Tag Archives: Foreigh Langauge

ACTFL Core Practices. Students Build Language Proficiency. (SlideShare)

ACTFL Core Practices.  Students Build Language Proficiency. (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comThe ACTFL Core Practices provide guidelines and methodology for teaching foreign language so that students are using the language to communicate and move beyond simply knowing about the language.   Click through the SlideShare below for more details and examples.

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:


Task-Based Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Task-Based Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comWhat is the difference between an exercise, an activity and a task in the language classroom?  What are the effects on language proficiency and acquisition?  Take a look at the SlideShare below to learn all about it.

Tips for Achieving 90%+ Target Language Use (SlideShare)

SlideShare on Tips for Achieving 90%+ Target Language Use (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com)This SlideShare presentation has tips and recommendations for achieving 90%+ target language use in the foreign language classroom.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity with Playing Cards

I am always a fan of repurposing things in my classroom.  Why completely reinvent the wheel when you can just spin it in a different way?  Playing cards are something that I always seem to have so I got to work trying to figure out how I can use them to get students speaking the target language.  I always want to make sure that in addition to practicing vocabulary and language structures (initially) that activities and tasks also provide ample opportunities for authentic communication as well.

Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comLast year I wrote a blog post about an activity that I crafted using playing cards.  You can read the details of that those activities HERE. I was looking though Pinterest and saw that there was a math game that many teachers are doing using playing cards and I started thinking about how I could do this type of activity with my foreign language students.  The teachers were having groups lay out the cards in a path of their choice and using them as a sort of playing board.  I thought that this be easily modified for use with foreign language vocabulary and language structures and it also lends itself very easily to proficiency levels depending on the task and prompts given to the students.

In my previous playing card activity post I wrote about a reference sheet that I created for students that coincides with each card in the deck.

Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com





I decided to have students use this same reference sheet to engage in this new activity.  Students have a chance to get a little creative with how they lay out the card path.  Once laid out they get a copy of the reference sheet.  This can be pictures, time, subject/verb pairings, questions…unlimited possibilities.  In addition to the deck of playing cards and the reference sheet, each group of 3-4 students also gets one die and a playing piece, such as different coins or any small object that distinguishes the players.

Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comEach player takes a turn by rolling the die and moving the number of spaces (cards) along the path.  They find the box on the reference sheet that corresponds with the card they land on (4 of diamonds, king of hearts, 10 of spades, etc.) and speak using what is in the box.  If students are novice they may identify with a singe word or phrase, but intermediate students could use the word or picture in a complete, discreet sentence.

The first student to reach the end of the path is the winner.  This can sometimes move quickly, so I have students keep points by the number of wins and go back and start again each time there is a winner.

Foeign Lanuage Speaking Activity with Playing Cards (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com unspecified-3-1Be sure to keep this communicative by asking students to do more than say a verb form, time or vocabulary word.  Consider what the proficiency levels of the students are and have them speak using the reference prompt in context and with the text type that is at their proficiency level.

You can get these card reference sheets on a number topics by clicking the links below.



The Role of Short and Long-Term Memory in Language Learning

We’ve all been there.  Students learn a new language structure (i.e. grammar point) or vocabulary words, take a quiz, do well, and then a few days later they are unable to produce the structure or vocabulary.  What happened?  Where did it it go?

The Role of Short and Long-Term Memory in Language Learning (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.com

First, let’s look at Interlanguage.  This is the language that a learner speaks that is on a continuum between his native language (L1) and the target language (L2).  Selinker explains that Interlanguage has these characteristics:

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Bill Van Patten takes this a bit further in his work (particularly in Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen) and presents the ideas of intake and uptake along this interlanguage continuum:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 6.36.37 AMInitially, language input becomes intake or part of the short term memory of the learner.  This is consciously attended to and learned by the learner.  When structures and vocabulary become uptake, part of the long-term memory, it is considered subconscious and acquired. The uptake is the proficiency level of the learner.

When students take a quiz on the new material and do well it is because they are being assessed on their short-term memory (intake).  When new material comes along and that older materials has not moved on to long-term memory (uptake) it is replaced by the newer material.  That’s why the grammar structure they knew so well for the quiz is not as easily produced a few days later….and the reason we need to spend so much time reviewing for final exams at the end of the school year.

