I always like to use classic games such as battleship in the foreign language classroom. These types of activities don’t typically require a lot of explanation because students are familiar with the how the game is played and they can get right on task practicing their language skills. You can read about how language instruction is improved with “fun and games” in a post that I wrote previously.
Here is an example of how battleships can be used to practice clothing vocabulary and colors in Spanish. Students place boats (filled in boxes) on the game board. Students play against another student and try to find and sink the boats of the opponent. There are pictures of clothing down the left side and colors across the top (this can also easily be done with with subjects and verbs). To choose a square, the player must say the article of clothing and the correct form of the color. All of the necessary vocabulary (boat names, hit, sunk, miss, examples of how to say a sentence) are on the sheet for student reference. There are two grids for each player to use, one to put his/her own “boats” on and the other to keep track of the opponent.
Download Battleship Games Here:
This is a great well to keep students in the target language while they focus on a particular vocabulary theme. The example below using clothing. Give slip of paper to each student with pictures of five articles of clothing. There are 6 six pairs total. In the example below the slips on the left are paired with slips on the right.
Students circulate in the classroom and ask each other which clothing they have (they should not look at others’ answers or show theirs). The entire activity should take place in the target language. The objective is to find the other person who has the exact match. If there are more than 12 students in the class, photocopy additional slips and students need to find their group of 3 or 4 that all match. If there is an odd number of students in the class, be sure to give a slip that matches a group.
The first group to pair up without speaking English or looking at each other’s slip wins the round. Students can then exchange slips and play a second and third time. Before playing, review the vocabulary that students will need.
These activities can be made in a WORD document by cutting and pasting images, or you can download the activities that are already made here:
Update on this Post: I recently wrote a follow up to this goal setting post that focuses on setting proficiency goals using the ACTFL Proficiency Scale and the Can-Do Statements. You can read it HERE.
As teachers we all understand the importance of setting goals and having students set goals for themselves. Since the study of a foreign language (particularly for students beginning a language in middle school, high school or in college) is a new undertaking and and students generally have little or no previous experience, I find it very important to give them clear guidance as they set personal goals for learning a foreign language. Students may set goals that are clearly too difficult to reach or goals that they will reach in two days. Clear guidance from the teacher can help students to understand what attainable goals can look like in the world language classroom. Here is an example of what I ask students to do when they begin setting goals for themselves. I have them revisit each term and asses where they are in terms of reaching their goals.
- As you look forward to the year ahead in, what do you hope to accomplish? What are some areas of language or culture that you want to know more about? What can you do to make sure that you are able to accomplish these goals?
- Consider the many aspects of learning a foreign language as you create some goals for yourself this year. Here are some ideas to consider: Speaking, Pronunciation, Understanding , Writing , Familiarity with Cultures, Vocabulary, Grammar.
- Consider where your skill/confidence level in these areas is now and where you would like to be at the end of this school year. Remember this about setting SMART goals. Goals should be:
- Take some time to write down what you hope to accomplish this year and how you plan to go about it.
You can download goal setting sheets for foreign language students HERE.
An effective way of getting students speaking is to have them describe a picture or photo, but this can a get a little old after a few times. There are many paired and group activities that students can do with an image beyond a simple description.
I compiled 50 speaking activities using images and photos in the foreign language classroom. Two of them are are:
- One student orally describes a picture to a second student who then draws a copy of it.
- One student orally describes a picture to another student who then is given a choice of pictures and must choose the one described.
You can download the entire document with all 50 ideas by clicking the box below.
These are fairly low-prep activities. All the teacher really needs to do is find pictures (easily done on the Internet) that represent the vocabulary or topics. Why not involve students in process as well?
Posted in Activities and Games, Listening, Speaking
Tagged ACTFL, foreign langauge, french, images, Listening, Photos, spanish, Speaking, teacher
If you are looking for follow-up activities to engage students in a text that they have read in the target language, consider setting up reading stations (sometimes called centers) in the classroom. These centers typically center on a particular interest of the student and you can have each student complete one or two of the activities depending on time and interest. When students have a choice they tend to invest more time and focus more attention. Here are some ideas for setting up reading stations in your world language classroom:
This site includes these Nursery Rhymes in French, German, Spanish, and Italian:
- Little Red Ridding Hood
- The Three Little Pigs
- Billy Goats Gruff
- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
All of the stories are very interactive and have voices that read the story, words the screen, movement, Smartboard activities, and a very extensive downloadable pdf with activities to go along with each story. This is a free site and kids love it.
Check it out HERE.
This is a great site out of England that has pages and pages of online activities for students. It is very well organized and you can find almost any topic that you want. It is comepletly free.
Check it out HERE.
