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.
There 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.
French 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)
French Vocabulary Task Cards
For additional ideas on using these French Task Cards see my previous post on 10 Ways to Use Task Cards in the Foreign Language Classroom.
This is a typical writing and reading (Emerging Literacy) activity that I do with novice students (with the goal being to read and write at a novice mid sentence level*). In this particular version, my 3rd graders had learned lots of words for animals and we had recently begun learning the words for places in nature where they can be found.
The class could list about 20 animals (individual words-novice low*), and they are beginning to recognize how they are written. We started this class by listing the words on the board (animals and places in nature), then I gave them the verb “est” (is) and some prepositions to go along with the places (as phrases; “sur l’herbe” -on the grass). Students then put the structure together verbally in pairs to makes sentences (novice mid). We then moved on to writing the sentences and drawing a picture to show the meaning (novice mid*). Once done, I went around to each student and had then read the sentences, then I covered the sentences and had them describe the pictures orally.
*ACTFL Proficiency Scale
This project started as a simple writing assignment a few years back and I have reworked it in recent years to make it more interactive and to respond to students’ requests to read each others’ writing. The photo is of the assignment with a 7th grade novice high/intermediate mid class, but I have used it with various proficiency levels.
Students begin with a writing prompt and create a brainstorm (mapping) sheet with the ideas they want to include. I go over these sheets for content before students write a first draft of their writing. This gives them a chance to focus on content independent from language structures. Students read each others’ drafts in class and comment on content and discuss any grammatical concerns. Based on this feedback students complete a second draft that I go over with suggestions for richer content and highlighting grammatical issues. It is very important to give prompts at the appropriate proficiency level of the students or the teacher will spend more time going over the grammar than it took for the student to write the draft. This is a clear sign the proficiency level of the prompt was too high.
When students get the draft back they type a final draft to hand in along with an additional sheet that includes pictures or drawings of the content. I post the writing and picture sheets on a bulletin board.
I hand out a question sheet to students to complete as a homework assignment. They need to read their classmates writing and find the information to fill in the question grid. The picture sheet helps to guide students in understanding their classmates’ writing if there are words that they do not know. I typically make several versions of the question sheet with 5-7 names on it. I hand these sheets out to students, making sure that they do not get a sheet that requires them to read their own writing.
Students enjoy engaging with the writing of their classmates and look forward to opportunities to share their writing and to read what their classmates write.
It’s one thing for students to learn verb forms, it’s another for them to know the meaning and be able to actively use them in a sentence. To help with this, I created these verb tense (form) and sentence writing activities that are interactive. I use Powerpoint to keep the process moving and engaging.
The teachers begins each slide with a single click that produces a number written in words on the bottom of the screen. Students find the digit in the grid and write the subject and correct verb form based on the column and row of the digit.
A circle appears and begins to disappear (20 seconds for the first 20 slides) during which time students write the subject and correct verb form. They can write this on a sheet of paper or on mini-white boards. The board is covered with a “Fin” square after 20 seconds.
A second click reveals the digit and the subject and verb so that students can verify that they found the correct number and the correct subject and verb form.
After practicing this activity on the first 20 slides, students can then write complete sentences on the next 20 slides by writing the subject, correct verb form and an answer to the question word that accompanies the infinitive. The timer on these slides is set to 30 seconds to allow more time to write the sentences. Students can then read examples of the sentences that they wrote.
The teacher is free to use as many or as few of the subject/verb slides before moving on to the subject/verb/question slides.
You can download over 25 versions of these activities in French and Spanish by clicking the links.
- Present tense (regular, irregular, stem-change, accent-change verbs)
- Past Tenses (preterit, present perfect, passé composé)
- Present progressive
- Simple future
- Reflexive Verbs
The importance of teaching and learning vocabulary in context is spreading. Gone (hopefully) are the days of teaching words in isolation and out of context. We need to keep this in mind as well when students write. I am guilty of asking students to “write each vocabulary word in a sentence” when the sentences are in isolation and don’t follow any sort of logic or context.
When would anyone need to write like this? The answer is never, or only in a foreign language class. So, I needed to change my writing prompts to make sure that students are writing with a context. This tends to be a bit more manageable with students that have a higher proficiency, but I wanted to make sure that I was instilling the concept and skill of writing in context with my younger (lower proficiency) students early on so that this would become the norm as they gain in proficiency.
Here is an example of a writing assignment that I do with my elementary students to scaffold them into writing in context. It is a foldable that represents a house. They begin by “building” their house, which is simply folding a piece of paper in half, then folding in each side. Students then cut two lines on each flap and glue on a roof. Next, they write the names of rooms in the house (and the yard) on the flaps, which represent doors or windows.
