Tag Archives: Foreigh Langauge

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning

Like everyone else I am figuring out what I can use during distance learning.  This is a speaking activity that I do in the classroom either as a whole class or in small groups.  It has transitioned well to the remote learning classroom, particularly with platforms that allow screen-sharing. You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.

I call this activity “Advance” (Avancez! in French and ¡Adelante! in Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Here is how it works.  This is for the Spanish version, but just replace the word ¡Caramba! with Zut! for French…any language would work with the template.

Set Up:

  • This activity can be done with the whole class broken down into teams of 2-3 or in a small group of 3-4 individual players. Project the slides if playing with the entire class (share your screen if doing remote teaching).  If playing in a small group they will need one computer or a tablet with Powerpoint or Google Slides. Be sure that they play in slideshow mode so that they can’t see the thumbnail images on the side.
  • Give each group (if playing with the entire class) or each individual (if playing in a small group) two objects that they can use while playing. This can be anything really… erasures, slips of paper, popsicle sticks or game pieces.  It doesn’t matter what they are, as long as each group (or individual player if playing in small group) has 2. I just keep track of this on my own in the distance learning classroom.
  • The object of the game is to have the most points at the end.  The teacher can set a time limit to determine when the end arrives.  It’s good if you can set a timer, but without students seeing the countdown. If players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.
  • Determine the order that the groups or individuals will play in.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

 

Play:

  • Begin on the first slide.  The first player (or individual player if playing in small group) identifies the picture or responds to a prompt either by speaking or writing.  If correct (clicking on the slide will show the correct answer) the group or player gets a point. If the answer is incorrect no point are awarded or lost and play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • The next group (or individual) can decide to advance (¡Adelante!) to the next slide and identifies the picture or responds to a prompt. However, there are slides that say “¡Caramba!” instead of a picture or prompt and the group (or individual) loses all of their points.  At any time a group (or individual) can choose not to advance and skip a turn.  They can only to this twice in the game and must hand over the an object mentioned in the set up.

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Speaking Activity, In-Class or Distance Learning (French, Spanish)

 

 

 

 

  • If a group or individual decides not to advance the play continues with the next group (or individual).
  • Once a group (or individual) has used both of their “skips” they must advance to the next slide when it is their turn.

Tips:

  • Players should not assume that there are not 2 “¡Caramba!” in a row. There is no pattern.
  • Change up the order of the slides and location of the “¡Caramba!” if you use the activity multiple times so that students can’t anticipate where the “¡Caramba!” are.
  • Depending on the proficiency level of students they can be required to identify the picture (novice level) or use it in a complete sentence (Novice High to Intermediate).  If it is a prompt it will require a novice high or intermediate response.
  • Set an alarm on a timer and when it goes off the game ends and the group (or individual) who has the most points at that moment is the winner.  It is best to play between 20-30 minutes, though the teacher can adjust this based on the dynamics of the class. Or, if players arrive at the “Fin” slide activity is done.

You can copy the template to your Google Drive by clicking HERE.  Fill in the prompts to fit your needs on each slide.  Copy as many slides and  ¡Caramba!/ Zut! that you would like and put them anywhere you would like, and as many as you would like.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn’t Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching?

We are getting there.  More and more teachers are embracing proficiency-based language teaching.  There are increasing amounts of research that support an approach to language teaching that focusing on communication.  Along with Communicative language teaching we use proficiency levels and ACTFL Performance Descriptors that provide concrete benchmarks.  Simply put, proficiency is not what students know about the language, what rather what they can do with it.  Resources, such as Can-Do statements, help to keep our teaching (and student learning/acquisition) focused on what students are able to communicate.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As happy as I am to see so many teachers adopt this approach, I am often reminded of how much more work we have to do.  I find that individual teachers tend to implement communicative activities in their classrooms, but language departments and districts are slower to get there.  In May of each year I often get a reminder of the work that is to be done when my 8th graders ask me to fill out a form to recommend them for their high school language level.  I teach in a school that ends in 8th grade.  Our students go to numerous high schools after, so I get a look at what is expected and what programs look like when I receive the recommendation forms.

Here is one that I got this year, but it is a typical of many of these forms that I get from studentsWhat If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

As you can see, it is just a list of grammar topics.  They place students in a language level based on what grammar topics they have studied.  There is no place to speak to what the student is actually able to communicate in the target language.  These types of lists are the opposite of proficiency, with a request to know what the student knows about the language and not what they can do with it.

The reaction when I put this on Twitter and Facebook was reassuring that there are many language teachers who are fighting the good fight.

