Category Archives: Listening

Using the Gouin Series in the Foreign Language Classroom

The Gouin Series is an activity that helps to move students from listening to speaking.  It was developed by Francois Gouin in the 19th century.

The teacher presents a series of six to eight relatively short statements that describe a logical sequence of actions that takes place in a specific context—buying a gift, cooking a meal, making a cake, making a phone call, writing and sending an email. The statements include concrete action verbs and use the same tense and the same person.  The teacher first presents the statements to the class orally, accompanying them with pantomime of the actions involved.  Props are useful. The class responds first by doing the actions, and then responds by saying the words while still performing the actions. The class speaks first as a group and then as individuals.

Elements of a Gouin Series:

  • An introduction to  set the scene
  • Concrete action verbs
  • One specificcontext
  • One tense
  • One person
  • 7-10 -syllables
  •  6-8 statements
  •  Props or visuals
  • Logical sequence

How to Teach a Gouin (Action) Series:

  1. Teacher presents orally, with pantomime and props
  2. Teacher repeats orally, class pantomimes with teacher
  3.  Teacher repeats orally without pantomime, class pantomimes,
  4. Teacher repeats orally, individuals pantomime
  5. Class repeats orally and pantomimes
  6. Individuals lead the series
  7. Possible reading, writing activities

Example of a Gouin Series:

Going to Class

  • I put my book in my bag.
  • I walk to class.
  • I enter the classroom.
  • I sit down.
  • I take out my book.
  • I put my book on the table.
  • I open book.

Up and Down: Foreign Language Vocabulary and Verb Form Activities

Up and Down: Foreign (World) Language Vocabulary and Verb Form Activity (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThis is an effective activity for students to practice language forms and vocabulary.  It is adaptable to many different structures.

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The three activities offer students an opportunity to work collaboratively.  Here is my favorite one because it is most interactive:

Students cut up the squares and line them up in order in one long strip placing the response under the prompt. There are two variations

–Start with principio/début and go to fin

–Start with fin and go to principio/début

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You can also find 20 versions of this activity on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics on the links below:

Foreign Language Speaking Activity that Involves the Entire Class

This is a great activity to get the entire class involved in saying and listening to the vocabulary in the foreign language. The teacher begins by cutting the strips of paper on the dotted line and giving five students a slip with two pictures on it. These students go to the front of the class without revealing their pictures to the rest of the class.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity that Involves the Entire Class

The other students in the class each receive the first sheet and begin by writing down the names of the five students in the front of the room.

One at a time members of the class take turns trying to guess who has which picture  on their sheet. All students record the answers as they are given.

An order of students should be established by the teacher and this order will be repeated until a student has correctly identified all the people/pictures on his/her turn. If the answers are not correct the questions continue.

Students should be informed that each person has only two pictures and that no two people have the same picture.

You can also download several version of this activity here:

Foreign Language Vocabulary Activities (The Barrier)

I try to find new ways to use these materials beyond their original intended purpose before giving up on them.  One such activity is the Memory or Concentration game that always seems to be on a shelf somewhere in the classroom.

In this variation two students sit facing each other and place a barrier such a book between each other so that each one can’t see the tabletop area in front of the other person.  One student takes the picture cards and the other takes the cards with the words.   The student with the words lines the cards up in any order that he wants.  He then reads off the list to the other person who lines up his picture cards in the order that he hears.  When done, the barrier is removed and they can check to see that they are lined up in the same order.  They can then switch sides or try other variations such as having the student with the picture cards read off the list and the student with the word cards lines them up in the correct order.  Here is what it may look like:

French Memory Games

Spanish Memory Games

Interactive and Communicative Whole-Class Speaking Activity

This is a very engaging and interactive way for students to practice  vocabulary in a communicative way. It requires students to speak to everyone in the class in order to complete the task. The activity employs information-gap and jigsaw language teaching techniques to engage student participation.

Each student has pictures of 4 things/objects (the example below uses city locations)  and students also have a sheet with all of the objects.   Students circulate and ask their classmates if they have the various objects (or are going to tge various places in the example below) and record their name if the answer is YES.

This is a great way to get students talking to everyone in the class and it reinforces the vocabulary through repetition in a meaningful and communicative context.


Download Whole-Class Communicative Speaking Activities Here:

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.


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.