Tag Archives: Listening

Task-Based Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom

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.

Task-Based Activities in the Foreign Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

Here are some examples of Task-Based Activities in the Foreign/World Language Classroom:

Foreign Language Speaking Activity that Involves the Entire Class wlteacher.wordpress.com

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.

Foreign (World) Language Interactive Speaking Activity (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

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.

Foreign (World) Language Card Games to Practice Verb Forms and Vocabulary (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.com

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.

Schemata for Listening Comprehension

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.

ArtOfListeningWhen 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.