In this episode I discuss 3 major approaches to language teaching of the past 50+ years. It’s helpful to understand where it all started and how we arrived at the communicative teaching practices that we employ in our classroom.
Sometimes we need to look to the past to fully understand how to got to where we are now.
Find out about:
- Behaviorism; Pavlov, Skinner
- Innatism; Chomsky
- Social Interactionism; Vygotsky, Hymes
What has been refuted, supported or sustained in our modern approaches?
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If you teach multiple grade levels, or various proficiency levels, you probably like to find an activity or project that can be used across levels. I would like to share a project with you that you can use with novice and intermediate learners. It is essentially the same concept. It differs only in how students engage with the content that they produce.
Students create a time capsule that is a snapshot of their life over the past year. I typically do this as the school year, so you will see 2019-2020 in the examples. I have students do this digitally in Google slides. I have seen in done in a journal as well with pictures and writing glued to the pages. While the tactile nature and opportunities for creative design are more apparent with the physical product I find that that it is logistically easier to manage when it is digital.
Students begin by responding to prompts in the target language.
- Personal adjectives (3) to describe yourself:
- Family (name, age, relation):
- Gratitude (3 things you are thankful for or appreciate):
- Teachers and Subjects:
- Friends :
- Activity :
- With whom?:
- Activity :
- With whom?:
- Activity :
- With whom?:
- Film/TV/Netflix/Amazon :
- Favorite Move or TV Program:
- Favorite Actress or Actor:
- Favorite Book:
- Favorite Writer:
Once these are done students find pictures to go along with each of these topics and put them in google slides. I provide the template and they fill it in.
The final step is where the projected is differentiated by proficiency level. You can see a review of proficiency levels here.
Novice mid to novice high students write about what is “in” their time capsule and these sentences go on each slide with the images. At this level I usually provide sentence starters as well, such as “My favorite actress is…” or ” My math teacher is…” At this proficiency level the work is done in the present.
Novice high to intermediate low students write as if they were opening the time capsule in five years and write about they did, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. five years ago. For languages with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to distinguishing between the preterite and imperfect. Students at this level tend (in my experience) to be better with the preterite. For the sentences that would require the imperfect I typically provide sentence starters.
Intermediate low to intermediate mid students write as if they were opening the time capsule in fifty years and writing about they used to do, what they liked, who their teachers were, etc. fifty years ago. For language with preterite and imperfect tenses, this lends itself to using the preterite and imperfect accurately, and it provides an effective way to contextualize the tenses.
I also include a speaking component. Once students are done with the time capsule, and are very familiar with all of the content, I set up time for them to have a 5-minute discussion with me about their time capsule.
Posted in Activities and Games, Classroom Procedures, Grammar and Structures, Speaking, Technology
Tagged ACTFL, foreign langauge, french, language, language learning, spanish, time capsule
What is the purpose of communication? Is it to practice language? Maybe it is to polish our verb forms and word order? Perhaps it is to use all the vocabulary that we have learned in a language? Hopefully, we can all agree that this sort of “communication” that has not have a clear goal is not the reason that we engage in language learning. The reason we communicate in any language in any form is to convey or understand a message.
When it comes to understanding or conveying a message there are three ways of looking at the communication. The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines put communication to these categories: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational. Each of these modes of communication looks at the message in unique way. A solid understanding of how a message is conveyed or understood when speaking, writing or reading is essential to using various tools needed to effectively communicate.
Presentational communication is one-way speaking or writing that does not allow for real time clarification of meaning. This means that the speaker/writer has to be sure to “fill in the gaps” and have a solid understanding of what the listener or reader knows or needs to know to interpret the message.
Conversely, interpretive communication is one-way listening or reading that also does not allow for real time clarification of meaning. When reading and listening in this context the reader/listener needs to fill in their own gaps in understanding. This may require accessing personal knowledge of the topic or doing research. The most effective tool is the use of context clues and identifying what is understood to make meaning globally.
Interpersonal communication, on the other hand, is two-way speaking that allows for clarification of the message in real time. When communicating interpersonally all speakers and listeners are involved in creating and interpreting the message and work together to assure that there is a collective understanding.
These tables below lay out the three modes of communication.
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.
The 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.
-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.
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.
This is a fun and interactive way for students to practice vocabulary meaning, recognition and spelling. I call this activity “Everyone to the Table!”
Begin with 4-5 tables with 3-4 students at each table. On each table put 5-8 pictures of vocabulary that students are learning along with a piece of paper or index card with the words for the pictures. Students can easily be involved in this part of the process by having them draw or find pictures on the internet prior to the day of the activity.. They can also write the words needed on index cards or pieces of paper. Memory/concentration cards work well in this activity as well.
For the first few rounds students should work together with their team to put the picture and word card together. They should mix up the pictures and words before beginning. Have students do this several times and the group that assembles the pairs first raises their hand and gets a point for their team. With each subsequent round add in 2 new picture/word pairs. It’s good to add in some review vocabulary as well.
Once groups understand what they are supposed to do, the class can move on to another version of the game. This time teams mix up their words and pictures, but when the teachers says “Everyone to the table!” groups rotate to a new table and pair up the words and pictures. The first group to assemble the pairs raises their hands and gets a point. Groups then mix up the pictures and words and again rotate to the next table. New picture/word pairs can be added in this round too. When 2-3 rotations are complete the team with the most points wins.
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.
- 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.
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.
There 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.
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)
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.