Category Archives: Listening

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.