Category Archives: Listening

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.

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)

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?



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.