Category Archives: Writing

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content

This is an activity that I have used with various proficiency levels.  It involves presentational writing and interpretive reading.  It can be used with on demand writing, that is writing that is generated in the moment and doesn’t go through a revision process, or polished writing that includes feedback and additional drafts.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Essentially students begin by responding to a prompt in writing and then the other students in the class read what their classmates wrote and write a response.  Depending on how lengthy the writing is students may be able to read almost all of their classmates writing and respond within one or two classes.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

This works particularly well when students are able to use language expressing opinions and agreeing or disagree with the writer.  I have students put their writing piece on their desk with a blank sheet of paper next to it.  Students then circulate and read their classmates’ writing and write a written response or reaction on the sheet next to it.  For novice level students they use chunked phrases such as “me too,” “not me,” “I also enjoy…,” I prefer….” when writing a reaction to novice level writing.  For Intermediate students they may begin by writing an opinion on a reading or a film and their classmates will write a response.  I have also had students write two reactions; one that is their own and then one that is in response an existing reaction.  This takes on the feeling of a social media thread.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Even if the original writing undergoes a feedback process, the written responses allow students to also do on demand writing and to write in response to other comments.  What the actual written responses and reactions look like will vary depending on what the original writing prompt is and the proficiency level of the class.  I have used this with novice and intermediate students with lots of success.  It take s bit more modeling with lower proficiency levels, but they are able to see how much they are able to write when the piece they are reading is at their level.  This is one of the benefits of using student-created content as the reading text.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Students like to get up an move and this allows them to do that in the classroom.  I use paper so that it is more tactile, but this type of activity could easily be done on a computer or even using Padlet.  As for a follow up activity, try a discussion of what different students read or of trends and consistencies.  Maybe ask  questions about what students learned.  Again, the type of follow up will vary based on the original writing prompt and proficiency level of the class.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Here is description of this activity that I recently did with a group of novice mid/high students.  I asked them to write a “paragraph” telling about themselves using any and all phrases, vocabulary and structures that they have acquired so far. This particular class is 6th grade and meets 3 times a week for 45-minutes.  Most of the class has reached novice high, though some are novice mid.  Students wrote their paragraphs in class with no access to technology or dictionaries for looking up words.

They focused on novice language topics such as personal info (age, name, where they live, who they live with,what they like to do, what sports/activities/school subjects they prefer). I gave some ideas of topics, but it was on demand writing, meaning all generated in the moment. For homework they typed it and added some photos. Because it is all student-generated, using vocabulary and structures that they have acquired, the reading is “at level” for classmates reading and commenting. If anything was unclear the images are there to assist.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Give this student-generated reading and writing activity a try.  It is very useful when moving the audience of student writing away from always being the teacher.

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Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift. That Was Then. This Is Now.

The field of language teaching is always on the move.  Every decade or so there is an innovative way to approach language teaching.  For a recap of the language teaching methodologies that have surfaced over the past century take a look at this post.  Over the past decade many foreign language teachers have embraced communicative language teaching, which focuses on authentic communication over language forms such as grammar structures.

That Was Then. This Is Now. Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift (French, Spanish)

To be clear, a certain level of accuracy of language is needed to convey a message that is comprehensible.  The difference from methodologies of the past is that previous approaches to language teaching focused almost solely on accuracy of language.  These days we see the value in focusing on the message, even when that means looking past some errors when the learner has not yet acquired the language structure.

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 in the past 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 approaches.

Here are four areas of this mindset shift that distinguish current communicative approaches from accuracy-centered approach of the past.

Objectives and Content:

  • Past: The teacher was the all-knowing possessor of knowledge and directed all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.
  • Present: The teacher works in collaboration with students and there are shared learning objectives.  Content is driven by both the teacher and the student.

Communication:

  • Past: Typically communication was focused on the four traditional language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  This usually meant that these skills were practiced in isolation and were not interconnected.
  • Present: The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are now the focus.  They provide students with opportunities to do something with the four skills.