So, this begs the question, “How can we help students acquire language so that it becomes part of their uptake (long-term memory)?”  The answer is not complicated and involved, but does take persistence and consistency.  It comes down to providing as much comprehensible input as possible to students, both listening and reading.  The more exposure students have to input that is comprehensible to them the more likely the language will become uptake and make its way to the long-term memory.  Again, this is mostly a subconscious process in which language is acquired so comprehensible inout is the most effective tool.  This is yet another reason to use the target language as much as possible (90-100%) in the second language classroom.

I want to end with a quick word about learning grammar and vocabulary, as opposed to acquiring.  Steven Krashen, who is best known for his input hypothesis (i+1), does speak to the usefulness of studying and learning grammar and vocabulary.  He describes this learned language as a monitor that assess output that originates in the long-term memory for accuracy.  This learned, often intake/short-term memory, language is useful in writing as well because the writer has the time to reflect and monitor the output.  When communicating interpersonally in real time the output is often less accurate with novice and intermediate students because the more accurate and native-like language has not yet made its way to the long-term memory.

VanPatten, B. (1996). Input processing and grammar instruction: Theory and research. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

VanPatten, B., & Cadierno, T. (1993). Explicit instruction and input processing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15, 225–243.

VanPatten, B., & Oikkenon, S. (1996). Explanation versus structured input in processing instruction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18 (4), 495–510.

Staying Up-To-Date in the Changing-World of Foreign Language Teaching

Take a look at your foreign language textbook.  How long has it been used in your department?  Look at the publication date (the original one, not the new edition with new photos).  Does foreign language education look the same today as it did when that book was published?

Staying Up-To-Date in the Changing-World of Foreign Language Teaching (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThe reality is that when many of these books were first published they were based on current foreign language teaching trends at the time.  But, times change.  As much as we try to keep up with new research and do our best to modify our teaching to keep current many times we are restrained by textbooks that were published before the dawn of the age of communicative and proficiency-based foreign language teaching.  If we continue to use (sometimes because we are mandated..I get it) these textbooks and accompanying materials we are unable to fully embrace proficiency.

The reality is that it takes years to write and publish a textbook and the cost of buying new textbooks needs to justify the investment, which means that the book will be used for many years.  The issue here is that teaching changes quite a bit on a regular basis.  So what is a teacher to do?

Several years ago I completed a graduate program in applied linguistics with a research focus on psycholinguistics and second language acquisition.  I had already been teaching for ten years, but my understanding of technique and methodology changed so much throughout my research and studies.  I was devoted to embracing communicative and proficiency-based language teaching, but, of course, the textbooks in my classroom were not going to be helpful.  Don’t get me totally wrong here.  There is surely a place to focus on the accuracy of language typically presented in traditional textbooks, but there was clearly a void when it came to proficiency.  Back in 2009 I started googling around and found Teachers Pay Teachers.  There I found materials from teachers who had also embraced proficiency-based language teaching and were making their materials available.  For me the true genius and worth of Teachers Pay Teachers is that it allows educators to quickly and efficiently adapt to the changing climate of education and provides materials that respond to this change in a fraction of the the time and cost that it would take to write, publish and purchase a textbook.  Teachers are dedicated to keeping up with teaching trends and methodology and now there is a way to share well-vetted resources with the larger teaching community.

If you have spent any time here on my blog, you know that I am dedicated to foreign language proficiency and bringing tips, tools and resources to teachers so that their students can rise in proficiency and communicate with confidence.  I often present these ideas at conferences and throughout social media.  The immediacy of sharing out in the constantly-changing world of education has been invaluable.  Teachers are held accountable for emerging standards, curriculum, evaluations and expectations, but traditional resources, such as textbooks, can’t keep up.  This is the beauty of Teachers Pay Teachers.  The resources on the site are from teachers in our situation who are providing what we need to succeed.  The fact that it is an open marketplace means that you can see the reviews of other teacher and determine very quickly the quality and usefulness of a product.  Does this happen when it comes to textbooks?

I’m assuming if the title of this post piqued your interest that you are in fact interested in staying up-to-date in the changing world of foreign language teaching.  I’m sure that you create great materials for your students in your classroom.  Keep it up.  Take a look around by blog by clicking on the categories to the right.  You will see some interesting topics and new ways of approaching foreign language teaching.  You’ll also see posts describing proficiency-based speaking and writing activities available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Read the comments and decide if these products will help you foster language proficiency in your classroom.

Here are some posts to get started: