Real Life Conversations in World Language, Not Textbook Topic Conversations

World language textbooks do not have real life conversation in any meaningful order. For example, in a college textbook the food unit and the question “How much does it cost?” are in the last chapter covered in the semester. Students wait for over four months to learn the foods and how to say “How much does it cost?”  However, if a person actually went to a world language country that person would have to use food vocabulary and the question “How much does it cost?”  on the first day!  A textbook topic such as “the classroom” is not critical to a real life conversation and yet is is often a very early chapter in many tesxtbooks.  Many textbooks use  topics that do not produce real life common language conversation; these textbooks prevent students from being able to have a realistic conversation with someone outside the classroom.

Do your students learn critical vocabulary for real-life conversations or do they learn vocabulary for classroom based conversations?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

World Language High Frequency Vocabulary For Student High Use

If world language teachers teach their students high-frequency (or high-use)  words, then the students will be able to communicate sooner and better.  There are lists of  the 100 most common words for any language and teachers can check what vocabulary they teach against this list. They might even look at the bigger 1,000 most common words. If the vocablary does not appear on the list, then probably it is not  worth teaching since the word has such a low level of use. Often thematic units in a textbook present vocabulary that is not high-frequency. For example, students may never use the word “chalk”  or “chalkboard” outside of the classroom but they certain will use words like class vocabulary such as “table” ,  “chair”, and  “wall”.  All of these words are used in many other settings such as “home”, “restaurant”, and  “buildings”.   When world language teachers teach high-frequency words, the students learn words that they would normally use in a conversation.  These high-frequency words are repeated often in normal conversations.

So far in my first Spanish unit, I have covered 35 of the top 100 words. I am replanning my second unit to incoporate more of the top 100 and some of the top 200 words so that my students can communicate in the world language with essential words. I want students to spend their time in learning critical vocabulary.

How high-frequency are the world language vocabulary you teach?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).   At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

 

World Language Fantastic 40 Minutes: From Translation to Communication

Students are in a world  language class for forty minutes five times a week or  40 minutes x 5 days = 200 minutes; 200 minutes/ 60 minutes in an hour  = 3.33 hours a school week.  These fantastic forty minutes are the only time that the world  language students can listen to their teachers speak the target language and react to the teachers and the only time the students can communicate in the target language and have other students react. During a five day school week of 120 hours (5 day x 24 hours), the students spend only 2.75% of their time in world language class. That extremely small number means that world language teachers have to maximize communication time in the classroom.

How much target language do your students hear during the Fantastic 40?  How much target language do your students speak during the Fantastic 40?  Could someone mistake your modern language class for an English class due to the large amount of English being spoken?

When world language teachers move from translation activities to communication activities, they move closer to the language goal of producing students who can communicate. Instead of having students play a translation game (one students holds up a card with English on one side and Spanish on the other while the partner says the Spanish for the English),  students can say basic sentences. For colors, the students can say the colors of the objects in the class such as “The door is brown.” or they can change it into a question activity such as “The door is brown, right?” or “Is the door brown?”  The teacher provides the sentence structure and then the students create the sentences that their partner answers/responds to. The students use the colors to describe or ask about their class; they communicate basic information. They use the colors for communication instead of for translation games.

How much world language do you use during the Fantastic 40 in you class?  How much do the students use? Do they use words for communication instead of translation?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities; 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous Spanish students-as-investigators cultural activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).,

At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have the book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

 

Two Different Language Learning Approaches: Self or Survival

ACTFL’s Interpersonal Level Novice Can-Do statements follow a pattern of having students talking about

self  -> family / friends  ->  community / city.
Most of the Novice level focuses on socializing.  In this approach students go from what is most known or familiar  to them (themselves) outward (to others). Most modern day textbook follow this approach. This approach assumes that students in the classroom will be talking in the target language  to other students about things in their lives.

Another approach is the travel approach where students learn a  language to survive in the target language country. This approach concentrates on daily functioning in the language country. Students learn how to order a meal, ask for a hotel room, check on the price of a product, etc. Very old textbooks and travel conversation books follow this pattern. The travel approach assumes that students in the target language country will be talking in the target language to native speakers.