What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish( What If the Next Teacher Doesn't Embrace Proficiency-Based Teaching (French, Spanish(

So, how do we respond?  I usually use it as an opportunity to educate about the ACTFL Core Practices and Proficiency Levels with a description of the students proficiency level.  I provide examples of what the student is able to do with the language at their particular proficiency level. Hopefully this creates some interest in learning more.  Just planting the seed, and hoping they will water it.

“Ben performs consistently at the Intermediate Low ACTFL Proficiency Level for Interpersonal Communication and at the Intermediate Mid Level for Presentational Writing and Interpretive Listening and Reading.  At the IL level Ben can confidently and consistently speak in discrete sentence that he creates on his own without resorting to memoized chunks.  At the IM Level he consistently writes, reads and listens at a slightly higher level with strings of 2-3 connected sentences.”

I would imagine that this is more useful than “Ben can conjugate regular verbs in the present tense.”  Even if Ben can talk about the verb forms how does that indicate that he can actually use them to communicate?  This is a frustrating situation at time, but hopefully the more often we use this as an opportunity to educate our colleagues the more the entire language teaching community will move toward proficiency.

One final point that I want to make.  I fully understand that there are teachers, departments and districts that firmly believe that that a focus on grammar and structures is the most effective way to teach a language.  I am always happy to have the conversation.  I usually have several of these conversations each time I do a workshop in a school.  I like to be challenged and appreciate the opportunity to show the benefits of a proficiency-based program.  The only thing that I ask is that those who disagree have empirical evidence to support their argument and beliefs, because that is what I am bringing to the conversation.

 

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content

This is an activity that I have used with various proficiency levels.  It involves presentational writing and interpretive reading.  It can be used with on demand writing, that is writing that is generated in the moment and doesn’t go through a revision process, or polished writing that includes feedback and additional drafts.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Essentially students begin by responding to a prompt in writing and then the other students in the class read what their classmates wrote and write a response.  Depending on how lengthy the writing is students may be able to read almost all of their classmates writing and respond within one or two classes.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

This works particularly well when students are able to use language expressing opinions and agreeing or disagree with the writer.  I have students put their writing piece on their desk with a blank sheet of paper next to it.  Students then circulate and read their classmates’ writing and write a written response or reaction on the sheet next to it.  For novice level students they use chunked phrases such as “me too,” “not me,” “I also enjoy…,” I prefer….” when writing a reaction to novice level writing.  For Intermediate students they may begin by writing an opinion on a reading or a film and their classmates will write a response.  I have also had students write two reactions; one that is their own and then one that is in response an existing reaction.  This takes on the feeling of a social media thread.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Even if the original writing undergoes a feedback process, the written responses allow students to also do on demand writing and to write in response to other comments.  What the actual written responses and reactions look like will vary depending on what the original writing prompt is and the proficiency level of the class.  I have used this with novice and intermediate students with lots of success.  It take s bit more modeling with lower proficiency levels, but they are able to see how much they are able to write when the piece they are reading is at their level.  This is one of the benefits of using student-created content as the reading text.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Students like to get up an move and this allows them to do that in the classroom.  I use paper so that it is more tactile, but this type of activity could easily be done on a computer or even using Padlet.  As for a follow up activity, try a discussion of what different students read or of trends and consistencies.  Maybe ask  questions about what students learned.  Again, the type of follow up will vary based on the original writing prompt and proficiency level of the class.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Here is description of this activity that I recently did with a group of novice mid/high students.  I asked them to write a “paragraph” telling about themselves using any and all phrases, vocabulary and structures that they have acquired so far. This particular class is 6th grade and meets 3 times a week for 45-minutes.  Most of the class has reached novice high, though some are novice mid.  Students wrote their paragraphs in class with no access to technology or dictionaries for looking up words.

They focused on novice language topics such as personal info (age, name, where they live, who they live with,what they like to do, what sports/activities/school subjects they prefer). I gave some ideas of topics, but it was on demand writing, meaning all generated in the moment. For homework they typed it and added some photos. Because it is all student-generated, using vocabulary and structures that they have acquired, the reading is “at level” for classmates reading and commenting. If anything was unclear the images are there to assist.

Foreign Language Reading and Writing Tasks with Student-Created Content (French, Spanish)

Give this student-generated reading and writing activity a try.  It is very useful when moving the audience of student writing away from always being the teacher.

Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift. That Was Then. This Is Now.

The field of language teaching is always on the move.  Every decade or so there is an innovative way to approach language teaching.  For a recap of the language teaching methodologies that have surfaced over the past century take a look at this post.  Over the past decade many foreign language teachers have embraced communicative language teaching, which focuses on authentic communication over language forms such as grammar structures.

