Tag Archives: language learning

31: Picture and Movie Talks with Sarah Moghtader


In this episode we talk about movie and picture talks in the language classroom.  This a popular and effective Comprehensible Input (CI) procedure that uses visual story-telling.  This process helps students to acquire and reenforce vocabulary and language structures in context.  Sarah Moghtader, a French in Massachusetts,  joins me to talk us through the benefits of picture and movie talks and how to do them with students in the classroom.

Sarah speaks specifically about:

  • what picture and movie talks are
  • why picture and movie talks are a useful CI approach to teaching language
  • procedure and techniques
  • what to look for in a useful story, book, or movie clip
  • where to find these resources
  • working through a story and extension activities

Links references in the discussion:

Connect with Sarah Moghtader:

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30: Music in the Language Classroom with Allison Wienhold

In this episode we talk all about using music in the language classroom.  I’m joined by Allison Wienhold, a Spanish Teacher in Iowa, who speaks about the numerous benefits of music in our language classrooms.

Allison speaks about:

  • the value and benefits of using music in the language classroom
  • the flexibility of using music, from a few “quick wins” to diving into culture and representation
  • where can we find music to use in our classrooms
  • activities to engage with music
  • I have a song…What do I do before, during and after?

Connect with Allison Wienhold:

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No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump)

I have to start by saying sorry (not sorry) that once you introduce this activity to your students they will ask to do it all the time.

This activity is all about students listening intently and reacting to what they hear.

No prep involved.  Just grab an object, like a ball, and you’re ready to go.

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

I call this activity Sauter or SaltarJump in the target language that you teach.

Pick a topic category.  Any category.  Any proficiency level.  Here are some possible topic categories:

  • colors
  • animals
  • seasons
  • time
  • family
  • days
  • months
  • adjectives
  • family
  • masculin nouns
  • feminine nouns
  • singular nouns
  • plural nouns
  • present tense
  • past tense
  • future tense
  • imperfect tense
  • details about a story
  • information about an article

Here’s how it works:

  • The entire class stands in a circle.  If there is not enough room in the classroom, maybe take a trip outside.
  • Tell students the topic they are listening for.
  • The teacher tosses the ball to any student and says a word, phrase or sentence.
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is on the chosen topic,  the 2 students next to the student who catches the ball jump.  The one who jumps first stays in.  The other sits down and is out. There are often ties. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “Monday”]
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topi, the 2 students next to the student who catches the ball DON’T jump.  If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “days” and teacher says “July”]

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

  • Continue tossing the ball to random students around the circle.
  • The same rules apply.  Keep in mind that…
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is on the topic the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ball jump.  The one who jumps first stays in.  The other sits down an is out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I went to the store.”]
    • If the word, phrase or sentence is NOT on the topic, the 2 closest students still standing to the left and right of the student who catches the ball DON’T jump.  If they jump they sit and are out. [example:category is “past tense” and you say “I go to the store.”]

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

  • When there are only two students remaining the ball is not tossed.
  • The teacher says a list of words, phrases or sentences that may or not be on topic.
  • The first of the two remaining students to jump when they hear the word, phrase or sentence that fits the category wins the game.

No Prep Listening Activity for the Whole Class (Jump); French, Spanish

Once you have played this a few times and students have the hang of it you can choose students to be the one to give the prompts in the middle of the circle.  It may be the winner from the previous round.

This activity works well as a class starter, closer or as a brain break at any time.  It’s also useful for quickly reviewing vocabulary themes before diving into a discussion or follow-up activity.

29: Teaching Circumlocution Skills


As teachers, and proficient second language speakers,  we have figured out ways to communicate words that we don’t know. We can teach this skill to students early on so that they can begin doing it right away. Circumlocution is a strategy for describing or defining a concept instead of saying or writing the specific words (when we don’t know it). We can teach students how to do this and give them tools to help in the process.

In this episode I give some suggestions to teach students the art of circumlocution.  I also talk about some games that are useful for practicing this skills.

Blog Post on Circumlocution.

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No Prep Group Speaking or Writing Activity

Do you have a deck of regular playing cards?  Yes? Well, you’re all done and the activity is ready to go.

This is a no prep activity that you can pull out at any time, on any topic, for any language at any proficiency level.

No Prep Group Speaking or Writing Activity (French, Spanish)

I call this activity Special Card (La Carte Spéciale, La Tarjeta Especial).

Here’s how it works:

  • Choose one card from the deck before beginning and write it down on a piece of paper.  Don’t show it to students. Keep the card in the deck
  • Put students into groups of 3 or 4.
  • Groups will need a piece of paper or small white board if you are focusing on writing.  No need if focusing on speaking.
  • Tell students that they will get a question and will either respond orally or in writing.  If responses are spoken each group will need individual questions each round.  If it is in writing all groups can get the same question for the round.
  • I make up the prompt on the spot based on the topic.  You can do this in advance, but I like to keep it “no prep.”  It can be novice level questions with single words answers all the way to higher levels with questions about a reading or video.
  • If the response is correct, hand the group a playing card.  Their points for the round are the value of the card.

No Prep Group Speaking or Writing Activity (French, Spanish)

  • Ace is 1 point, number cards (2-10) are their face value, a Jack is 13, a Queen is 11 and a king is 12.  [The Jack, Queen & King values are arbitrary.  You can make them what you would like.]
  • Once all cards are earned, and the deck is depleted, groups add up their points. The final move is to reveal the Special Card, which is worth 25 or 30 additional points.  The group with that card earns the additional points.
  • The group with the highest points wins the round.
  • Collect cards back.  If there is time to play another round groups can continue with their points from the previous game or start fresh.
  • If you’re playing additional games, be sure to choose new special cards each time.

