Replacing the Modern Language Textbook with QR Codes: The Advantages

In another blog, I argued how textbooks can be replaced with QR codes.  I think that modern language classroom is an ideal place to replace the textbook with QR codes.

The advantages to QR code -based modern language learning:
– With QR codes, teachers can link  to a comprehensive list of vocabulary for a given topic. The teachers can indicate critical vocabulary and useful vocabulary.  Some  textbooks introduce certain fruits in one unit and, then, more fruit in another unit.  Many textbooks have only a partial list of vocabulary for a topic even when it is the only unit for that topical vocabulary.  Many textbooks do not include verbs, adjectives, and typical sentences when they present the  noun vocabulary list  for a topic. The teachers may link to various language apps that not only illustrate the word but show it in English and the target language.
– With QR codes, foreign language  teachers can link to videos that  introduce and review grammar  in diverse ways.  The educators can have QR codes that link to different types of online grammar practice.  The educators are not limited by the textbook’s manner of presenting or reviewing grammar.
– With QR codes, modern language  teachers can link to audio or video files of native speakers who are talking about important topics.  Either the teachers or the students can record the native speakers as they talk about such things as family, eating, weekends. These conversations are authentic conversations, not ones designed to teach a particular grammar point.  Likewise the teachers can link to radio or TV shows from the target area.
– With QR codes, foreign language teachers can link to current or past cultural events in the target language country.  Students can learn about the culture as it happens as opposed to waiting for the textbook to possibly cover it in a future unit. The teachers can use QR codes to show what is happening at this very moment in the target language country.
– With QR codes, the modern language teachers can link to  pictures or videos that serve as speaking prompts or the basis for a conversation.  These same pictures or videos can serve as writing prompts.  The teachers select  target language cultural pictures.  For example, students look at a family having a  Sunday picnic in Tijuana, México.
– With QR codes, the foreign language teachers can link to quick formative assessments that students take in just a few minutes to demonstrate their achievement of some learning goal.
– With QR codes, modern language teachers can link to target language reading such as  the news,  magazine articles, and  literature.  They can have the students read authentic materials.  Students can select which aspect of the news they want to read about  such as  sports, TV, politics, and food.

Why not try a mini-QR code lesson  to see how engaged in the target language the students become?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (25+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask their  partners a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle. I have a series of modern language visual stories (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students.  These can use in any language since there are just visuals, no words.

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at http://is.gd/tbook

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Modern Language Textbook as the Only Tool or as One of Many Tools

During my recent presentation on “Transforming Textbook Activities into Spontaneous Speaking Ones,”, I  polled the audience of  modern language teachers  to find out  how many created or found additional material for their textbook. Over 90% of the audience raised their hands. These language  teachers had textbooks from  various publishers; the teachers represented many different languages and different  levels of learning. These teachers commented that a textbook is just a tool. It is not the only tool in a teacher’s repertoire. Other tools are better at certain times.  Just as a carpenter would not use a hammer to saw wood,  teachers understand that each tool has its unique purpose. They select their tool for a  specific  learning purpose.  In addition, when teachers use different tools, they add variety to the classroom.

Many foreign language  teachers use video tools such as YouTube to show a real life example rather than having students just look at  the printed word from the textbook.  For example, a Spanish teacher may show a YouTube video of people at a hospital emergency room in the target country, have their students identify the basic emergency room vocabulary, and, then, have the students role play an emergency room  conversation based on watching the video with no sound.  The static textbook  tool cannot duplicate the  actions of real people from a video tool.

Many modern language teachers incorporate outside readings or current cultural events that are not in the textbook.  The textbook chapter done in December may deal with common foods but not with  foods unique to the cultural celebrations  that occur in  the target language country at that time. Students who only use a textbook  tool  could go through the whole year without ever learning about the current  celebrations / activities in  the target language country.

Many foreign  teachers  try to engage their students in conversations that go beyond the limited ones in the textbook. The teachers may use  the tools of objects (authentic cultural items from the target country),  pictures from the target language area, video clips,  prompted conversations, current school topics, etc. to promote conversation.  When students move from just asking or answering textbook questions about a topic to engaging in interactive, highly responsive conversations through other conversation prompting tools, they improve their speaking.

Do you use your modern language textbook as the only tool or as a tool? Do you have one resource, the textbook, or a variety of resources?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (25+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle. I have a series of modern language visual stories (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students. Can use in any language since there are just visuals, no words.

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at http://is.gd/tbook

Modern Language Speaking Final: From Memorized to Spontaneous

I have talked with many modern  language teachers about their final  and, specifically, about the speaking part of the final.  They all agree that speaking is important and  that speaking needs to be tested.  Sometimes, they give the students a few possible topics, give them a week or a few days to prepare, then, in class, the teacher picks one of the  topics for the students to talk about.  The students think about the topic, write out the sentences, memorize the sentences and  recite the sentences during the speaking final.

However, this type of speaking final contradicts actual speaking. Since during the speaking final,  the students recite what they have previously written,  the exercise is really a writing exercise.   Secondly, in no normal target language conversation, does someone walk up to a person, say give me a topic, and, then, return the  next week to talk about that topic. In a real conversation  when the conversation turns to a new topic, the people  begin to instantly speak about it. There is no time delay in talking about a new topic.  Thirdly, this type of speaking resembles presentational speaking and not interpersonal speaking.  The students just recite  their sentences, they do not  really interact with the other student. Usually their conversation becomes a memorized dialogue. They do not show language  fluency but they do show the ability to memorize.

Some suggestions
–  Have students speak spontaneously about a topic.  They may have a list of 30 topics such as restaurant or 30 situations such as  problems in the classroom  but they do not know which topic they will have.  Students can practice talking about any topic by asking  and answering  questions about any topic.
– Have students talk based on a picture. They do not describe the picture but use it as a context for their speaking. For example, they see a picture of a soccer game  and pretend to be a player in the game. Or one student interviews another student who knows about the situation.

Let’s make speaking assessments include the speaking for the final to be ones in which students speak spontaneously to more closely represent real-life speaking.

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My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (25+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle. I have a series of modern language visual stories (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students. Can use in any language since there are just visuals, no words.

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at http://is.gd/tbook