That Was Then. This Is Now. Communicative Language Teaching Mindset Shift (French, Spanish)

To be clear, a certain level of accuracy of language is needed to convey a message that is comprehensible.  The difference from methodologies of the past is that previous approaches to language teaching focused almost solely on accuracy of language.  These days we see the value in focusing on the message, even when that means looking past some errors when the learner has not yet acquired the language structure.  ACTFL has compiled a significant amount of research to support the the effectiveness of communicative language teaching.

There has been a significant shift in mindset along with the arrival of communicative language teaching.  Previous methodologies focused on what learners did wrong rather than on their progress.  The goal was complete accuracy in the past along with the belief that a speaker would not  be understood if the language was not completely correct.  We now accept that communication can happen despite occasional inaccuracy.  This is the base of the difference in mindset, or underlying tenets that support the approaches.

Here are four areas of this mindset shift that distinguish current communicative approaches from accuracy-centered approach of the past.

Objectives and Content:

  • Past: The teacher was the all-knowing possessor of knowledge and directed all content and objectives to ensure progress toward correct language.
  • Present: The teacher works in collaboration with students and there are shared learning objectives.  Content is driven by both the teacher and the student.

Communication:

  • Past: Typically communication was focused on the four traditional language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  This usually meant that these skills were practiced in isolation and were not interconnected.
  • Present: The three modes of communication (presentational, interpretive, interpersonal) are now the focus.  They provide students with opportunities to do something with the four skills.

Performance:

  • Past: The focus was on what students knew about the language and its structures.  Practice of correct grammatical forms of the language were typically done in isolation and out of context.
  • Present: The focus is on what the learner is able to do or accomplish with the language.  This is always tied to context and students communicate authentically with the language despite occasional inaccuracy in language when the message is clear.

Assessment:

  • Past: Assessments determined the level of language accuracy and the teacher could easily and quickly point out what was incorrect, such as verb forms, noun gender, adjective agreement, etc.
  • Present: Assessments are performance-based.  Teachers use tools and strategies such as backwards design and Can-Do statements to guide students toward communication.

Where are you regarding your teaching mindset?  If you want to embrace communicative language teaching, take a look at the “present” mindset statements and see where you are.  It can take some time and a solid approach is always evolving.  It doesn’t have to happen this week.   Download this PDF with some questions to help keep your lesson planning in the “present.”

Backwards Planning in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Backwards Planning in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comOne of the ACTFL Core Practices is to plan with Backwards Design.  This approach lends itself very well to proficiency-based foreign language teaching.  Check out the SlideShare below.

The PACE Model: Teach Foreign Language Grammar Inductively as a Concept

The PACE MODEL is a very effective way to use one of the ACTFL Core Practices, which is to teach grammar as a concept and to use the structures in context.  Essentially this means that students should focus on the forms of the grammar structure after they focus on the meaning.  The PACE Model (Donato and Adair-Hauck, 1992) encourages the language learner to reflect on the use of target language forms.  The teacher and learners collaborate and co-construct a grammar explanation after focusing on the meaning in context.  The PACE model provides a concrete way for teaching grammar as a concept.

Teach Foreign Language Grammar Inductively as Concept: The PACE Model (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comMuch like  authentic language  learning that happens outside of the classroom, this approach stresses that learning happens between people through social interaction (reminiscent of Vygotsky).  The PACE model requires the learner to be an active participant in the language learning process.

The PACE model is a “four-step” process that includes elements that encourage student comprehension and participation. The four stages are:

1. PRESENTATION :
The teacher foreshadows the grammar structure with an appropriate text, with emphasis on meaning. Typically, the teacher recycles the storyline through pictures, TPR activities, etc., to increase comprehension and student
participation.  The focus is not on the grammar structure at this point, but it is used by the teacher and in the text.

2. ATTENTION :
The teacher now has students focus on the language form or structure through the use of images, powerpoint slides or highlighting a particular linguistic form.

3. CO-CONSTRUCTION :
After the teacher has focused student attention on a particular target-language form, together they co-construct the grammatical explanation. The teacher provides scaffolding and assists the learners with questions that encourage them to reflect, predict and form generalizations regarding the consistencies of the language.  Students construct their own grammar rules, guided by the teacher who will make sure that they end up with an appropriate explanation.

4. EXTENSION :
The learners use the grammatical structures to complete a task relating to the
theme of the lesson, which helps the language remain communicative while also highlighting a particular structure.

Take a look at this activity that works well for the extension step.

Reference: Donato, R. & B. Adair-Hauk. “A Whole Language Approach to Focus on Form.” Paper presented at the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages. San Antonio,Texas (1992).

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.