Performance:

  • Past: The focus was on what students knew about the language and its structures.  Practice of correct grammatical forms of the language were typically done in isolation and out of context.
  • Present: The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language.  This is always tied to context and students communicate authentically with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is clear.

Assessment:

  • Past: Assessments determined the level of language accuracy and the teacher could easily and quickly point out what was incorrect, such as verb forms, noun gender, adjective agreement, etc.
  • Present: Assessments are performance-based.  Teachers use tools and strategies such as backwards design and Can-Do statements to guide students toward communication.

Where are you regarding your teaching mindset?  If you want to embrace communicative language teaching, take a look at the “present” mindset statements and see where you are.  It can take some time and a solid approach is always evolving.  It doesn’t have to happen this week.   Download this PDF with some questions to help keep your lesson planning in the “present.”

Foreign Language Writing Activities for Aspiring Intermediate Learners

As students grow in proficiency beyond the novice level, where they are parroting language structures and chunks, they aspire to create with language and speak and write on their own.  As teachers we need to provide opportunities for students to create with language.  This can be an intimidating prospect for the novice high/intermediate low language learner.  It is best, in my experience, to scaffold this language creation in a way that makes students feel confident that they are creating messages on their own, but at the same time not feeling too overwhelmed by the process.

Foreign Language Writing Activities for Aspiring Intermediate Learners (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comTo assist students in this process of moving toward creating their own sentences that move beyond memorized chunks of language I made these tactile sentence writing activities.  They are set up to provide some scaffolding in terms of the types of sentences that writers create, while also ultimately leaving the content of the sentence up to the student.

There are two versions of these writing activities.  The first version looks like this:

Foreign Language Writing Activities for Aspiring Intermediate Learners (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com This is how it works. A pencil, a paperclip and a copy of the worksheet are needed to complete this activity. Students place the point of their pencil and a paperclip in the middle of each hexagon. They spin the paperclip by flicking it with a finger. Students write complete, detailed sentences based on the three responses to the spins. Each verb is followed by a question word. Students write an answer to the question word in their sentence.

The second version looks like this:

Foreign Language Writing Activities for Aspiring Intermediate Learners (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com One die or three dice and a copy of the worksheet are needed to complete this activity. Students roll the die three times or roll three dice once.  Students write complete, detailed sentences based on the three responses to the rolls. Each verb is followed by a question word. Students write an answer to the question word in their sentence.

You can download over 20 versions of these writing activities for French and Spanish by clicking on the links below:

 

Move Student Speaking and Writing from Novice to Intermediate

At the novice level, students are speaking and writing with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases.  Here are some examples:

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

Move Student Speaking and Writing from Novice to Intermediate (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comAs students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases.  This tends to be the most challenging for students as they begin to create with language and are not relying on memorized phrases to chunk together.  Rather than changing the detail after a memorized phrase such as “my favorite ______ is _______” and “I like __________” they are moving on to changing subjects, using various propositions and varying their verb forms and tenses.  Teachers can help scaffold this process for students by assisting them in creating sentences.  Students are often challenged by how to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.

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.

A simple reminder of question words as students  write about a topic will guide them toward writing discrete sentences that they create on their own and and will move solidly on to the intermediate low proficiency level. For example, if a student writes ” I like to swim.” suggest a few question words to help make the sentence a bit longer and more detailed.  With whom?  When?  Where?

This will move the sentence from “I like to swim” to “I like to swim with my friend Julie on Saturday at the community pool.”  The more students get accustomed to adding details this way the more they will do it on their own when speaking and writing.

Here are a few posts I’ve written that have some suggestions and resources for guiding students through this process of moving their speaking and writing from novice to intermediate.  Click on the images to see the posts.

Spanish & French Verb Tense and Sentence Writing Powerpoint Activities

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Students rise in proficiency, but what about language accuracy?

It’s the question on everyone’s mind.  What is the role of accuracy in foreign language as students grow in proficiency?  Do we tend to accuracy?  Do we just focus on proficiency and assume that the language will become more accurate with time and practice?

