Category Archives: Speaking

22: 90% + Target Language Use

In this episode we are talking about 90%+ target language use in the classroom.  We start with where this comes from and why we want to do it, then I ask 4 questions about what is happening in your classroom.  These questions will help to focus on some of the challenge areas and I provide some ways to address them.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • Q2. Do students have the language tools they need to communicate?
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?

Links referenced in this episode:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

French or Spanish Speaking Activity (Starting Point)

Your students can recognize and say the the words on various vocabulary topics.  They can do the same with adjectives and verb forms in a variety of tenses.

But, the challenge is finding opportunities for students to use these language elements in context that moves beyond simply saying them as individual words.  We need to support our students as they level up their proficiency and strive to create language beyond novice level.

That’s where this activity comes in.

Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida) is a partner speaking activity that is quickly and easily adaptable to any proficiency level. If your students are at the novice level (words and phrases), then they can add one or two additional words.

If they are at a higher proficiency level they can create discreet or connected sentences with connecting words, adjectives, adverbs and other vocabulary to form more complex sentences. For the activities with verb forms there are question words along with each subject/verb pair to guide students in creating sentences.

Your students will be speaking non-stop in French or Spanish without even realizing it, because the object of the activity (aka game) is what they are really focused on.

You’re probably wondering how it works, so here you go…

  • This activity is done in pairs. Each player needs a pencil or pen that is a different color.
  • The goal of the activity is to score the most points by filling in the most boxes.
  • Player 1 begins by connecting any 2 dots. Before connecting the dots the player identifies the picture or prompt or says the verb forms on either side of the line.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of the class, the players can also be prompted to use the vocabulary words or adjective/verb forms to create more complex phrases and sentences.
  • If the player is not able to complete the prompt the turn passes and a line is not drawn.
  • When a player draws a line to make a complete box around a picture, prompt or subject/verb pair the player fills in the box and records a point on the top of the board.
  • Once all boxes are filled in the player with the most boxes wins.

So, your students know the vocabulary and adjective/verb forms, but  you would like them to use these language elements in context to create sentences. Problem solved with Starting Point (Point de Départ / Punto de Partida)….and no prep for the teacher at all.

 

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

This is a question that comes up often.  It is a term that we hear as language teachers and maybe even use it to describe our classroom.  But, do we have a solid understanding of what it is?

Let’s take a look.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

the research

There is considerable research being conducted and published on effective ways to teach and learn language.  At the forefront of this work is Dr. Bill VanPatten, a linguist whose work focuses on second language acquisition. Through his own extensive research as well as compiling studies done by other linguists and educators, Dr. VanPatten concludes these points:

  • Language is an abstract and complex mental representation that bears no resemblance to textbook rules and charts.
  • Language acquisition is largely controlled by unconscious mechanisms internal to the learner.
  • In order to develop a linguistic system, learners must be exposed to language (input) embedded in communicative events and comprehensible in nature.
  • Communicative ability develops as a result of participation in communicative events.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

communicative language teaching

There are three concepts of communicative language teaching that set it apart form more traditional approaches:

  1. The focus is on communicating and doing something with the language as opposed to practicing isolated language features out of context.
  2. It is student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered. Students create with language rather than having the language explained to them.
  3. The approach is focused on understanding the message being conveyed by students despite inaccuracy in language form. This is a change from focusing on correct usage of language structures and only secondarily tending to the message.

communicative classroom

There has been a significant shift in mindset along with the arrival of communicative language teaching.  Previous methodologies focused on what learners did wrong rather than on their progress.  The goal was complete accuracy along with the belief that a speaker would not be understood if the language was not completely correct.  We now accept that communication can happen despite occasional inaccuracy.  This is the base of the difference in mindset, or underlying tenets that support the communicative approach.

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

Examples of a communicative classroom

Objectives and Content:

Non-Communicative:

  • The teacher is the all-knowing possessor of knowledge who directs all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.

Communicative:

  • The teacher works in collaboration with students with shared learning objectives.

Communication:

Non-Communicative:

  • The communication is focused on the four traditional language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in isolation and not interconnected.

Communicative:

  • The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are represented and focused on what the learner does with the four skills.

Performance:

Non-Communicative:

  • The focus is on what students know about the language and its structures. There is only practice of correct grammatical aspects of the language in isolation and out of context.

Communicative:

  • The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language. There is authentic communication with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is conveyed.

Assessment in a communicative classroom

Assessments focus on what students can do with the language. Communicative assessment characteristics:

  • Students create a product or do a demonstration
  • Graded more holistically
  • Focus is on completing a task
  • Tasks are situation-based or use real-world content
  • Higher-level thinking skills of application, integration, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation

These are common assessment activities that focus on what students can do with language.

  • Complete the sentence logically
  • State your opinion, thoughts, or comments
  • Give personal answers
  • Create a situation
  • Seek information
  • Develop a product, e.g. advertisement, brochure, collage, poem, song, essay, video, etc.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge
  • Summarize, paraphrase
  • Change the ending

What is Communicative Language Teaching?

You might also want to listen to me talk through this on an episode of the World Language Classroom Podcast.

Resources:

Lee, J. F., & VanPatten, B. (2003). Making communicative language teaching happen.

VanPatten, B. (2003). From input to output: A teacher’s guide to second language acquisition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Van Patten, B. (2014). Creating Comprehensible Input and OutputThe Language Educator, 7(4), 24-26.

Krashen, Stephen D., and Tracy D. Terrell. “The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom.” (1983).

Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-158.

VanPatten, B., & Fernández, C. (2003). The long-term effects of processing instruction. In Processing Instruction: Theory, Research, and Commentary (pp. 277-293). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

22: 90%+ Target Language Use


In this episode we are talking about 90%+ target language use in the classroom.  We start with where this comes from and why we want to do it, then I ask 4 questions about what is happening in your classroom.  These questions will help to focus on some of the challenge areas and I provide some ways to address them.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • Q2. Do students have the language tools they need to communicate?
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?

Links referenced in this episode:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

Are We Speaking Our Students’ Language?

How many times have we done our best to come up with scenarios and role plays that may or may not be applicable to the everyday lives of our students?  Where are they reading, writing, speaking and communicating?  Social media is certainly one place.  I put together a template for Instagram™ photos and stories and students write their own descriptions of photos and comment on their classmates’ posts.  I even added on opportunities to “post” Instagram™ Story videos.

I can’t actually use social media platforms with my students, so I created Google Slides™ where they insert photos and videos with descriptions into a template.

This link will make a copy in your Google Drive™ of the template that I created. 

This digital activity that works well if teaching in school or remotely.

Virtual World Language Classrooms (with or without Bitmojis)

I’m sure that you have seen Bitmojis™ around the Web.  If they are new to you they are little cartoon versions of yourself, which are used on social media, in texts, or in a virtual classroom spaces. You just create an avatar that resembles you, and there are lots of options from which to choose once you are all set up.Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without BitmojisWhen we entered into distance learning teachers began creating virtual classrooms. They are shared with students as a go-to spot for resources and assignments or as a screen share when conducting synchronous lessons on platforms such as Zoom™ and Google Meet™.  Teachers then add their Bitmoji™ avatars to the virtual classroom to personalize the space.  This is a good video tutorial that walks you through creating your own Virtual or Bitmoji™ classroom.Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without BitmojisI have seen many versions of these classrooms being used by world language teachers.  It appears that there is not any particular version that is the the best way. Some options include:

  • Posters with functional junks
  • Audio or music resources library
  • Movie or video clip links
  • Book (pdf or Web link) library
  • Escape rooms
  • Posting daily agendas
  • Posting tasks and instructions
  • Choice board links
  • Do Nows or Quick Questions
  • Conversation or topic hooks and class openers

The possibilities are as endless…anything we do in our physical classrooms can happen in our virtual classroom, provided we can digitize it.

I created a Bitmoji™ classroom a few weeks back and asked my PLN friends on Twitter and in my Facebook Group for feedback.  The most common feedback was that there was too much stimuli and too much going on.  I needed to pare it down to focus on one activity or task at a time.  I started with this version.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

I then made templates of the same room with a task-specific focus.  For examples these are classrooms I use for conversation or topic hooks and class openers.

Who is our guest today?  Students ask questions to try to figure out who the special guest behind the door is.  There are prompts posted to support the question process.  When students figure it out I have the animation set to make the door disappear revealing the guest.  This can be a celebrity, a person from school, a character in a story or book…anyone with a connection to the topic of the day to get students thinking about the topic.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

What’s in the box?  This works just like the previous activity, but instead of a person it is an object in a box.  Again, students ask questions to try to figure out what is in the box.  There prompts posted to support the question process.  When students figure it out I have the animation set to make the box disappear revealing the object.  This can be anything with a connection to the topic of the day to get students thinking about the topic.

Virtual World Language (French, Spanish) Classrooms with or without Bitmojis

Where are we? For this opener the window is linked to Window Swap. This is Website that shows views from windows all around the world that people submit to the website.  The views change each day and there are multiple options to click through.  While this does not work as direct hook to the topic of the day, it is an engaging way to get students talking and describing what they see, who might live there, and they can also learn the names of countries and cities in the target language.

