Category Archives: Writing

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.

French & Spanish Learn, Practice, Apply Activities

I have written about lesson planning using the “Learn, Practice, Apply” sequence that I learned about from the teachers that I work with in Nicaragua.  I have found this simple framework very useful when planning lessons and activities in my language classroom.  I created Tab Books on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that follow this sequence.  They are interactive and students enjoy assembling them and working through the process.

French & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply Activities

I reformatted the Tab Books into a no-prep, 3-page activity.  They begin with scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material. Then they practice the material, and finally students apply the material in the last section. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These activities assure that  students get to this stage in the learning process.

French & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply ActivitiesFrench & Spanish Learn, Practice Apply Activities

Lots of topics available from time, weather date, possessive and demonstrative adjectives to present and past tense verb forms, as well as conditional and subjunctive.

Foreign Language Vocabulary Review and Practice with Google Slides™

I am enjoying figuring out everything that you can do with Google Slides™.  I’m a big fan of digital task cards (like Boom Cards) and I use them often with students, but I wanted to find a way for students to do similar activities with vocabulary, but that are available without needing to log into a Website…activities that students can access and use to review right from their Google™ account.

Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Vocabulary Review and Practice with Google Slides™

These Google Slides™ activities give students opportunities to identify words, phrases or pictures, then to identify and read words, and then to practice spelling. I particularly like that there is absolutely no prep needed.  You just share with students. Easily used for distance, hybrid, blended or in school learning and teaching.

Here are examples of these interactive vocabulary activities using Google Slides™.

Spanish

French

The slides/activities:

  • Vocabulary review or reference slide
  • Students identify words from 4 answer choices
  • Students match words/pictures
  • Magic Squares
  • Students write words

Take a look at these versions of the activity that you can copy right to your Google Drive ™ and share with students.

Lots of topics:

  • Greetings and Introductions
  • Numbers 1-100
  • ColorsDays, Months & the Date
  • Seasons and Weather
  • Time
  • Classroom objects
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Food & Drinks
  • Clothing
  • Rooms & Furniture

Digital Google Slides™ Activities to Focus on Foreign Language Verb Accuracy

This activity is an effective follow up and extension to comprehensible input activities.  Once students have seen (in writing) and heard verb forms in context the next step is to begin the process of producing language.  I like to use activities that show students various possibilities and have them choose the accurate form based on their interaction with the language forms. French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities If you are moving away from direct instruction of verb conjugations try this out with students.  If they have had sufficient contextualized exposure to the verb forms and meanings you will likely see that students can choose the correct form based on what “sounds right.”  When this happens we know that they are progressing in their proficiency and moving toward accurate language output.

French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

Here is another way that includes the infinitive of the verb.French & Spanish Digital Google Slides ActivitiesFrench & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

I then take it a step further and have students write a sentence that show that they understand the meaning along with the form.  They have some question words to support the process.

French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities French & Spanish Digital Google Slides Activities

This activity is also useful when working with students in a PACE lesson, particularly in the co-construction and extension parts of the process.  Keep in mind that this is best used with students when they are detecting patterns with forms in an inductive (implicit) lesson, rather than deductive (explicit) lesson.

Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.

Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions

The inductive (implicit) approach focuses on meaning along with the forms  communicatively.  The deductive approach focused more (or maybe even only) on the forms. Brown (2007) reminds us that “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

I have done these activities with Powerpoints with the entire class. You can take a look at some examples in the post.