Everyone is talking about TPR (and TPRS, covered elsewhere) and language teachers are excited to try it out in their classrooms. The Total Physical Response method of language teaching was created by James Asher and is based on the work of Krashen, who wrote widely on his Monitor Model. One element of Krashen’s theory was the Affective Filter concept. Mainly, this states that when anxiety is low and learners are comfortable, they are less likely to block understanding.
TPR builds upon this concept in that learners are not forced to speak until they are ready, but are rather encouraged to first demonstrate comprehension through movement and gesture. Drawing on first language acquisition research which shows that children demonstrate understanding before they produce language, TPR encourages learners demonstrate understanding before producing language.
One major benefit that I have personally observed in my classroom is a rise in student confidence as they recognize their ability to almost fully understand a class conducted entirely in the target languge. When they are focusing on this one skill early on rather than trying to speak, read, write, and understand aurally, they achieve recognizable success very early on. This then motivates them to continue to build on their success.
Students move on to speaking and essentially take on the role of the teacher in directing classroom activities. There are several books on TPR to help teachers better understand the techniques and there are numerous workshops offered throughout the country. You can find more information on the TPR Website.
Task-based activities are activities that require the use of the target language in order to complete a task. The goal is the completion of the task, though the expectation is that the target language is being used to complete it. We often create activities for our students that focus more on practicing language than on using the language. Language practice can be beneficial, but we need also provide students with opportunities to do something with the language.
Linguist and second language acquisition specialist, Bill Van Patten, describes “exercises” as activities that focus on language mechanics and often use language out of context. “Tasks,” in contrast, are activities that have a product, goal, objective or outcome that require using the target language to achieve it, but are not focused on mechanics. With tasks the goal is independent of language. Research overwhelmingly shows that language used in context is most beneficial to language acquisition. Tasks are an effective way of providing communicative activities to students.
Here are some examples of Task-Based Activities in the Foreign/World Language Classroom:
The teacher begins by cutting the strips of paper on the dotted line and giving five students a slip with two pictures on it. These students go to the front of the class without revealing their pictures to the rest of the class.The other students in the class each receive the first sheet and begin by writing down the names of the five students in the front of the room. One at a time members of the class take turns trying to guess who has which picture on their sheet. All students record the answers as they are given. An order of students should be established by the teacher and this order will be repeated until a student has correctly identified all the people/pictures on his/her turn. If the answers are not correct the questions continue. Students should be informed that each person has only two pictures and that no two people have the same picture.
All players start at “Début” or “Comeinzo.” Taking turns, each player rolls the die and moves the number of spaces rolled. The object is to land on the numbered boxes in the correct order (1-12). They can move in any direction, but they can’t use the same box twice in a turn. They can share a box with another player. The winner is the first player to land on square #12. The game can be made longer by having players return to “Début” or “Comienzo”and work toward #12 a second time.
Begin by distributing 6 cards to each player. The rest of the pile remains face down in the middle. Player 1 starts the game by asking any player if he has a card (picture or verb form) that he needs to complete a family (Half Dozen). The player may only ask for cards for a name that he has in his hands. If the player asked has the card, he will give it to player 1. Player 1 will ask again. If the player asked does not have the card, he will say “Pioche” or “Recoge” and player 1 will take a card from the pile, and play will continue with the next player.When a player collects all 6 pictures or all 6 forms of a verb, he announces it to the group and puts the cards down for everyone to see. When there are no more cards in the pile, the game continues without players picking up new cards. The player with the most names completed at the end of the game wins.
Is it possible to teach students how to listen and understand a language? While a response to this question may not be available, it is possible to prepare students to aurally comprehend language in general. The basis of this teaching method is the development of schemata. Schemata is simply the link between all thoughts and concepts on a topic that we as humans possess. For example, we think of the word “house,” but this word does not exist in our brain in an isolated vacuum. Rather, along with house, we have an entire web of concepts connected to it that we understand. We know that: we live in a house, a house has rooms, the rooms have names, we do particular things in each room, house are located in particular places, certain people live in houses, etc. All of this information connected to the idea of a “house” is a schemata.
When teaching students to comprehend language, it is important to explicitly teach them to access their schemata on the topic that they are listening to. For instance, before listening to a recorded conversation, give students the general topic and have them brainstorm all of the possible words that they might hear when listening. Once this list is done, the students are ready to listen for what they expect to hear. In essence, this is what we do as actively learning adults when listening to a person speak another language. We hypothesize (passively and in a matter of seconds) about what words we might hear, then, when we hear them, we are reassured of what we expected to hear. This does not mean that we know that that our friend is going to say that he went to the store yesterday and bought a new coat, but as soon as he mentions yesterday we anticipate verbs in the past tense and when he mentions a type store we anticipate certain nouns.
This is a skill that many adults that are proficient in a second language do regularly and it is second nature. But, we must remember that this is a skill and it can be taught to students early on. Simple questions like, “What words do you think that you might hear?” help students to engage this process. When it is random speech, students get lost much more easily.