Tag Archives: Writing

The Role of Short and Long-Term Memory in Language Learning

We’ve all been there.  Students learn a new language structure (i.e. grammar point) or vocabulary words, take a quiz, do well, and then a few days later they are unable to produce the structure or vocabulary.  What happened?  Where did it it go?

The Role of Short and Long-Term Memory in Language Learning (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.com

First, let’s look at Interlanguage.  This is the language that a learner speaks that is on a continuum between his native language (L1) and the target language (L2).  Selinker explains that Interlanguage has these characteristics:

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Bill Van Patten takes this a bit further in his work (particularly in Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen) and presents the ideas of intake and uptake along this interlanguage continuum:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 6.36.37 AMInitially, language input becomes intake or part of the short term memory of the learner.  This is consciously attended to and learned by the learner.  When structures and vocabulary become uptake, part of the long-term memory, it is considered subconscious and acquired. The uptake is the proficiency level of the learner.

When students take a quiz on the new material and do well it is because they are being assessed on their short-term memory (intake).  When new material comes along and that older materials has not moved on to long-term memory (uptake) it is replaced by the newer material.  That’s why the grammar structure they knew so well for the quiz is not as easily produced a few days later….and the reason we need to spend so much time reviewing for final exams at the end of the school year.

So, this begs the question, “How can we help students acquire language so that it becomes part of their uptake (long-term memory)?”  The answer is not complicated and involved, but does take persistence and consistency.  It comes down to providing as much comprehensible input as possible to students, both listening and reading.  The more exposure students have to input that is comprehensible to them the more likely the language will become uptake and make its way to the long-term memory.  Again, this is mostly a subconscious process in which language is acquired so comprehensible inout is the most effective tool.  This is yet another reason to use the target language as much as possible (90-100%) in the second language classroom.

I want to end with a quick word about learning grammar and vocabulary, as opposed to acquiring.  Steven Krashen, who is best known for his input hypothesis (i+1), does speak to the usefulness of studying and learning grammar and vocabulary.  He describes this learned language as a monitor that assess output that originates in the long-term memory for accuracy.  This learned, often intake/short-term memory, language is useful in writing as well because the writer has the time to reflect and monitor the output.  When communicating interpersonally in real time the output is often less accurate with novice and intermediate students because the more accurate and native-like language has not yet made its way to the long-term memory.

VanPatten, B. (1996). Input processing and grammar instruction: Theory and research. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

VanPatten, B., & Cadierno, T. (1993). Explicit instruction and input processing. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15, 225–243.

VanPatten, B., & Oikkenon, S. (1996). Explanation versus structured input in processing instruction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18 (4), 495–510.

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.

Emerging Literacy in a Foreign Language

This is a typical writing and reading (Emerging Literacy) activity that I do with novice students (with the goal being to read and write at a novice mid sentence level*). In this particular version, my 3rd graders had learned lots of words for animals and we had recently begun learning the words for places in nature where they can be found.

Emerging Literacy in a Foreign (World) Language. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comThe class could list about 20 animals (individual words-novice low*), and they are beginning to recognize how they are written. We started this class by listing the words on the board (animals and places in nature), then I gave them the verb “est” (is) and some prepositions to go along with the places (as phrases; “sur l’herbe” -on the grass). Students then put the structure together verbally in pairs to makes sentences (novice mid). We then moved on to writing the sentences and drawing a picture to show the meaning (novice mid*).  Once done, I went around to each student and had then read the sentences, then I covered the sentences and had them describe the pictures orally.

*ACTFL Proficiency Scale

Foreign Language Verb Form Practice Activity (Powerpoint)

This is a great way to have students practice verb forms and tenses . The powerpoint is projected  on a white board so that you can write in the  the subjects, the verbs, and the tenses (present, future, Preterit, Imperfect, commands, etc.) or they can be easily typed right onto the powerpoint slides as in the example below.  On each click the die “rolls” and three dice appear. The students say or write the verb form represented by the number combination. I usually have students write their answers on small dry-erase boards. This is a great template for use with any verbs or tenses.

Writing Practice in the Foreign Language Using Verb Forms

You’ll be surprised by how quickly and confidently your students are writing when you use this activity with them.  This is a great way to build confidence in writing, while reviewing and practicing verb forms and meaning.  Before engaging in the activities, there are slides to review subject pronouns and verb forms.

