Tag Archives: Langauge Learning

“Who is it?” Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students

I put a few pictures of an activity that I did with my students on Facebook and Twitter.  There was a lot of interest and several teachers asked for the template so that they could do the activity with their students.  So, I figured it would be helpful to write a blog post about the activity and include the template.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

This activity is what I call “Who is it?” or “Guess who? ”  It is particularly useful for level 1 students who are in the novice mid-novice high range.  At this proficiency level students are typically using chunked language and are at the beginning stages of creating some language on their own as they swap out some details of the memorized language that they have acquired.  As a way to provide students with an opportunity to use this language authentically in reading and writing I created these “Who is it?” mini books.


Download a template for designing communicative activities with an example lesson.

The PDF includes directions for folding the paper along with templates to do the activity in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Students write in information about themselves on the topics of age, birthday, origin/ethnicity, preferences, free time activities and family.  What is not included is their name.  Once done classmates read the mini books of their classmates and try to guess who it is based on the information.  This adds authentic reading to the activity as well.  We also put the mini books on a bulletin board for other classes to engage with as well.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

On the back of the mini book students put a selfie so that readers can confirm their guess of who it is.  The addition of the selfie is a fun way to really get students excited.  We took the pictures in class and I just printed them out and students glued them to the back of the book.


The great thing about this project, besides the effective use of novice level language, is that it can all be done with one piece of paper that is folded to make the mini book.  This tactile part of the activity is also very motivating because students enjoy seeing the transformation of the paper into a mini book.

"Who is it?" Guess Who Activity for Level 1 Foreign Language Students (French, Spanish)

The PDF includes directions for folding the paper along with templates to do the activity in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.

Download a template for designing communicative activities with an example lesson.


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.

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.


Make Sure “I Can” Statements Are Communicative

We have made major strides toward language proficiency in recent years.  Classroom instruction, activities and tasks have all become much more communicative in nature.  Assessment has moved more toward what students can do with the language rather than simply what they know about the language.  One of the most important and effective tools available in this shift toward proficiency has been the publication and implementation of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements.  The simple use of the phrase “I Can” has put the focus on what students are able to accomplish in the foreign language and move beyond just listing vocabulary and manipulating grammar structures.

Is "I Can" Enough to Demonstrate Proficiency? (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.com

The Can Do Statements are intended to be used for any language and any age or developmental level.  The reality is that a “one size fits all” approach is often challenging, particularly when a novice mid can be 6 years old or 30.  For this reason many teachers have developed classroom or unit-based Can Do Statements that are developmentally appropriate to the age of the students.  As many of us create individualized Can Do Statements it is important to keep our communication and proficiency goals in mind.  It is easy to assume that simply putting “I Can” in front of a prompt will make it communicative.

Take a look at these “I Can” Statements and determine if they are communicative and based on proficiency:

  • I can count to 100
  • I can say the days of the week
  • I can day the date
  • I can say I like and I don’t like
  • I can say sentences in the present tense
  • I can say sentences in the past tense
  • I can say sentences in the future tense

These are a good starting point, but they can be more communicative by providing context.  Essentially they should provide an opportunity for students to do something with the language that they can produce.  The above statements demonstrate what a student knows about the language, but a change in the prompt toward more communication will allow students to show what they can do with the language.

  • I can tell you my phone number, age and address (using the numbers 1-100)
  • I can tell you what day(s) I have a class, lesson, sports practice or rehearsal (using the days of the week)
  • I can tell you my birthday and the birthdays of my friends or the date of an upcoming or past event (using knowledge of how to say the date)
  • I can tell you what activities, food, movies, books, art, sports that I like to do or don’t like to do (using the phrases “I like” and “I don’t like”
  • I can tell you what I typically do during the day or on the weekend or what I am doing right now (using the present tense sentence structure)
  • I can tell you what I did yesterday, last week, last year or earlier today (using the past tense sentence structure)
  • I can tell you what I am going to do tomorrow, next week, next year or later today (using the present tense sentence structure)

The examples above show that “I can say” does not lend itself to a conversation, whereas “I can tell” invites more detail, interaction and personalization of the language.

“I can say” is good starting point when working toward proficiency, but be sure to add in I can Statements that give students an opportunity to use the language in a communicative context as well.  These are the types of tasks and prompts that will lead to increased proficiency.

