Tag Archives: Activities

85: Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox (Vol 4)

This is the fourth teacher toolbox episode.  I hear from listeners all the time that they like the actionable tips and suggestions for activities that they can use with students next week, or even tomorrow. That usually means effective and beneficial, but somewhat minimal prep.  That’s what I bring you on these Teacher Toolbox episodes.  I have another 4 activities to share with you…plus a bonus.

Activities and Blog Posts in this Episode:

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82: Engaging Language Activities With Wendy Mercado & Valérie Greer

Could you use a few new ideas to reinvigorate the energy and productivity in your classroom? In this episode, you will get lots of new ideas and suggestions for authentically engaging your students in their language learning.  I’m joined by 2 teachers in New York. Spanish teacher Wendy Mercado and French teacher Valérie Greer.

Topics in this Episode:

  • the essential benefits of authentic engagement and excitement in the language classroom
  • how“games” or “activities”  address skill development and standards
  • lots of ideas for engaging activities and games
    •  High Tech
    •  Some Tech
    • Low Tech
    • No Tech

Connect with Wendy and Valérie:

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Teachers want to hear from you and what you are proud of in your classroom.
Join me on the podcast.
We record conversations remotely, so you can be anywhere.

54: Revisit Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox

This is the last episode in Summer Headspace series. I revisit episodes 25 and 36. These are the 2 Teacher Toolbox episodes where I give you low (and mostly no) prep activities for your language classroom.

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39: Target Language Games with Kevin Quigley

If you listed to episode 19 with Trudy Anderson you heard her talk about using Jessica Haxhi’s acronym M.A.G.I.C. in the language classroom.  This stands for Movement, Authentic Resources, Games, Interaction and Communication. The focus on this episode is games.  I speak with Kevin Quigley, a French and Spanish teacher in Vermont, and he shares several low-prep target languages games that you can use in your classroom tomorrow (or even today).

Kevin speaks about:

  • why games, and student engagement in general, are beneficial
  • misconceptions about games
  • several effective games and activities that you use in the classroom right away
  • how often we should use a particular game 
  • the important of mixing up games

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25: Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox (vol 1)

This episode is the first in a series of episodes that I will publish 4-5 times a year.  In these “Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox” episodes you will hear suggestions for go-to activities and games that require little-to-no prep and can be easily modified for any language or proficiency level.

Why Games and Activities:

  • useful teaching and learning tool
  • particularly useful when engaging and motivating unwilling and disinterested students
  • opportunities to practice speaking and understanding the target language
  • playing in (with) the language and building confidence
  • Brain Breaks – keep interest and focus
  • provide a relaxed context for risk-taking, lowering the affective filter
    and building community in the classroom.

4 games and activities that are:

  • little to no prep
  • can be pulled out at any time
  • are easily adapted to proficiency level of class

The games and activities:

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Language Activity : Hide and Speak (or Write)

I’m always looking for ways to get students up and moving in the classroom while they are practicing their foreign language speaking and writing skills.  This is an activity that I call “Hide and Speak (or write)” that accomplishes this goal and students enjoy it and often ask to play.  I’m happy to oblige because they speak (or write) so much during this activity.

Hide and Speak (or Write): Foreign (Wolrd) Language Activity to Practice Speaking and Writing (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

  • Begin by hiding 20-30 prompt cards.  These can be index cards with vocabulary words, an image, a question about a reading, or proficiency-based questions aligned with ACTFL standards.  The possibilities are endless for prompts based on the material that is being covered in class.  Memory Cards or  Task Cards work very well for this this activity.
  • Pairs of students set out to find the prompts and when they do they return to the teacher with the card and perform the task: identify the image in the target language, use the word or verb in a sentence, answer a proficiency-based question or complete a Task Card.  Lots of possibilities.  This can all be through speaking or writing.  When writing I give pairs a small white board and marker.
  • If the pair responds correctly they can get a point for their team or the teacher can make it a point for the entire class with the goal being to get a certain number of points collectively in a specified amount of time.  The teacher keeps the prompt card and the pair sets back out.
  • Be sure to tell pairs that they need to wait in line to check in with the teacher so that that they don’t call crowd in.

Check out these task cards these task cards and memory cards that work well in this activity.

Foreign Language Vocabulary Activity: Circle

1540243-1515334-331This is a great way to get students reading new words and understanding their meaning.  Begin by placing the same number of slips of paper as you have students in your world language class side by side on a table in front of you.  On the first slip write the word for “start” in the target language.  On the back of the slip of paper, write a new vocabulary word that the class has been familiar with for a few class periods.  On the next slip of paper write the English translation of the vocabulary word.  On the back of that slip, write another new vocabulary word in the target language.  On the next slip, write the English translation of the word with another target language word on the back of that sheet.  Continue with these words on both sides of the slips of paper until there are enough for all of the students in the class.  Write “end” in the target language on the back of the last slip of paper.

