Tag Archives: Speaking

Strategies for Building Speaking Confidence

Building speaking confidence in language learners is a gradual journey, and it starts with tailoring activities to their specific proficiency levels. Let’s look at some activities and procedures that progressively build speaking confidence across various ACTFL proficiency levels.

I’m including examples to illustrate language output at different proficiency levels, from simple sentences for novice learners to more complex language for intermediate levels. As students progress, they can confidently communicate their thoughts and ideas in the target language.

Novice Low to Novice Mid

At these levels, learners may feel hesitant about speaking. Activities like picture description provide a comfortable starting point. By focusing on simple vocabulary and asking them to describe familiar visuals, students build foundational speaking confidence. Frequent practice in a supportive environment helps them develop essential speaking skills and overcome initial apprehension.

  • “I see a red apple.”
  • “Je vois une pomme rouge.”
  • “Veo una manzana roja.”

Novice High to Intermediate Low

As students progress, role-playing offers them opportunities to take on different personas, effectively bridging the gap between novice and intermediate levels. By engaging in real-life scenarios, they begin to express themselves more naturally, helping boost their speaking confidence.

  • “I’d like a coffee, please.”
  • “Je voudrais un café, s’il vous plaît.”
  • “Me gustaría un café, por favor.”

Intermediate Mid to Intermediate High

Debates and discussions are ideal for students aiming to reach intermediate-high proficiency. These activities require more nuanced language use and promote critical thinking. By encouraging structured debates, students not only express their opinions confidently but also engage in active listening and respond effectively—a crucial aspect of speaking fluency.

  • “In my opinion, environmental conservation is a global responsibility.”
  • “À mon avis, la conservation de l’environnement est une responsabilité mondiale.”
  • “En mi opinión, la conservación del medio ambiente es una responsabilidad global.”

Building Confidence Through Progression

Regardless of proficiency levels, here are some overarching strategies that progressively enhance speaking confidence:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: Recognize and celebrate small victories. Acknowledge their improvements, no matter how incremental, to boost confidence.
  2. Vocabulary Enrichment: Introduce relevant vocabulary for each activity. As students acquire new words, they gain confidence in expressing themselves accurately.
  3. Scaffolded Support: Provide sentence starters or question prompts, especially for novice and intermediate learners, to help them articulate their thoughts.
  4. Recording Practice: Allow students to record their speaking. Over time, they’ll notice their progress and feel more confident in their abilities.
  5. Consistency is Key: Consistent practice is essential. Frequent speaking activities gradually normalize speaking in the target language, reducing anxiety and bolstering confidence.

By implementing these activities and strategies, language teachers can guide their students on a journey toward increased speaking confidence. Whether they’re just starting or aiming for advanced proficiency, gradual progression through tailored activities and continuous practice ensures that students develop the skills and self-assuredness they need to become confident speakers in the target language.

Quiz, Quiz Trade in the Language Classroom

Quiz, Quiz, Trade is one of those go-to activities that gets students speaking and moving around.  Once they know how it works you can pull it out anytime for speaking practice, idea generation, an opening activity or review of a topic.  The possibilities are endless.

Quiz, Quiz Trade in the Language Classroom, French and Spanish

This highly effective strategy has proven to be a valuable asset for learners of all proficiency levels, from novices to those at the intermediate high level. Let’s look at how to set it up, manage it effectively, and consider follow-up activities that can enhance language proficiency.

Setting up Quiz, Quiz, Trade

Prepare Question Cards: Create question cards with prompts related to your chosen topic. You can tailor these prompts to different proficiency levels. For example:

  • Novice Low: Basic vocabulary with words or pictures
  • Novice Mid: yes/no, either/or questions.
  • Novice Mid: Simple questions about daily routines or preferences.
  • Intermediate Low: Questions about hobbies or school with more detail using questions words to bring out more information.
  • Intermediate Mid: Question in different time frames and questions based on a class reading or video.
  • Intermediate High: Open-ended questions on global issues or cultural comparisons.

Distribute Cards: Hand out one question card to each student.

Managing the Activity

Pairing Up: Have students pair up and stand facing each other, holding their cards.

Questioning: Instruct students to take turns asking and answering the questions on their cards in the target language. Encourage question askers to:

  • Listen actively to their partner’s responses, noting any interesting details.
  • Ask follow-up questions to further the conversation. For example, if the question is about hobbies, they can ask, “Why do you enjoy that hobby?” or “How often do you do it?”

Trading Cards: After both students have asked and answered, they trade cards. This ensures that they interact with different prompts and partners.  Students then seek out a new partner.  You can have “available” students raise their hand so that they can locate each other.  I usually say that you can’t go back to the same person after already speaking so that friends extend their circle.  Students may get the same question back several times as cards rotate.  No problem. More practice with that question.

I also put myself in the mix so that I have some one-on-one time with students and can keep track of any areas that may need additional attention, such inaccurate vern forms or inconsistent use of singular and plural.  Formative information for me.

Repeat: Continue the process for a set amount of time.  I also introduce new cards throughout, usually replacing the cards that I get with a new prompt as I integrate into the activity.  This keeps the prompts fresh so that students don’t get repeat prompts.

Follow-Up Activities

Discussion: Have students share interesting answers they received during Quiz, Quiz ,Trade and facilitate a class discussion on the topic.

Writing Assignment: Assign a writing task based on the same topic. Students can expand on the ideas discussed during Quiz, Quiz ,Trade.