We would all love to see what you are doing with your virtual classroom.  Please share on Twitter and be sure to tag @wlclassroom.  Looking forward to seeing all the great spaces.

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options

I recently wrote a post about using choice boards in the foreign language class. I included 2 ways to use Google Slides and Forms to show 9 options that include the three communication modes and choices around learning style.  You can read that post here and copy the template to your Google Drive.

Suggestions for Foreign Language Choice Board Options (French, Spanish)

The organizational part is step one, then we need to figure out what the actual choices are.  I compiled suggestions for each option below.  Since the choice board template is designed to be used for any language, theme or proficiency level I am keeping the suggestions and resources general so that you can easily adapt them to the content that you are focusing on in your classes.  Hopefully this list will spark some ideas and make the process of creating choice boards more manageable.

Nuts and Bolts:

1-Way Speaking:

  • Flip Grid
  • Vocaroo
  • Ad for Podcast
  • Ad for YouTube Channel
  • Voicemail
  • Movie Talk-watch a video clip with no sound and tell what happens
  • Describe picture or story or storyboard

Writing:

  • Create an Ad
  • Make an Infographic
  • Write a quiz
  • Make a Storyboard and write what happens
  • Comic strip
  • Write an Email
  • Write a text
  • Social media post
  • Movie Write -watch a clip with no sound and write what happens

2-Way Speaking:

  • Sign up for in-person or Zoom, one-on-one or small group
  • Role play
  • Themes in advance
  • Record (audio or video)

Listening:

Reading:

  • Websites
  • Book
  • Articles
  • Infographics
  • Lingro
  • Classmates’ writing

Art, Music, etc.:

  • Paint and describe (write or speak)
  • Draw and describe (write or speak)
  • Sculpt and describe (write or speak)
  • Write song lyrics

Web Activities:

 

Picture1

Culture:

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There is increasing research that shows that learner independence builds confidence and increases academic performance and language proficiency. I have seen an increase in choice boards among language teachers on social media.  These boards provide students with options of how to learn and practice content or a skill.  They also encourage students to be more responsible, accountable and independent as they work at their own pace. In a time of remote/distance/hybrid learning these choice boards are a great way to keep students engaged in or out of the school building.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

As I took on this challenge of implementing choice boards I soon realized that the challenge comes in the organization and keeping track of assignments. When students are completing different assignments at various times how do I manage it all?  So, I took to Twitter to ask teachers how they do this in their classrooms.  There were great suggestions from generous teachers all over the country.  I compiled responses and got to work creating two versions of choice boards.  One uses Google Slides and the other uses Google Slides and Forms.  There are apps, Websites and platforms out there that do this sort of thing for a fee, but I wanted to find a way that uses Google (Classroom) that does not require yet another username and password… and does not have an annual cost associated with it.

Be sure to look at this post if you would like to see ideas for each of the options.

The choice board is the same for both versions.  It is the way students submit work that differs.  Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

There are 9 options on the choice board, which include the communication modes as well as culture, Web activities and art, music, etc.  There is also a “nuts and bolts” option which all students begin with.  This is for initial presentation of content through comprehensible input.  This is all done in a Google Slide presentation that is shared with students so that they each have their own copy.  In this first version all work is put on the corresponding slides either as an image or a link to a Google doc.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

 

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

This second version begins with the same choice board in Google Slide format, but there are links to Google Forms to submit work. Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive.

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Choice Boards by Communication Mode in the Foreign Language Class

Be sure to take a look at this follow-up post that has ideas and suggestions for the choice board options. I hope you have success with choice boards and that these templates help to make it a little more manageable for you.

Copy of the Choice Board Template to your Google Drive

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning

Like everyone else I am figuring out what I can use during distance learning.  This is a speaking activity that I do in the classroom either as a whole class or in small groups.  It has transitioned well to the remote learning classroom, particularly with platforms that allow screen-sharing. You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.

I call this activity “Advance” (Avancez! in French and ¡Adelante! in Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Here is how it works.  This is for the Spanish version, but just replace the word ¡Caramba! with Zut! for French…any language would work with the template.