Although students enjoy talking in the target language to each other and learning about each other as in the ACTFL approach, I have found that they feel the geatest sense of achievement when they can do a real-life daily survival task in the language such as “I can ask the price of something.” I try to blend the two approaches.  As soon as my students learn the numbers (1-59) in the first unit , I teach them to go from telling time to asking the price of things such as  “How much does this soccer ticket cost?” Since I use cultural products in class such as a soccer ticket, the students practice asking and answering how much real things cost. In the ACTFL approach, students cannot ask the price of something until the end of Novice Mid, very near the end of the course.

What approach do you use with your students?  What survival skills do your students have even in the beginning level?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities, 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students and numerous Spanish investigation cultural activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture)

 

 

Speaking Final- What Criteria?

Modern language courses usually include a speaking final. That final can take many forms such as a  teacher asks a student a question, students work in pairs on a topic, etc.

Even more varied is how the speaking final is assessed such as a holistic score, an analytic rubric with numerous components, or a checklist.

The more important question is “What is the speaking being assessed against?”  Does the teacher judge the students based on the teacher’s concept of he or she individually think good speaking is?  Are there state or national standards or proficiencies that the students are being assessed against? Without a definite standard or proficiency, the speaking assessment measures very little.

One reliable technique is for the teacher to ask each question based on the NCSSFL-ACTFL Interpersonal Communication Can-Do statements. The teacher asks one or two questions for each section of the Can-Do at the Novice and the Mid level.. For example, a teacher asks for Novice Low “I can answer a few questions”- “Do you prefer water or soda? and “When is your Spanish class?”.The teacher bases . The teacher structures the questions going from the lowest level of Novice Low to the highest level of Novice Mid (assuming the class reached that level).  The teacher uses these national proficiencies to measure at what level of the proficiencies the students are.

The teacher has a reliable and valid speaking final. The students’ score on the speaking final represents the highest level of their speaking proficiency based on national proficiencies.

What does your speaking final measure?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use Spanish speaking activities and numerous Spanish culture activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities

 

Modern Language Class as a Light Bulb

I compare the modern language classroom to a  light bulb.  The light bulb burns brightly when the teacher speaks in the  modern language.  The bulb dims each time the teacher uses English. Likewise, when students communicate ideas and feelings in the target language, the bulb burns brightly. When students do low level activities such as vocabulary translation activities or do grammar for grammar’s sake, the bulb dims.

The light bulb image appeals to me since most modern language students only hear or use the modern language in the classroom. The rest of their day is in target language darkness.

How bright is your modern language class bulb?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities for students to do on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

Create a modern language final using Can-Do Statements

At this time of the year many college  modern language teachers are preparing their students for finals. Some finals test the textbook while others test certain language skills.

Many modern language finals reveal very little about the actual proficiency of the students. The final in one school district or college probably differs in content from the final in another school district and from state to state. Such finals may not represent language proficiency but represent translation skills, discrete vocabulary learning, discrete non-contextual grammar learning at a low level and random cultural facts. Modern language teachers benefit from a national standard to use so they can truly evaluate their students’ proficiency against other students’ proficiencies.The NCSSFL-ACTFLCan-Do statements serve such a purpose.

When teachers compare their finals to the Can-Do statements for their level, they may discover that they are testing on items that ACTFL says students should not be proficient in. For example, a beginning college class may have a  past tense, the preterite, questions on the final. Students in a beginning level may only reach Novice High and talking in various time frames does not show up until Intermediate High; therefore, students cannot be tested on the preterite. On the other hand, students may be tested at a lower level than ACTFL states. When students read in the target language, they are expected to respond in the target language. ACTFL does not include “translate into English” in any of the reading Can-Do statements.

Also, teachers may find that their final does not focus on language functions as NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements do.  A Can-Do based final represents real-life language use, not isolated discrete statements. The final reflects the various language functions for that proficiency level. For example, at the Novice Mid level, can students describe their family and friends? At the Novice High, can students complete map directions based on an actual map?

Does your modern language final show what your students Can-Do according to NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements?  Or is it a grammar-vocabulary tests of discrete items?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash