reuires students to add to the “story”

This technique is referred to as circling (as the questions circle around the new word and eventually land on the student production).  Here is an example of this technique that is presenting vocabulary for places in the city.  Several sentences and images have been produced by the teacher linking verbs that students know and a place in the city where someone may do that activity.  Assume that the teacher is referring to an image of a boy studying along side a picture of a library.

  • Is John studying?  Is John studying at the library?  John is studying at the library, isn’t he?
  • Is John studying or playing football at the library? Is John studying at the hotel or at the library?
  • Is Mary studying at the Library?  Is John sleeping at the library?  Is John studying at the mall?
  • Who is studying at the library?  Where is John studying?
  • At what time does John study at the library?  Who studies at the library with John?

At this point students have taken the input  and assimilated it into their L2 vocabulary (uptake).  Their ability to create a detail at the end of the questioning is evidence that they understand and can use the new word, particularly if the last two questions are asked without reference to the pictures.

Reading Comprehension and Teacher Read Aloud

Reading aloud by the teacher is often discouraged in the foreign language classroom as this puts the focus on the teacher and does not give the students an opportunity to practice reading aloud themselves. Reading aloud by the teacher, in fact, is particularly important for language learners at various stages of learning. Beginning readers tend to read word by word. Reading aloud by the teacher helps them to process larger language units and phrases rather than focusing on single words and translation. A study by Amer (ELT Journal) investigated the effect of teacher reading aloud on the reading comprehension of foreign language students reading a story. Results clearly demonstrated that the experimental group (teacher read aloud) outperformed the control group (student silent reading). This indicates that reading aloud by the teacher can have a significant positive effect on reading comprehension. It is interesting to try reading the story to students without having them follow along to see how much they understand, then to read along with the text. The decreased focus on word-level comprehension is emphasized here and it will show students in a very clear and obvious way that they do not need to translate word for word when reading. This will then, ideally, transfer to their own reading comprehension, either aloud or silently.

Classic Battleship to Get Kids Speaking

I always like to use classic games such as battleship in the foreign language classroom.  These types of activities don’t typically require a lot of explanation because students are familiar with the how the game is played and they can get right on task practicing their language skills.  You can read about how language instruction is improved with “fun and games” in a post that I wrote previously. 

Classic Battleship in the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comHere is an example of how battleships can be used to practice  clothing vocabulary and colors in Spanish.  Students place boats (filled in boxes) on the game board. Students play against another student and try to find and sink the boats of the opponent. There are pictures of clothing down the left side and colors across the top (this can also easily be done with with subjects and verbs). To choose a square, the player must say the article of clothing and the correct form of the color.   All of the necessary vocabulary (boat names, hit, sunk, miss, examples of how to say a sentence) are on the sheet for student reference. There are two grids for each player to use, one to put his/her own “boats” on and the other to keep track of the opponent.

Classic Battleship in the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comDownload Battleship Games Here:

Who is it? Speaking Activity for the Foreign Language Classroom

Who is it? Foreign (World) Language Speaking Activity. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpres.comThis game  motivates students to speak and to recall vocabulary.  Any type of thematic vocabulary can be used.

The Set -Up: Lay out abut 5 or 6 index cards or slips if paper.  Choose three vocabulary themes (numbers, colors, family, professions, verbs, etc.).  Choose one word and write it on half of the cards.  Choose another word and write it on the rest of the cards.  Do the same thing for the two remaining vocabulary themes.  Each card should have three words.  Make sure that no two cards have the same three words.

The Activity: Hand the cards out to students and have those students go to the front of the room.  Tell the rest of the students (and write on the board) all of the words that are written on the cards.  The teacher chooses one of the cards in advance and it is the class’s task to figure out who has the card by asking questions of each person who is holding a card.  They need to keep track of the information that they learn and make a guess when they think that they figured out the right person.

Keep it Communicative: Write digits,  draw lines in color, draw (print out) pictures, etc. for the cards so that students must use their own language to play the game rather than simply reading words.  Use these for the students who are asking the questions as well.

There are many variation for this activity, including more advanced questions using various tenses (the card may say “to eat-preterit” and the question would be “did you eat?”).  This can also be used several times in the same class, just switch the students and choose another card.

Speaking Game

This game essentially works like Connect Four.

Put students  into pairs or groups of three.  Give each group colored slips of paper (different color for each play) to cover the boxes.

The goal  is to make a line of 4 squares on the board – the first person to do this is the winner.  The lines can be up, across or diagonal.

To win a square, the play must say a sentence using the phrase that matches the picture in that square or a word that is in the square.

The other players have to decide whether the sentence is correct.  If it is, he/she covers the the square with his/her colored slip of paper.

Remind students that they can’t choose a square that has nothing underneath it. They must magine that you are dropping counters into the grid from the top – they fall  straight to the bottom unless there is another counter underneath them.

Here is what the grid might look like:

You can download a Connect 4 Grid.

Foreign Language Speaking Activities Using Pictures and Photos

An effective way of getting students speaking is to have them describe a picture or photo, but this can a get a little old after a few times.  There are many paired and group activities that students can do with an image beyond a simple description.

Foreign Language Speaking Activities Using Pictures and Photos (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

I compiled 50 speaking activities using images and photos in the foreign language classroom.  Two of them are are:

  • One student orally describes a picture to a second student who then draws a copy of it.
  • One student orally describes a picture to another student who then is given a choice of pictures and must choose the one described.

You can download the entire document with all 50 ideas by clicking the box below.

These are fairly low-prep activities.  All the teacher really needs to do is find pictures (easily done on the Internet) that represent the vocabulary or topics. Why not involve students in process as well?

 

TPR

Everyone is talking about TPR (and TPRS, covered elsewhere) and language teachers are excited to try it out in their classrooms. The Total Physical Response method of language teaching was created by James Asher and is based on the work of Krashen, who wrote widely on his Monitor Model. One element of Krashen’s theory was the Affective Filter concept. Mainly, this states that when anxiety is low and learners are comfortable, they are less likely to block understanding.

TPR builds upon this concept in that learners are not forced to speak until they are ready, but are rather encouraged to first demonstrate comprehension through movement and gesture. Drawing on first language acquisition research which shows that children demonstrate understanding before they produce language, TPR encourages learners demonstrate understanding before producing language.

One major benefit that I have personally observed in my classroom is a rise in student confidence as they recognize their ability to almost fully understand a class conducted entirely in the target languge. When they are focusing on this one skill early on rather than trying to speak, read, write, and understand aurally, they achieve recognizable success very early on. This then motivates them to continue to build on their success.

Students move on to speaking and essentially take on the role of the teacher in directing classroom activities. There are several books on TPR to help teachers better understand the techniques and there are numerous workshops offered throughout the country. You can find more information on the TPR Website.

Schemata for Listening Comprehension

Is it possible to teach students how to listen and understand a language? While a response to this question may not be available, it is possible to prepare students to aurally comprehend language in general. The basis of this teaching method is the development of schemata. Schemata is simply the link between all thoughts and concepts on a topic that we as humans possess. For example, we think of the word “house,” but this word does not exist in our brain in an isolated vacuum. Rather, along with house, we have an entire web of concepts connected to it that we understand. We know that: we live in a house, a house has rooms, the rooms have names, we do particular things in each room, house are located in particular places, certain people live in houses, etc. All of this information connected to the idea of a “house” is a schemata.

ArtOfListeningWhen teaching students to comprehend language, it is important to explicitly teach them to access their schemata on the topic that they are listening to. For instance, before listening to a recorded conversation, give students the general topic and have them brainstorm all of the possible words that they might hear when listening. Once this list is done, the students are ready to listen for what they expect to hear. In essence, this is what we do as actively learning adults when listening to a person speak another language. We hypothesize (passively and in a matter of seconds) about what words we might hear, then, when we hear them, we are reassured of what we expected to hear. This does not mean that we know that that our friend is going to say that he went to the store yesterday and bought a new coat, but as soon as he mentions yesterday we anticipate verbs in the past tense and when he mentions a type store we anticipate certain nouns.

This is a skill that many adults that are proficient in a second language do regularly and it is second nature. But, we must remember that this is a skill and it can be taught to students early on. Simple questions like, “What words do you think that you might hear?” help students to engage this process. When it is random speech, students get lost much more easily.

Film in the Foreign Language Classroom

If your goal is to have students engage with the language, subtitles can distract their attention. If, however, you want your students to focus on a cultural aspect of the film, then it may be appropriate to use subtitles. If the focus is language, though, consider this format for guiding your students through the process of understanding the language that they are hearing.

Etre_et_avoir-15040206022008The basis of this teaching method is the development of schemata.  Schemata is simply the link between all thoughts and concepts on a topic that we as humans possess. For example, we think of the word “house,” but this word does not exist in our brain in an isolated vacuum. Rather, along with house, we have an entire web of concepts connected to it that we understand. We know that: we live in a house, a house has rooms, the rooms have names, we do particular things in each room, house are located in particular places, certain people live in houses, etc. All of this information connected to the idea of a “house” is a schemata.

When teaching students to comprehend language, it is important to explicitly teach them to access their schemata on the topic that they are listening to.  When watching a video, it is helpful to have students watch a scene three times. Perhaps you could do this with a few scenes in a movie rather the the entire movie.  Here is what happens during each viewing:

First Viewing:

Students should watch the scene (about 1-2 minutes long) without the sound.  During this viewing, students should focus on the visual aspects of the scene.  When the scene is done, students quickly list everything that they saw in the target language and make a hypothesis about the what is happening in the scene.  Based on this hypothesis, students should write down 5-10 words that they expect to hear.

Second Viewing:

During the second viewing, students should watch with sound and circle any words that they wrote down that they hear.  They will quickly see that they understand more because they have accessed the schemata around the topic.

Third Viewing:

Students should watch the scene with sound and no notes, during which they should understand much of the language, without having been given words by the teacher.  Rather, they are using their own intuition.

HERE are some movie exercises that follow this process.