Set Up:

  • This activity can be done with the whole class broken down into teams of 2-3 or in a small group of 3-4 individual players. Project the slides if playing with the entire class (share your screen if doing remote teaching).  If playing in a small group they will need one computer or a tablet with Powerpoint or Google Slides. Be sure that they play in slideshow mode so that they can’t see the thumbnail images on the side.
  • Give each group (if playing with the entire class) or each individual (if playing in a small group) two objects that they can use while playing. This can be anything really… erasures, slips of paper, popsicle sticks or game pieces.  It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as each group (or individual player if playing in small group) has 2. I just keep track of this on my own in the distance learning classroom.
  • The object of the game is to have the most points at the end.  The teacher can set a time limit to determine when the end arrives.  It’s good if you can set a timer, but without students seeing the countdown. If players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.
  • Determine the order that the groups or individuals will play in.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

 

Play:

  • Begin on the first slide.  The first player (or individual player if playing in small group) identifies the picture or responds to a prompt either by speaking or writing.  If correct (clicking on the slide will show the correct answer) the group or player gets a point. If the answer is incorrect no point are awarded or lost and play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • The next group (or individual) can decide to advance (¡Adelante!) to the next slide and identifies the picture or responds to a prompt. However, there are slides that say “¡Caramba!” instead of a picture or prompt and the group (or individual) loses all of their points.  At any time a group (or individual) can choose not to advance and skip a turn.  They can only to this twice in the game and must hand over the an object mentioned in the set up.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

  • If a group or individual decides not to advance the play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • Once a group (or individual) has used both of their “skips” they must advance to the next slide when it is their turn.

Tips:

  • Players should not assume that there are not 2 “¡Caramba!” in a row. There is no pattern.
  • Change up the order of the slides and location of the “¡Caramba!” if you use the activity multiple times so that students can’t anticipate where the “¡Caramba!” are.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of students they can be required to identify the picture (novice level) or use it in a complete sentence (Novice High to Intermediate).  If it is a prompt it will require a novice high or intermediate response.
  • Set an alarm on a timer and when it goes off the game ends and the group (or individual) who has the most points at that moment is the winner.  It is best to play between 20-30 minutes, though the teacher can adjust this based on the dynamics of the class. Or, if players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.

You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.  Fill in the prompts to fit your needs on each slide.  Copy as many slides and  ¡Caramba!/ Zut! that you would like and put them anywhere you would like, and as many as you would like.

Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level

If you teach multiple grade levels, or various proficiency levels, you probably like to find an activity or project that can be used across levels.  I would like to share a project with you that you can use with novice and intermediate learners.  It is essentially the same concept. It differs only in how students engage with the content that they produce.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (french, Spanish)

Students create a time capsule that is a snapshot of their life over the past year.  I typically do this as the school year, so you will see 2019-2020 in the examples.  I have students do this digitally in Google slides.  I have seen in done in a journal as well with pictures and writing glued to the pages.  While the tactile nature and opportunities for creative design are more apparent with the physical product I find that that it is logistically easier to manage when it is digital.

Students begin by responding to prompts in the target language.

  • Name:
  • Town/City:
  • Birthday:
  • Age:
  • Personal adjectives (3) to describe yourself:
  • Family (name, age, relation):
  • Gratitude (3 things you are thankful for or appreciate):
  • School:
  • Teachers and Subjects:
  • Friends :
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Activity :
    • Where?:
    • When?:
    • With whom?:
  • Music:
    •  Song:
    • Singer:
  • Film/TV/Netflix/Amazon :
    • Favorite Move or TV Program:
    • Favorite Actress or Actor:
  • Reading
    • Favorite Book:
    • Favorite Writer:

Once these are done students find pictures to go along with each of these topics and put them in google slides.  I provide the template and they fill it in.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

The final step is where the projected is differentiated by proficiency level. You can see a review of proficiency levels here.

Novice mid to novice high students write about what is “in” their time capsule and these sentences go on each slide with the images.  At this level I usually provide sentence starters as well, such as “My favorite actress is…” or ” My math teacher is…”  At this proficiency level the work is done in the present.Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

Novice high to intermediate low students write as if they were opening the time capsule in five years and write about they did, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. five years ago. For languages with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to distinguishing between the preterite and imperfect.  Students at this level tend (in my experience) to be better with the preterite. For the sentences that would require the imperfect I typically provide sentence starters. 
Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)Intermediate low to intermediate mid students write as if they were opening the time capsule in fifty years and writing about they used to do, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. fifty years ago. For language with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to using the preterite and imperfect accurately, and it provides an effective way to contextualize the tenses.

Students Create Time Capsule by Foreign Language Proficiency Level (French, Spanish)

I also include a speaking component.  Once students are done with the time capsule, and are very familiar with all of the content, I set up time for them to have a 5-minute discussion with me about their time capsule.