Students then write six sentences stating what they like or don’t like to do in each room in the house. This gives them an opportunity to use all the verbs they have learned in context along with the rooms in the house. Once I go over the draft sentences with each student, they write the sentence inside the room.
Finally, students cut out a picture of the activity and glue that inside the room as well. This is a great way to reinforce the meaning of the words in the sentence without resorting to translation.
When finished, these can be used to have a conversation with students where they read the sentences of other students and respond to react to what they read.
Lots of possibilities with other concepts. I’m just getting starting. Please comment on other ideas.
Students are more motivated to write when the topic is of personal interest. I recently saw a colleague, Katya Hottenstein, working with a Spanish class on writing short poems. The poem was the classic Cinquian, but she took it a step further and the students created artistic representations of their poems. The topics were chosen by students and the artistic rendering was left up to the writer. Cinquain poems are typically written in one of these forms.
- Line 1: One word
- Line 2: Two words
- Line 3: Three words
- Line 4: Four words
- Line 5: One word
- Line 1: A noun
- Line 2: Two adjectives
- Line 3: Three -ing words
- Line 4: A phrase
- Line 5: Another word for the noun
- Line 1: Two syllables
- Line 2: Four syllables
- Line 3: Six syllables
- Line 4: Eight syllables
- Line 5: Two syllables
Here are some examples of the creative writing projects that the students created.
When I read about Chat Stations on the Cult of Pedagogy website and I immediately saw how this could be very beneficial in the world language classroom. This procedure gives students an opportunity to work cooperatively in the target language while moving around the room and working with different prompts.
The types of prompts can be as simple as makings lists for novice learners (fruit, vegetable, clothing, city locations), describing a photo for intermediate learners, or stating and supporting opinions for more advanced language learners. It is a fairly easy set-up and follow-up as a large group will be much richer once students have worked on the prompts in small groups. This type of activity is also an effective opportunity for formative assessment and feedback from the teacher as the teacher circulates among the groups and interacts as necessary to clear up any language issues that groups may struggle with. Here is a video from Cult of Pedagogy explaining how to use and set-up Chat Stations.
Novice learners are often intimated to begin using a new foreign language that they are learning. One activity that I do with them begins with the class co-creating a dialog that uses many of the functional chunks, song lyrics and vocabulary words that they have learned. We purposefully leave out some information that students add in later based on personal information or choices.
Once this is done, groups of 2 students pair up to practice the dialog. For some added fun I often let them use puppets and they can use a funny voice. This helps to break down any inhibitions that they. After practicing with the written dialog for a little while, groups continue working with the dialog without the text. They then switch partners and continue communication interpersonally without the scaffolding of the written dialog. The questions and answers often change with each new partner, but communication stays in the target language.
To begin this activity, show students two pictures that are different in some way. Ask them to take a close look and interpret how they are different. Then, they write one word for each picture that best describes it. Limiting it to one word causes students to focus on one aspect. Once they do this, the teacher can have them talk in small groups about why they chose these words or they can write about it. The activity and also be combined and students and speak in groups after writing about it. This activity lends itself to the ACTFL standards fairly well as students can be guided to speak or write in the text type of the various levels (individual words, phrases, sentences, strings of sentences, connected sentences or paragraphs). A great starting point or hook for conversations. This particular picture inspired such great conversation that I decided to make a bulletin board out of it with different languages.
The Peace Corps has been working internationally for more than 50 years in more than 139 countries. The Peace Corps has kept true to its mission over the years, “to promote world peace and friendship.” The Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in collaboration with partner organizations and using cutting-edge technologies and well-tested best practices to enhance impact.
What better way to have students learn about the world than to partner with a Peace Corps volunteer in a country where the language they study is spoken. There is a division of the Peace Corps dedicated to providing these opportunities to teachers. It is called Global Connections and teachers can search for lesson plans and also apply to get a Peace Corps Exchange Partner. This program connects classrooms with a Peace Corps Volunteer serving abroad. Peace Corps Volunteers in the field exchange emails, letters, videos, photographs, and telephone calls with classrooms.
I have had a Peace Corps Exchange partner for several years and I have had novice and intermediate level exchanges between my students and students in a school in Senegal. Culture can start at the novice level. In fact, my 3rd grade class had an informative and interesting exchange. They began by writing a few sentences about themselves on one side of a sheet of paper (in French) and drew and labeled their family and home on the back. We sent these to Sam, our Peace Corps Volunteer, in Senegal along with blank copies of the paper that my students completed. Sam did the same activity with her students and sent them back. There were so many great conversations that happened simply by looking at way my students drew and labeled their families and homes and how that compared to the drawings of the Senegalese students.
Take advantage of the many great opportunities out there to connect students to the culture of the language that they are studying. No need to wait for intermediate or advanced levels, it can start at the novice level.