Tag Archives: Writing

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:


French & Spanish Speaking Activity: Shipwreck

Your students will build their proficiency, polish their skills and create increasingly complex sentences with this dynamic and interactive speaking activity. Naufragio/Naufrage encourages strategic thinking and friendly competition.

In each of the squares, there are or subject/infinitive pairs that drive meaningful sentence creation. Players use a colored pencil to claim squares and by forming rows they earn points as they sharpens their skills. They also try to block the other players from doing the same. That’s where it gets really fun and engaging. So fun that they forget about how much of the language that are actually using.

Students have useful and essential tools to engage in this small-group activity, including reference pages to assist in building sentences and checking their accuracy.

Each resource includes:

  1. Directions for how to do the activity
  2. A reference page with vocabulary or verb forms
  3. A reference page for building sentences 
  4. Game boards

There is absolutely no prep required. Just print out and you’re ready to go.

Spanish Naufragio Vocabulary Topics:

French Naufrage Vocabulary Topics:

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.

Beginner Students and Poetry

poets-corner-colorThe musical quality of poetry, the careful selection of the  words of poetry, and the ability of poetry to give make us think and reflect  make it an ideal vehicle for writing tasks in a foreign language class.    Here are some ideas for incorporating poetry based on the work of Jan Labonty and Lori Borth (in their article el elefante y la hormiga: Writing Poetry in Foreign Language Classes, NECTFL Review 58 Spring/Summer 2006).

Writing patterned poetry reinforces description and grammatical structures. It nurtures vocabulary development and is an activity that places the emphasis on a finished product of which to be proud rather than writing something acceptable.

I used to be … but now poems
Students can use the following pattern:
I used to be ______________________________________
But now I’m _____________________________________
Yo era ________________ pero ahora soy ________________.
________________ era yo pero ahora ________________ soy.

The sentence was repeated and the word order mixed to add some interest and variety.These sentences were added to the end of name using their English name or a Spanish name,if Spanish names were used in class. They  chose an adjective that described them for each letter of their name and then used  adjectives with opposite meanings for the final sentences. Use of interesting adjectives and attention to adjective agreement were stressed.

Sample of student work:
Yo era tímida pero ahora soy extrovertida.
Callada era yo pero ahora habladora soy.

Alphabet Pyramids:
These cumulative poems contain specific parts of speech that begin with the same letter.They are appropriate for all levels and are ideal for illustrating and displaying in  the classroom. They are also fun to share orally and are good “tongue twisters” to  practice pronunciation.They rarely translate well.
Line 1:the letter
Line 2:a noun
Line 3:add an adjective
Line 4:add a verb or verb form
Line 5:add an adverb

Samples of student work:
Ranas Rápidos
Reduzco Ranas Rápidos
Reduzco Ranas Rápidos Raramente

A terquain is a descriptive, three-line poem.This is appropriate for all levels and can be used as a directed work with the instructor providing the first line or offering a general topic to be addressed.It encourages the use of vivid words to create an  image or reaction. It can be as simple or complex as the skill level of the writer  allows.
Line 1:one word,the subject
Line 2:one or two words about the subject
Line 3:one word,a feeling about the subject

Samples of student work:
Mi foco