Category Archives: Writing

Foreign Language Speaking or Writing Activity that Begins with Two Words

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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.

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Cultural Connections in the Foreign Language Classroom – from Novice to Advanced

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.

Cultural Connections in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comWhat 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.

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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.

Online Interactive Speaking and Writing Activity for Foreign Language Practice

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.11.49 AMOn Wheel Decide, teachers can type in the words that they want displayed on the wheel and on each click the wheel spins and lands on a random color.  There are so many uses for this online tool.  Fill in verbs and students write or say a sentence; type in vocabulary words and students write sentences or say a sentence in small groups or pairs; type in topics for pairs or small groups to use as speaking prompts; type in student names for setting up groups…so many possibilities

The teacher can even save the wheels that he/she creates for future use.  It takes only minutes to create a wheel and you will be using it instantly.  And the best part is that it’s free.

Engaging Foreign Language Use with Padlet

Padlet in Foreign (World) Language Class(French, Spanish) Padlet is an online, electronic “wall” where students can post comments or answer questions for the entire class to see and respond to.  The possibilities are endless since the link can be shared with students who can easily access the wall electronically.

Engaging Foreign (World) Language Use with Padlet (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wprdpress.comThe teacher can upload videos, photos or documents.  It can easily be used for a virtual exchange as well with another school.  All students involved can comment on the same photo or video and everyone can see the different responses.  Padlet can also be used in real time in class with all students entering comments on the board at the same time.  Each comment begins with the student’s name so that everyone looking at the board knows who wrote the comment.

Foreign Language Questions and Prompts Based on Proficiency Levels

As language teachers we should ask our students to perform at their proficiency level and provide opportunities for them to progress in their proficiency by prompting them to perform slightly beyond their current level (i+1).  This seems simple and obvious, however, what often happens is that we jump to much higher levels too quickly and this causes a sort of linguistic paralysis or a realization that they don’t have the language proficiency to perform the task.

Foreign (World) Language Questions and Prompts Based on Proficiency Levels (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThis is typically when students resort to looking up lots of words in a dictionary (that doesn’t make for an engaging conversation) or resorting to a translator when writing.  If it takes the teacher longer to provide feedback (on a writing prompt for example) than it took for the student to write it, the level of the prompt was too high.

This can be a tricky task for the teacher.  We want our students to feel confident, which might lead to keeping them in the comfort zone of the their current proficiency level.  But, we also want them to progress.  Language teachers (and learners) can approach this more effectively by having a clear understanding of the current proficiency level and providing prompts that are one level above (i+1).  The ACTFL Can-Do Statements are very helpful in this area.  It is also important to be aware of the functions and text types that we are asking students to use.  The ACTFL criteria for assessing language level can be used with the can-do statements to have a clear understanding of the types of prompts that are appropriate to help the student progress.

Foreign (World) Language Questions and Prompts Based on Proficiency Levels (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comAsking a novice level learner to narrate and describe events in paragraph form (text type refers to speaking as well as writing) skips the intermediate proficiency level.  A solid understanding of the text types can be very helpful in figuring out what types of prompts and questions are appropriate to determine the current level of proficiency as well what types of questions will help a learner progress to the next proficiency level.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Darcy Rogers and Organic World Language (OWL) for making this so clear for me.

Running Dictation in the Foreign Language Classroom

This is a fun an interactive way for students to practice writing vocabulary, verb forms or sentence.  The complexity of the activity can be easily increased or decreased based on the  language level of the students.

Running Dictation in the Foreign (World) Language (French, Spanish) www.wlteacher.wordpress.comOn one side of the room, set up clip boards with pictures of vocabulary, subject/infinitive pairs or full sentences.  Number the items on the paper. Cover the paper with a colored piece of paper.  I use a different color on each board so that groups know which board is theirs.

On the other side of the room, line up chairs with another clipboard that has the numbers of the items on the other sheet with a blank line for writing.

Students work in pairs (or groups of three). One student begins sitting in  the chair with the clipboard and a pencil.  When you begin the activity, the second students runs to the clipboard on the other side of the room, lifts the colored paper and begins with number one.  He/she memorizes the picture (if doing the activity with vocabulary), the correct verb form or the sentence.  He/she then runs back to the student in the chair and says what the word, verb form or sentence is and the student in the chair writes it on the paper.  They then switch rolls and continue until all the lines are filled.

Foreign Language Vocabulary Review Game for the Whole Class (Who Has What I Have?)

This is a fun activity to practice vocabulary that involves the entire class.  It is a great way to practice new vocabulary and the spelling of new words and it is an effective go-to activity to review previously learned vocabulary.  I call this game/activity “Who has what I have?”