I am also using digital activities more with students and now have them do this activity using Google Slides™ that can be shared directly through Google Classroom™ and students get their own copy. Ideal for distance learning, homework, in-person classes or blended, hybrid model.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language Sentence Creation

Students at the novice proficiency level typically speak and write in memorized chunks of language and phrases that they learn by memory.  As they progress in proficiency teachers can support their attempts at creating language on their own.  It is useful to guide them in finding their own ways to add on to the target language that they produce.  I find that one effective way of doing this is to begin by focusing on verbs that they know well and give them opportunities to use them in context.  First with various subjects and then by adding on to the verb phrases in ways that shows their understanding of the meaning of the verb.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

This activity is called Hidden Forms (Formes Cachées in French and Formas Escondidas in Spanish).  It is useful to use in PACE lesson as students engage in extension using the verb forms and structures that were introduced.  There is an added element of fun and strategy as students search for the correct verb forms in the grid.  Not necessarily the most communicative part of the activity, but I always think that students enjoy these small amusing elements and it has the added benefit of being done in the target language.

These Hidden Forms activities are all done in Google Slides and can be easily shared with students through platforms such as Google Classroom.  They work well whether as an in-class activity, homework or when doing distance or hybrid/blended learning and teaching.

First slide: There is a subject pronoun and an infinitive. Students write the correct verb form.Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Second Slide: There is a grid with subject pronouns, infinitives and verb forms. Students find the subject, infinitive and verb form together from the first slide. They then highlight the boxes and “color in” the boxes with the fill color tool.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence CreationDigital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Third Slide: Students write a sentence with each subject and verb form.

Digital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence CreationDigital Tool to Support Foreign Language (French, Spanish) Sentence Creation

Watch a video that shows how students engage with these digital activities.

Take a look at these Google Slides activities that you can copy directly into your Google Drive to share with students.

You can also see paper versions of these activities in this blog post.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

At the novice writing levels, students write with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases.

Novice Low/Mid:

  • green
  • apple, banana, orange
  • Josué
  • soccer, football
  • movies, restaurant

Novice High:

  • My favorite color is green
  • I like apples, bananas and oranges
  • My name is Josué
  • I play soccer and football
  • On the weekend I like to go to the movies and to a restaurant

As students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases.  This can be challenging for students because they are no longer relying on memorized phrases to chunk together.  We can help scaffold this process for students by supporting them in creating sentences.  Students often don’t knowhow to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate (French, Spanish)

I have found that using question words with students is a simple and effective way to have students add details to their sentences that move from memorized, chunked phrases to discrete sentences that are created by the student.  The more they do this the more they will grow in confidence and begin to do it on their own when writing.

Here is an example of an activity that has been effective in showing students that they can in fact move up the proficiency ladder by creating their own sentences.  I call it “Staring with a Verb” (A Partir d’un Verbe, A Partir de un Verbo).

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to IntermediateMoving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

I created these activities in Google Slides so that students and type their sentences directly in the slide and then submit the document when finished.  This is particularly useful when using Google Classroom and ideal during distance learning.

Moving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to IntermediateMoving Student Foreign Language Writing from Novice to Intermediate

Take a look at some possibilities:

 

 

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

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

As I write this post many of us are teaching remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  I have been using Zoom to teach and communicate with students.  One of the features is breakout rooms where students can be put into small groups. Other platforms offer similar possibilities.  I was trying to find a way to see what groups are doing in real time in addition to popping in and out of each group.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I saw on Twitter that Rebecca Blouwolf, ACTFL Teacher of the Year, was trying out using shared Google docs during breakout group time.  I have known Rebecca for over 20 years and I respect her so much.  We started our teaching career together and I have been very impressed with all that she has accomplished.  When I saw what she was doing with Google docs I knew that I had to look into it.

My first iteration looked like this.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

I shared the doc (I used Google sheets) with all students and groups worked collectively in the same document.  I was able to see what they were entering in real time and could write a message to all of the groups (broadcast message in Zoom) when I saw saw some common inaccuracies or I could go into an individual group when I wanted to support them verbally.  There was one problem with this, they were all doing the same questions and could see each other’s responses.  It didn’t seem to be much of an issue, but I wanted to give each group different prompts while all working in the same shared document.  I could have shared different documents with each group, but that would mean looking at different documents.  I wanted the individual group work all together so that I could  see what all groups are doing at once.

So, I got back to work. This is the second iteration and the version that I have been using successfully.