Debate: For intermediate mid/high students, turn the questions into debate topics, encouraging them to argue their viewpoints in the target language.

The key to success with Quiz, Quiz, Trade is providing clear instructions and monitoring the activity (be a part of it) to ensure students stay on track. It’s a versatile tool that can be adapted to suit your specific language teaching goals and proficiency levels.

By incorporating Quiz, Quiz, Trade into your language classroom, you’ll not only see improved language proficiency but also foster a fun and interactive learning environment.

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.

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:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

22: 90% + Target Language Use

In this episode we are talking about 90%+ target language use in the classroom.  We start with where this comes from and why we want to do it, then I ask 4 questions about what is happening in your classroom.  These questions will help to focus on some of the challenge areas and I provide some ways to address them.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • Q2. Do students have the language tools they need to communicate?
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?

Links referenced in this episode:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.

NCSSFL ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements

It is now commonly understood that language and culture are inextricably connected.  Every language is used within a culture and every culture involves communication in at least one language.  These two concepts of language and culture cannot exist in isolation, but rather influence and depend on each other.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

The NCSSFL-ACTFL Can Do Statements were originally published with a focus on authentic communication and were a useful guide for language teachers to make sure that the students were using the language in communicative contexts.  The Intercultural Can Do Statements were published a few years later.  In addition to the goal of language proficiency they now include competencies for investigating and engaging in the various cultures where the language is used.

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFLIntercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • They now include these goals for investigating and interacting with culture:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

  • There are also specific goals by proficiency level that dive into further detail:

Intercultural Can Do Statements; French, Spanish, ACTFL

By following the communicative goals along with the intercultural goals we are moving our students toward a stronger CQ (Cultural Intelligence).  This will provide the skills and insight to navigate, interact and behavior appropriately and respectfully in cultures that are different from their own.

Download the NCSSFL-ACTFL Intercultural Can Do Statements  and the Reflection Tool.


22: 90%+ Target Language Use

In this episode we are talking about 90%+ target language use in the classroom.  We start with where this comes from and why we want to do it, then I ask 4 questions about what is happening in your classroom.  These questions will help to focus on some of the challenge areas and I provide some ways to address them.

  • Q1: Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?
  • Q2. Do students have the language tools they need to communicate?
  • Q3. Are students held accountable for using the target language?
  • Q4. Are all the students actively engaged and interested?

Links referenced in this episode:

Work with Joshua either in person or remotely.

Follow wherever you listen to podcasts.


Are We Speaking Our Students’ Language?

How many times have we done our best to come up with scenarios and role plays that may or may not be applicable to the everyday lives of our students?  Where are they reading, writing, speaking and communicating?  Social media is certainly one place.  I put together a template for Instagram™ photos and stories and students write their own descriptions of photos and comment on their classmates’ posts.  I even added on opportunities to “post” Instagram™ Story videos.

I can’t actually use social media platforms with my students, so I created Google Slides™ where they insert photos and videos with descriptions into a template.

This link will make a copy in your Google Drive™ of the template that I created. 

This digital activity that works well if teaching in school or remotely.

Move Students’ Foreign Language Skills from Novice to Intermediate (SlideShare)

Move Students' Foreign Language Skills from Novice to Intermediate (SlideShare) (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comIf you are looking for suggestions and resources to help your students move from novice to intermediate take a look at this SlideShare.

Move Student Speaking and Writing from Novice to Intermediate

At the novice level, students are speaking and writing with single words and lists initially, then move on to chunked phrases.  Here are some examples:

Novice Low/Mid:

  • green
  • apple, banana, orange
  • Josué
  • soccer, football
  • movies, restaurant

Novice High:

  • My favorite color is green
  • I like apples, bananas and oranges
  • My name is Josué
  • I play soccer and football
  • On the weekend I like to go to the movies and to a restaurant

Move Student Speaking and Writing from Novice to Intermediate (French, Spanish) www.wlclassroom.comAs students move up to the intermediate proficiency level they begin to create discrete sentences on their own that move beyond chunked phrases.  This tends to be the most challenging for students as they begin to create with language and are not relying on memorized phrases to chunk together.  Rather than changing the detail after a memorized phrase such as “my favorite ______ is _______” and “I like __________” they are moving on to changing subjects, using various propositions and varying their verb forms and tenses.  Teachers can help scaffold this process for students by assisting them in creating sentences.  Students are often challenged by how to add details to a sentence to make it their own, particularly when writing.

I have found that using question words with students is a simple and effective way to have students add details to their sentences that move from memorized, chunked phrases to discrete sentences that are created by the student.  The more they do this the more they will grow in confidence and begin to do it on their own when writing.

A simple reminder of question words as students  write about a topic will guide them toward writing discrete sentences that they create on their own and and will move solidly on to the intermediate low proficiency level. For example, if a student writes ” I like to swim.” suggest a few question words to help make the sentence a bit longer and more detailed.  With whom?  When?  Where?

This will move the sentence from “I like to swim” to “I like to swim with my friend Julie on Saturday at the community pool.”  The more students get accustomed to adding details this way the more they will do it on their own when speaking and writing.

Here are a few posts I’ve written that have some suggestions and resources for guiding students through this process of moving their speaking and writing from novice to intermediate.  Click on the images to see the posts.

Spanish & French Verb Tense and Sentence Writing Powerpoint Activities