The topics and proficiency levels are open depending on what you are doing in your class.  Here are some prompt ideas

Novice Low-Mid:

  • What are three colors, animals, days, months, seasons, articles of clothing, activities, etc.
  • Questions about concrete vocabulary themes that require a 1-2 word spoken or written response.

Novice High:

  • Where do you …?
  • When do you …?
  • What are your opinions about…?
  • Questions about concrete vocabulary themes that require a sentence of chunked spoken or written language as a response.

Intermediate Low:

  • Describe….
  • Sentence level questions about details in a story
  • Questions about personal or story details that require a complete spoken or written sentence response created by the group.

Intermediate Mid:

  • Explain…
  • Tell me about…
  • Why…
  • What is…
  • When did
  • When will…
  • Questions on themes covered in the current unit that require 2-3 spoken or written sentences that are connected by transition words.

Intermediate High:

After groups read a passage together on their own…

  • Specific or general questions to demonstrate understanding
  • Questions on themes covered in the reading that require 3-4 spoken or written sentences that are connected by transition words and may require speaking or writing in various time-frames.

I also talk about this activity on episode 25 of the World Language Classroom Podcast.

French & Spanish Digital Writing Activity: Moving Verbs

Sometimes students know the meaning of verbs. Sometimes they know the forms. But, isn’t it great when they use accurate verbs in the correct context?

Put that together with a no-prep, time saving activity for you and it’s even more than a simple win-win.

Simply share these digital activities with students and they will move through a seamless process of identify meaning and forms and then putting it all together and writing their own sentences

This no-prep-for-the-teacher activity makes sure that your students don’t just master meaning and forms. They will combine these skills and write accurate and meaningful sentences on their own.

Take a look at the French version:

and the Spanish version:

 

28: Courageous Dialogues and Affinity Spaces with Vicky Wang

In this episode Vicky Wang joins me to address the effect of anti-Asian sentiment on Asian ( particularly Chinese) teachers in their schools and classroom.  Vicky Wang began an initiative, along with several colleagues, called Courageous Dialogues with Chinese Educators.

Vicky Wang is a Chinese Language and Culture Teacher in Maryland.  She helps us understand how anti-Asian language, actions and microaggressions have increased throughout the Covid Pandemic.  Vicky provides actionable suggestions for Asian (particularly Chinese) educators to confront these issues and for allies to support Asian colleagues and student.

Vicky speaks specifically about:

  • the inspiration to create a space for courageous dialogues
  • microaggressions and how are they damaging, particularly regarding Covid-19 and Chinese teachers
  • support and resources are available through Courageous Dialogues With Chinese Educators
  • Vincent Jen Chin and why 1955 is included in the CDCE social media handle
  • empowering Chinese educators, and essentially any teacher, that is marginalized or targeted by microaggressions or disrespectful language

Connect with Vicky Wang and Courageous Dialogues with Chinese Educators

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement”  by Paula Yoo.

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27: Diversifying World Language Curriculum with Ben Tinsley


In this episode we look at what world language curriculum has included and what has been left out, with a critical eye on diverse ethnicities and voices.  I’m joined by Ben Tinsley, a French teacher in Philadelphia.  He guides us through his own language learning journey as a Black student and how he did not see himself and the Afro-Black-Caribbean experience reflected in his language learning experience.

This prompted him to unapologetically center Francophone Black people in his curriculum.  This conversation will help us all provide our students with language learning experiences that authentically, and accurately, reflect the diversity of our target language cultures.

Ben speaks about…

  • his personal experience with language learning
  • what has been missing in language curriculum, particularly regarding diverse ethnicities, voices and lived experiences
  • why is it essential that we include diverse voices and ethnicities as an essential part of our curriculum, rather than one-off discussions
  • how to make sure that our students understand the full range of voices, ethnicities, and lived experiences of those in our target language cultures
  • where to find resources and how do you make them an organic part of the curriculum

Connect with Ben Tinsley:

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26: Languages: Vehicles for College and Career Readiness with Ryan Smith


In this episode we are take on the question that we often get from students…”Why are we learning this?”  Ryan Smith joins me to talk about how language teachers can infuse the idea of language learning as an essential skill when preparing students to be ready for college and careers.  Ryan points how many useful communication skills that are developed and honed in the language classroom in addition to language learning and cultural competence.

Ryan speaks specifically about:

  • why language learning is an essential aspect of being college and career ready
  • convincing reasons to learn a new language
  • skills that will make students college and career ready, particularly  21st Century Skills
  • some “carrots” to help motivate students to learn a language and hone their skills
  • how we can incorporate college and career readiness into our classrooms
  • Seals and Credentials, especially the Seal of Biliteracy 

Connect with Ryan Smith on Twitter (@renosenor).

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25: Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox (vol 1)


This episode is the first in a series of episodes that I will publish 4-5 times a year.  In these “Go-To Activities for Your Teacher Toolbox” episodes you will hear suggestions for go-to activities and games that require little-to-no prep and can be easily modified for any language or proficiency level.

Why Games and Activities:

  • useful teaching and learning tool
  • particularly useful when engaging and motivating unwilling and disinterested students
  • opportunities to practice speaking and understanding the target language
  • playing in (with) the language and building confidence
  • Brain Breaks – keep interest and focus
  • provide a relaxed context for risk-taking, lowering the affective filter
    and building community in the classroom.

4 games and activities that are:

  • little to no prep
  • can be pulled out at any time
  • are easily adapted to proficiency level of class

The games and activities:

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