Students are rising in proficiency, but what about language accuracy? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

The ACTFL performance descriptors are an effective tool to determine precisely what students can do at each proficiency level (and sub level).  The descriptors go on to state what the language output of students looks like at each level.  Take a look:

Students are rising in proficiency, but what about language accuracy? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

While these are very useful, we are often met with the issue of inaccuracy in language.  To be clear, proficiency is about communicating a message and is not so focused on polished and accurate language forms.  Essentially the language structures need to be accurate enough for the message to be understood.  It is generally understood in second language acquisition research that continued exposure (input) to language structures in context will lead to internalization and acquisition of the native-like language structures.

The issue here is that it is often challenging to focus specifically on a particular language element or structure when providing students with contextualized input.  Is there are a way to provide this focused input to students?  Is there a way for students to be actively engaged in the content, which will peak their interest?

I have been faced with this challenge of students moving up to the intermediate proficiency level and speaking and writing in complete, discrete sentences, but the verb forms are often not correct.  Students communicate their message, but I want to provide contextualized input of a particular structure so that students  move toward more accurate language as well.  I’m assuming you have been here?

In an effort to make input compelling and interesting to students I try to have them create the content as much as possible.  The more they choose the topic the more they will be interested and will pay attention to the themes and language structure being highlighted. Combining student-generated content and a focus on a particular language structure I developed these activities.

Students are rising in proficiency, but what about language accuracy? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com Students are rising in proficiency, but what about language accuracy? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Students begin by  writing the correct form of the verb when given the subject and the infinitive.  To reiterate  the correct form students them locate the subject, infinitive and verb form in the grid.  It works like a word search.  Until this point, it’s a very mechanical exercise that is devoid of context.  So, the next step is to write a sentence with each subject and verb form.  This is where the student-generated content comes in.  Some students choose to write personal sentences, other prefer to write about topics that interest them and some prefer to be humorous.  Regardless of the sentences, in the end the correct verb forms in a contextualized sentence provide very focused input for students.

I have seen a marked increase in accurate verb forms when students use this type of writing activity.  The word-search element provides an interesting way to focus on the correct verb form and the sentences that are student-generated highlight correct usage in context. You can take a it a step further and use the student sentences to create a task such as collating sentences into different categories and graphing results.  The important thing to keep in mind is that all the while students are seeing and using the sentences that contain the accurate verb forms in context.  Increased exposure to these language forms is what is needed to move toward acquisition.

If you would like to help your students  polish their language structures, take a look at these activities.  There are many topics in both French and Spanish.  Click on the links below to access these resources and watch the accuracy of your students’ language rise with their proficiency.

Spanish:

French:

Spanish Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary

I wrote a post recently on foreign language class lesson planning that follows 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 foreign language classroom. I created these Spanish Tab Books that follow this sequence.

Spanish Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary www.wlteacher.wordpress.comThe first pages provide scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material, then they practice the material on the next pages, and finally students apply the material on the last page. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These tab books assure that  students get to this stage in the learning process.

Setting Up the Tab Book:
-Cut the pages in half on the dotted line.
-Cut out the box on the bottom of each page along the dotted lines.

Spanish Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary www.wlteacher.wordpress.com Photo Feb 13, 8 29 31 PM-Place the pages on top of each other so that the tabs are visible on the bottom.  Students can highlight the tab titles.
-Staple the pages together in the upper right corner.  Students can also highlight the tabs on the bottom.

Spanish Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary www.wlteacher.wordpress.com

These Tab Books can be glued into an interactive notebook and/or referenced as needed when reviewing. It has all the information needed to review in one convenient place.

You can get over 30 versions of these French Tab Books by clicking the link below.

French Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary

I wrote a post recently on foreign language class lesson planning that follows 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 foreign language classroom.  I created these French Tab Books that follow this sequence.

French Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary ww.wlteacher.wordpress.comThe first pages provide scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material, then they practice the material on the next pages, and finally students apply the material on the last page. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These tab books assure that  students get to this stage in the learning process.

Setting Up the Tab Book:
-Cut the pages in half on the dotted line.
-Cut out the box on the bottom of each page along the dotted lines.

French Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary ww.wlteacher.wordpress.com Photo Feb 13, 8 27 16 PM
-Place the pages on top of each other so that the tabs are visible on the bottom.  Students can highlight the tab titles.
-Staple the pages together in the upper right corner.  Students can also highlight the tabs on the bottom.

French Tab Books to Learn, Practice and Apply Grammar and Vocabulary ww.wlteacher.wordpress.com

These Tab Books can be glued into an interactive notebook and/or referenced as needed when reviewing. It has all the information needed to review in one convenient place.

You can get over 30 versions of these French Tab Books by clicking the link below.

Introducing Writing in the Novice Level Foreign Language Classroom

I’ve been working on writing with my novice mid class (3rd graders). They are consistently in the novice mid range when speaking.

Introducing Writing in the Novice Level Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

In this activity I first gave students a sheet with pictures of words that they know well orally and have seen written. They wrote in the words as they remember them (challenging in French because there are lots of unpronounced letters..but their spelling is recognizable to a sympathetic reader). I then gave them picture sentences and they wrote the sentences using their reference sheet. In this video I am going around and asking students to “read” the sentences without looking at what they wrote.

In a follow-up they  cut out the sentences that they wrote and the individual pictures. They then reconstructed the picture sentence based on what they wrote. This is helpful to reinforce syntax.

French and Spanish Vocabulary and Grammar Tab Books

I recently wrote a post on foreign language class lesson planning that follows 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 foreign language classroom.  I created Tab Books on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that follow this sequence.

French and Spanish Vocabulary and Grammar Tab Books www.wlteacher.wordpress.comThe first pages provide scaffolded notes so that students get familiar with the new material, then they practice the material on the next pages, and finally students apply the material on the last page. The “apply” stage is often left out when teaching new material. These tab books assure that  students get to this stage in the learning process.

Setting Up the Tab Book:
-Cut the pages in half on the dotted line.
-Cut out the box on the bottom of each page along the dotted lines.

French and Spanish Tab Books www.wlteacher.wordpress.com
-Place the pages on top of each other so that the tabs are visible on the bottom.  Students can highlight the tab titles.
-Staple the pages together in the upper right corner.
-These Tab Books can be glued into an interactive notebook and/or referenced as needed when reviewing. It has all the information needed to review in one convenient place.

You can get over 50 versions of these French and Spanish Tab Books by clicking the links below.

Spanish Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards

Task Cards are individual cards that offer students opportunities to engage with a particular topic in various forms.  Each typically has a prompt or activity that students complete either individually or in pairs or small groups.  There are usually different challenge levels as well.  Task cards are particularly useful because they provide lots of opportunities for hands-on activities and movement in the classroom.  They also lend themselves very easily to differentiation.

Spanish Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards wlteacher.wordpress.comThere are 6 categories of prompts in the verb form task card sets, prompts include:

  • 1 Subject Pronoun, 4 Infinitives, student writes verb forms (cards 1-6)
  • 1 Infinitive, 4 Subject Pronouns, student writes verb forms (cards 7-12)
  • 4 Verb Forms, student writes infinitive (cards 13-18)
    Subject Pronouns and Conjugated Verb, student completes sentence (cards 19-24)
  • Sentence with Verb Missing, students chooses verb and writes form (cards 25-30)
  • Infinitive, student writes complete sentence (cards 31-36)
    These activities can be done in writing (response sheet included) or orally.

Spanish Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards wlteacher.wordpress.comSpanish Verb Form Task Cards

There are 5 categories of prompts in each vocabulary task card set.  Prompts include:

  • Picture with choice of 4 words (cards 1-12)
  • Word with choice of 3 pictures (cards 13-18)
  • Fill in missing letters (cards 19-24)
  • 2 pictures, student writes words (cards 25-30)
  • Picture, student writes a sentence with the word (cards 31-36)

Spanish Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards wlteacher.wordpress.comSpanish Vocabulary Task Cards

For additional ideas on using these Spanish Task Cards see my previous post on 10 Ways to Use Task Cards in the Foreign Language Classroom.