Keep Track of Virtual Group Work in the Language Classroom

This allows for different prompts for each group (blue column), while being able to see all responses in real time. Atelier means “workshop” in French and the is the word I use with students for “breakout room.”  They type their group responses to the right of the prompts in blue.  In addition to text, groups can insert images in response to a prompt or a link to audio or a video that that they record or through search.  My initial intent was to use this to see work done in real time in Zoom breakout rooms, but I’m envisioning using this for asynchronous (not in real time) student work as well. Though this is a work-around during a crisis, I plan to continue using it when we are back in the physical classroom.

If you would like to us this with your students, make sure that you share one document with the entire class and allow editing when sharing a Google doc. For ease of formatting I use a Google Sheet, but you can do this with any of the Google doc options.  I tell students that they can delete  it out of their Google account when done so that it is not yet another document taking up space.  I have the original with all of their responses….another benefit of having it all in one place.  You can also have a spot for groups to put their names in  next to the the breakout room.  I keep track on my own.

This link will make a copy of the breakout room document in your Google Drive (just like assigning  to students in Google Classroom)  and you can modify it for your own personal use.  This is a work in progress for me.  I’d love to see and hear about what works for you.

 

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities

I’m always a fan of resources that can be easily modified to fit different proficiency levels.  I love it when I find an activity or resource that I can pull out at any proficiency level and just get students speaking or writing by simply changing the output prompt.

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

I have been creating these Zut and Caramba cards for several years.  Sometimes I used index cards and a marker, sometimes I just printed out a bunch of pictures.  While students were able to produce language rather well with this on-the-fly type resources I wanted to up my game a little with this activity.  So, I got to work on a template and used it to create Zut and Caramba cards on lots of vocabulary and language structure topics.  As I said above I like resources that can be used at any proficiency level.  These Zut and Caramaba cards a perfect fit.Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

They can be used in 4 ways:

Zut (French) and Caramba (Spanish):

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • This activity  can be done in small groups of 4-5 or with the entire class playing in teams.
  • Students (or teams) take turns choosing a card out of a bag.
  • Once chosen, the player (or team) can do various things to keep the card depending on the proficiency level of the students. They can the picture, use it in a sentence or even ask a question about it.
  • If they choose a Zut or Caramba card they must put all their cards back in the bag, including the Zut or Caramba card.
  • Play continues between the players or teams and the cards/points change often because of the Zut or Caramba cards.
  • If a player (or team) doesn’t know a form or meaning it goes back in the bag.  Play continues with the next student.
  • After a certain number of turns or a specified amount of time, the player (or team) with the most cards wins.

Card Find:

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • Place cards (#1-40) in various places around the classroom or another space. Pair students up and give them 5 numbers (between 1-40) and the pairs set out to find the cards with their numbers.
  • When they find the cards that respond to a pre-determined prompt based on their proficiency level. Students can the picture in writing or use it in a sentence. There are question words to help inspire a sentence.  They can do this on a slip of paper or a small white board.
  • When they have all five they return to teacher for verification and get another set of numbers and repeat the process.
  • Each pair gets a point for each set of 5 that they complete.  You may want to make it 3 if this moves things along better in your class.
  • After a specified amount of time the pair with the most points is the winner

Do Now:Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • When they enter the room, students choose 2 or 3 cards and complete a prompt based on the card. Depending on the proficiency level of the students the teacher can have students identify the word in writing or use it in a sentence.

Exit Ticket:Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

  • Just before the end of class hand out a card to each student and they respond to the prompt and hand it to the teacher (who verifies the answer) as they leave the room. Depending on the proficiency level of the students the teacher can have students identify the word in writing or use it in a sentence.

These activities can also be done with language structures such verb tenses, demonstrative and possessive adjectives, direct and indirect object pronouns, adjectives and even comparisons.  Rather than identify images the prompts require uses these various language structures.

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking and Writing Activities that are Easily Adapted to Various Proficiency Levels.  (French, Spanish)