In class, give a slip of paper to each student in the class.  The student with the word “start” begins by saying his or her target-language word and the student who has the translation says the meaning in English, then turns his or her paper over and says the target-language word.  The student the translation of that word then turns the paper over and says the target language word.  The class continues until the student with the word “end” says “end”.  Time the class and try to have them beat their time by repeating the activity.  Have students exchange slips of paper to change the order and to expose them to other words.  If a student is absent be sure to give two slips to another student so that the process continues.

This can also be done with verb tenses.  Write a subject and verb on the card and the verb in a the chosen-tense on the other card.  If the class has done a number of tenses, you can write a subject and verb along with one of the tenses (i.e. yo/comer/imperfecto or io/mangaiare/pasato remoto).  Try using adjectives as well, with a noun and an adjective (des chats/noir) and write the correct form of the adjective on another sheet).

Another variation is to have students put themselves in the correct order without speaking.

Foreign Language Speaking Activities Begin with a Proficiency Goal

When creating a speaking activity, the objective should be based on a a proficiency target or, more concretely,  on what the students are trying to accomplish or communicate with the language.  The ACTFL Can Do Statements are a valuable resource for crafting speaking prompts based on proficiency levels and goals, rather than grammar points and vocabulary themes.

Foreign (World) Language Speaking Activities begin with a Proficiency Goal (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comIn addition to working towards speaking proficiency, it’s important to teach students that there are different ways to communicate and that their speaking should reflect this goal as well.  In everyday speaking, we communicate for different purposes and all these different ways of speaking should be explicitly explained to students so that they are aware of the manner of speaking in which they should engage. The following concepts (based on the work of Brown and Yule, 1983 and Jones and Burnes, 1998) will help in this area.

The fist type of speaking involves interaction or conversation of some sort. In developing these types of speaking activities, the teacher should make sure that students are aware of the identity of the speakers (adult, child, family, unknown, etc), as this will lead to a decision about formal or informal language use.

In contrast to an interactive conversation, where the goal is to respond and interact in some manner, transaction involves giving and receiving information that is only possessed by or needed by the other person. AN example of this conversation may be asking about food in a restaurant.  The person working on the restaurant is not creating information to share, but rather knows the answers (i.e. the menu and prices) and he/she is providing this information when asked.

One additional type of speaking involves performance or some sort of “public talk.” This will tend to more of a monologue rather than a dialogue. These activities may include giving a class report, or a speech of some kind. This will involve choosing a speaking format, language register, and appropriate vocabulary.

Teachers are teaching more toward proficiency, but we need to remember that language is social by nature and these social interactions lead to particular language choices.  For this reason, it’s important to create speaking opportunities for students in which they have a chance to practice their language skills in a social context.  This also allows for opportunities to engage students in discussions of culture.

Brown, Gillian and George Yule 1983. Teaching the Spoken Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Burns, Anne 1998. Teaching Speaking. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 18, 102-123.

Jones, Pauline 1996. Planning an Oral Language Program. In Pauline Jones (ed.) Talking to Learn. Melbourne: PETA 1996 12-26

Creating Reading Activities

Reading Activity for Foreign (World) Language.  (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

The following reading sequence engages students in reading activities that not only help with their foreign language skills, but also contribute to their overall reading and writing ability.

Regarding reading activities, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Reading comprehension is not a memory task.
  • Follow-up activities should engage the reading during and after the reading process (with access to text as needed)
  • Learner comprehension of a text is often more advanced than their read-aloud level.

It is best to engage students through Reading Station Activities. Here are a couple of guidelines to help guide the process:

  • Begin with a short text with enough details to challenge the learner.
  • Include new vocabulary.
  • Include lots of familiar vocabulary.
  • Readings should get progressively more detailed (vocabulary and structure) as students are exposed to new language elements.

Once the students have read the text either as a class, independently, or in groups, they will move on to station activities. Remember, the purpose of the station activities is to help the student understand the text, so don’t spend too much time making sure that the students all understand the text before moving on to the station work.

In terms of room set-up and student flow, try the following:

  • 5-8 stations works well.
  • Depending on the number of students, they may work alone or in groups.
  • Each station should engage the comprehension of the text in a different manner.
  • Students choose 3-4 stations (2 if they choose a challenging one)