90%+ Target Language Use, Questions and Answers

How do we get to 90%+ target language use in the foreign language classroom?  We need to rethink how we have been teaching over the past few decades and be willing to leave some of it behind.  Traditional teaching practices were not designed to promote a high percentage of target language use.

90%+ Target Language Use in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comIf you want to get to 90%+ target language use in the classroom reflect on your teaching through the lens of these four questions and recommendations.  Take some time to contemplate how you can move your teaching in a direction that is more proficiency-based and promotes regular and confident use of the target language in your classroom.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • R1: Assess the proficiency level of students to make sure that prompts are not above students’ proficiency level.
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • R3: Include goal setting, consistency, commitment and proficiency in grade.
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?
  • R4: Provide choice and opportunity for personal interest and active engagement.

Introducing Writing in the Novice Level Foreign Language Classroom

I’ve been working on writing with my novice mid class (3rd graders). They are consistently in the novice mid range when speaking.

Introducing Writing in the Novice Level Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

In this activity I first gave students a sheet with pictures of words that they know well orally and have seen written. They wrote in the words as they remember them (challenging in French because there are lots of unpronounced letters..but their spelling is recognizable to a sympathetic reader). I then gave them picture sentences and they wrote the sentences using their reference sheet. In this video I am going around and asking students to “read” the sentences without looking at what they wrote.

In a follow-up they  cut out the sentences that they wrote and the individual pictures. They then reconstructed the picture sentence based on what they wrote. This is helpful to reinforce syntax.

French and Spanish Vocabulary and Grammar Tab Books

I recently wrote a post 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 Tab Books on a number of French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar topics that follow this sequence.

French and Spanish Vocabulary and Grammar Tab Books www.wlteacher.wordpress.comThe 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.

French and Spanish Tab Books www.wlteacher.wordpress.com
-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.
-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 50 versions of these French and Spanish Tab Books by clicking the links below.

Tips for Teaching in the Target Language

Teachers are teaching more and more in the target language.  The first step is to commit to using the target language at least 90% of class time.  This is the ACTFL recommendation.  The second step is to acquire some strategies.  Here is a simple system that I follow that helps me to teach in the target language.

Tips for Teaching in the Target Language (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comRoutine:

  • Use routines in class as much as possible so that students are not constantly trying to decipher language.  Routines provide context to the language and students are better able to comprehend what they hear when it is in an expected context.  They will also begin to pick up on language as they associate it with the actions that they see.  Routines can also include Functional Chunks of Language, which are expressions, phrases or words that students learn as a chunk without necessarily understanding the grammatical structure.  These Functional Chunks of Language help to keep the target language the dominant language in the classroom by both the students and the teacher.

13Comprehensible Input (CI):

  • Comprehensible input is language that students understand.  The teacher can help students comprehend by providing visuals, making gestures and using language that is familiar to students.  Another great way to make input comprehensible is through circumlocation. (You can read more about circumlocution HERE.)

i+1 (Input Hypothesis):

  • i represents a student’s current level of language  (Krashen).  i+1 represents language that is just beyond the current level of students.  i+1 is a way of advancing students in language proficiency by having students rely on the language that they understand to make sense of new language.

Context is the most important thing t keep in mind when teaching in the target language.  When a familiar context is used students are better able to use their understanding of a situation to understand language that they are hearing.

Get Students Moving and Practicing Language Vocabulary

This a very effective go-to activity that requires very little prep and gets students moving and using the target language immediately.  It’s also a great way to use a set of memory/concentration cards that you may have in your classroom.  If you need cards you can find them here:

Get Students Moving and Practicing Foreign (World) Language Vocabulary (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comSet up desks or tables around room, spaced out enough for students to move around, and put several pictures on each table. Play music and kids move around (maybe dance if they are so inclined), then when the music stops students stand behind a table.

Choose a word card, say it out loud and student with that picture identified says they he/she has the corresponding picture card on his/her table (int he target language of course). He/she then uses the word in a sentence and puts a point up by his/her name on the board. Play the music again and continue the same process of stopping the music and students saying a sentence with the word if they had the picture match.

Students really enjoyed this activity, review lots of vocabulary, and speak a lot.  You can also allow the winner of the round to be the one to start and stop the music the next time, choose a word card and say it to the class.  Try this with verb forms as well, with the conjugations 0n the desks.