Foreign Language Vocabulary Review Game for the Whole Class (Who Has What I Have?) wlteacher.wordpress.comBegin with a set of pictures that represent the vocabulary that you want to review.  Take a few minutes to review the pictures and vocabulary orally with the class before beginning the activity and keep the pictures visible (pictures on board, LCD, etc.).  The class should sit in a circle facing each other. Give each student a small white board and market.  You can also have students do this on paper, but I always find that they enjoy using the white boards and markers.  Instruct the students to choose a picture and write down the word without showing it to anyone else.  When everyone is done, count to three and have everyone reveal the word that they wrote.  They then look around at everyone else and see of there is a match.  They all get a point for each match that they have.  Repeat the activity, but instruct students not to repeat the word that they previously wrote.

It is important to tell students not to communicate with each other while writing.  They soon realize that it is more fun to see the matches at the reveal so they usually don’t have a problem with this.    I usually change the image/vocabulary category a few times so students review several themes during the game.  The winner (or winners) is the one with the most point when the time is up.

This is a fun and easy way to review vocabulary and spelling.  It is also a good idea to teach a few useful phrases to maintain the target language during the activity (“We match” “We get a point”, etc.)

Pre-Speaking Activity for the Foreign Language Classroom

Choose a targPrep for Speaking Activity for the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comet language passage, phrase, object or a picture and place it in the center of large sheet of paper and have  students write 1-2 short sentences about it. The complexity will depend on the level of language that students have.  It might a well thought out opinion, or a simple state of personal preference if the prompt is a piece of fruit.  If it is a photo, students can write about what they think is happening.  Students then write responses to the phrases of other students.

This is an engaging way for students to collect their thoughts on a topic and respond to the ideas of their classmates in quick, informal writing before engaging in a conversation. This can work with advanced students with access to more complex grammar structures and vocabulary or with beginner  and intermediate students if the prompt is less complex or visual.

Do this activity before engaging a class discussion as a pre-speaking task and you will see how much more students have to offer.  They can also have these conversations in small groups.  This works best with no more than 6 students per prompt, so several station will need to be set up to account for all students in the class.  The prompt can be different each station, then groups can rotate to a new station and write their thoughts, then respond to the other comments.  After a few rotations there are lots of thoughts to comment on.  The conversation can take place between each rotation or at the end.  This activity could be used just as a writing activity without the conversational follow-up.

Spelling Activity for the Foreign Language Classroom

prod6304_dtI am always looking for new ways to use the plastic magnetic letters that I have. This activity is called “fishing for letters”.  Students use a string with a paper clip or other small metal object and a bowl of plastic magnetic letters.  They fish out 3-4 letters in small groups and write words in the target language beginning with those letters. The first group to write a word for each letter wins the round. It is also helpful to give categories if you want students to review a particular vocabulary theme. You can also have them try to build the longest word that they can using in the letters that they fished out and adding in any additional letters that they need to spell out the word.  A second round can involve groups writing sentences with their words.  This idea could work well with Scrabble tiles as well.  I usually take out the letters that less commonly appear at the beginning of a word.

Interactive Dictation in the Foreign Language Classroom-Improves Writing and Spelling

Interactive Dictation in the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlteacher.wordpress.comStudents can progress in their foreign language writing skills, spelling and identification of sound-letter (or letter combination) correspondence by doing dictations.  The traditional use of dictation in the language class did not provide much opportunity for student engagement or interaction.  Below is a dictation process that I have created to make the process of doing dictation in the foreign language classroom that is more engaging and interactive for students.  The 5 steps can be done in one class or spread out over two or three days.  The topic should include vocabulary and verb forms that are familiar to students.

Step 1:

  • The teacher reads the entire dictation at a fluent speed.
  • The teacher then reads each sentence slowly, word by word, so that students can write the sentences.
  • The teacher finishes the dictation by reading the entire dictation a last time at a fluent speed.

Step 2:

  • Students copy the dictation from a handout, the board or a projected screen without referring back to the dictation that they wrote in the first step.
  • Students should be expected to write the dictation perfectly as they are copying it.

Step 3:

  • Students read through the dictation that they wrote in step 1 and correct any mistakes they made, using the dictation text that they copied as a reference.

Step 4:

  • Students pair up and take turns reading the dictation (that they copied in step 2) to each other and writing it out.
  • Students then trade and correct each other’s work using the dictation text that they copied in step 2.

Step 5:

  • The teacher repeats step 1.
  • The teacher then grades the final written dictation.