Category Archives: Writing

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.

French 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.

French 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.

French Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards wlteacher.wordpress.comFrench 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 Verb Form and Vocabulary Task Cards wlteacher.wordpress.comFrench 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.

Emerging Literacy in a Foreign Language

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.

Emerging Literacy in a Foreign (World) Language. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThe 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

Foreign Language Writing Project

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.

Foreign (World) Language Writing Project. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comStudents 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.

Foreign (World) Language Writing Project. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comI 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.

Foreign (World) Language Writing Project. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comStudents enjoy engaging with the writing of their classmates and look forward to opportunities to share their writing and to read what their classmates write.