Before each activity, students number their paper or mini white board 1-8. A picture of a subject and an infinitive are revealed on the left side of the screen and possible sentence endings are listed on the right side of the screen.  Students write the correct verb form and an appropriate ending from the list. There is typically only one possible ending, but in some cases there may be more than one possibility. Students have 1:30 (one minute and thirty seconds) to write all 8 sentences. When the time is up the words are covered over. Students check their work in the next slide. The next slide repeats the exercise, but the verbs and subject pronouns are paired differently. Students have one minute this time through since they are familiar with the sentence endings.

 

Download powerpoints here:

 

Foreign Language Verb and Vocabulary Speaking and Writing Activity (Naufrage, Naufragio)

This is a fun and engaging way for students to practice verb forms or any type of vocabulary.  I call this shipwreck (Naufrage, Naufragio, Hǎinàn-海难, Schiffbruch, Naufragium).  The board has 1oo squares, you can use fewer or more depending on the level of your students.

Foreign (World) Language Verb and Vocabulary Activity (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comIn the example below there are subjects and infinitives in each box.  Students play against an opponent and choose a box.  He then says or writes the correct verb form.  The example below has the student put the verb in the past tense in French.  If the opponent agrees that it is correct, the player gets to  color in the square with his color, then it is the opponent’s turn.  If the opponent does not agree with the response the teacher is summoned to verify.  If the answer is not correct the player loses that turn.  When a player gets three boxes in a row of his color he gets a point, which is recorded on the bottom.  Each play has a different color and employs a blocking strategy to try to prevent the opponent from getting three boxes in a row.  This works well with vocabulary (students either translate or use the word in a sentence) or adjective/adverb forms as well.

Foreign (World) Language Verb and Vocabulary Activity (French, Spanish) www.wlteacher.wordpress.com

You can make these activities in a WORD Document or you can download these activities that are ready to use:

Verb Reference when Speaking and Writing

This handy reference for students has verb forms on both sides. I photocopy it on  card stock (two-sides) and cut it into strips so that students can put it in their books, usually in the lesson we are currently studying.  My students really like having this easily accessible reference so that they don’t always have to go looking through their book for verb forms when speaking and writing.  The example below is for beginning/intermediate students, but more advanced students would benefit from more advanced verb forms and conjugations.

This handy reference can be made in a WORD document by making columns or text boxes.  You can also download them completed in French and Spanish here:

Class Starters (Do Nows, Warm Ups) for the Foreign Language Classroom

Class Starters (Do Nows, Warm Ups) for the Foreign (World) Language Classroom (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comClass Starters (often called Do Nows, Warm Ups or Quick Questions) are a great way to set the tone for the work to be done in class.  It is also a great opportunity to have students review vocabulary and grammar regularly so that the concepts stay active.   These activities are also an effective tool for class management, particularly when students know that they are receiving a grade.   typically give a grade out of 5 points for each day. 

Below are some ideas for class starters in a world language class as well the document that students use to record their answers.

  • Reorganize jumbled-up letters in a word
  • Write words in singular or plural
  • Write correct form of an adjective
  • Write correct verb forms (in various tenses)
  • Organize words to make a sentenc

Here is a more extensive list of Do Now Activities.

Click here for my  blog post about short activities that can be used as Do Nows or activities for Fast Finishers.

Reorganise jumbled up letters in a word (To practice spelling, alphabet and revise vocabulary) Tell students the topic that all words belong to.

Write words in the singular or the plural (To practice singular and plural articles)

Determine the correct form of the adjective (To practice adjective forms and agreement)Give students a noun and they write the correct form of the adjective)

Give the correct verb forms (To practice the forms of regular and irregular verbs)

Give students a subject pronoun and 5 or 6 verbs.  Students write the verb forms.

Reorganise words within a sentence (To practice word order, agreements and revise vocabulary) Tell students the topic.

Verb Tense Writing or Speaking Activity

This is a great interactive writing or speaking activity for students.  Students throw a die three times and write a sentence based on the number sequence (or they can throw three dice at once and line them up). Each number corresponds to picture of a  subject pronoun, verb and verb tense.  Students write the sentence or say it out loud.  This is a great way to get students writing without translating. Subjects and verbs can also be easily written on the board and numbered 1-6 along with various verb tenses as well.  This is a grid that I use with students.