Tag Archives: french

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.

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.”

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive?

Approaches to teaching are always improving, or, maybe we should say changing.  When there is momentum behind a new, innovative or highly-supported methodology many of us get behind it and begin to implement it, as best we can at least.  Teachers are particularly prone to “buy-in” when we see colleagues (real or virtual) having some level of success with a new methodology.

Teaching Foreign Language Grammar: Inductive or Deductive? (French, Spanish)The wave of communicative language teaching is currently, and rightfully, the foreign language teaching methodology that is supported by the foreign language teaching community. This has helped put the teaching focus on guiding students toward authentically communicating rather than simply learning about the details of the language.

One of the biggest debates or challenges among the communicative language teaching community is the topic of grammar instruction.  There are lots of questions and concerns around this.  Should we teach grammar?  Should we only provide examples of language structure through comprehensible input? What is the “right” way to teach or expose students to grammar structures in a second language?  Implicit or explicit grammar instruction?

Some researchers in language acquisition and teachers claim that grammar should be taught explicitly, as rules.  Others point to the teaching of grammar implicitly, suggesting that students acquire language structure only through meaning exposure in context.  As a result they create their own “language rules” implicitly rather than having the rules be taught explicitly.  Let’s make sure we have a solid understanding of the two approaches to language instruction.

  • Deductive instruction is a “top-down” approach, meaning that the teacher starts with a grammar rule with specific examples, and the rule is learned through practice.
  • Inductive instruction is a “bottom-up” approach, meaning that the teacher provides examples of the structure in context and students make observations, detect patterns, formulate hypothesis, and draw conclusions. PACE Model is an example of this approach.

I prefer to move beyond anecdotal evidence and consider the benefits of the two type of grammar instruction as they are presented in language acquisition research.

Brown (2007):

  • “While it might be appropriate to articulate a rule and then proceed to instances, most of the evidence in communicative second language teaching points to the superiority of an inductive approach to rules and generalizations.”

Shaffer (1989) :

  • “Evidence against the notion of an inductive approach should not be used for difficult structures.”

So, where does this leave us?  As much as we as teachers would like one tried and true way we all know that teaching and education is mostly a mixture of effective techniques.  To this end here are some thoughts from Shaffer:

  • Implicit grammar instruction is effective for language structures that are regular and consistent as this allows students to observe patterns, make generalizations and form linguistic rules.
  • Explicit grammar instruction is more effective for language structures that are irregular, inconsistent and less commonly present in communicative language.

Ultimately it would seem that a varied approach is necessary depending on the regularity or irregularity of a the focus structure.  The important thing to keep in mind is the active engagement of the student in whichever process is used. The inductive approach lends itself to active engagement using a process such as the PACE Model.  When teaching irregular language feature deductively be sure to provide opportunities for students to use the structure communicatively and also provide additional comprehensible input activities that contain the focus structure.

Brown (2007).  Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.  Pearson Longman

Shaffer (1989).  A Conversation of Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Teaching Foreign Languages. The Modern Language Journal 73.4

Bloom’s (updated) taxonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Bloom's (updated) taxonomy in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare) www.wlclassroom.comThis presentation shows examples of the original Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) and the updated (2001) version along with how the taxonomy is applicable in the foreign language classroom.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare, French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com)Take a look at this SlideShare with tips and suggestion for creating effective communicative activities in the foreign language classroom.

Design Communicative Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Effective Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare)

Effective Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (SlideShare, French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Take a look at this slideshare on providing effective feedback in the foreign language classroom.

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Feedback in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Bloom’s (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom

 Alan Bloom’s taxonomy (1956)  is a classification system used to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition (thinking, learning, understanding). Teachers use Bloom’s taxonomy to guide assessments, curriculum, and instructional methods.

  • Knowledge: Learner’s ability to recall information
  • Comprehension: Learner’s ability to understand information
  • Application: Learner’s ability to use information in a new way
  • Analysis: Learner’s ability to break down information into its essential parts
  • Synthesis: Learner’s ability to create something new from different elements of information
  • Evaluation: Learner’s ability to judge or criticize information

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Alan Bloom’s classic 1956 learning taxonomy was revised and refined by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl in 2000.

  • Remember: Learner’s ability to recall information
  • Understand: Learner’s ability to understand information
  • Apply: Learner’s ability to use information in a new way
  • Analyze: Learner’s ability to break down information into its essential parts
  • Evaluate: Learner’s ability to judge or criticize information
  • Create/Design: Learner’s ability to create something new from different elements of information

Theses updates reflect of a more active thought process and include three main changes:

  • Category names were revised from nouns to verbs.
  • The last two stages of Bloom’s Taxonomy were switched so that evaluation (evaluating) comes before synthesis (creating).
  • The knowledge (remembering) category was updated to reflect four knowledge dimensions instead of three.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

More specific to foreign language learning it is important to recognize that these skills are not a hierarchy, but are interrelated and dependent on each other to function most efficiently and effectively.  Language creation is dependent on understanding, analyzing, evaluating and applying knowledge.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comHere are questions to use when creating tasks, activities & assessments in the world language classroom using the updated Bloom’s taxonomy categories:

  • Remember: Can the student recall or remember the information?
  • Understand: Can the student explain ideas or concepts?
  • Apply: Can the student use the information in a new way?
  • Analyze: Can the student distinguish between the different parts?
  • Evaluate: Can the student justify a stand or decision?
  • Create/Design: Can the student create or design a new product or point of view?

Download a pdf with a list of over 60 verbs to use when creating tasks, activities & assessments in the world language classroom using the updated Bloom’s taxonomy.

Bloom's (updated) Taxonomy in the Language Classroom (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl : A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York : Longman, ©2001.