How many courses do I need before I can speak to people in the target country?

The other day in  Spanish class my students were doing a “city” map activity in which they named real places in a city and then gave directions from one place to another in the city. When two males finished the direction activity, they did a high-five since they both could do it.  One of the students asked, “How many Spanish courses do I need before I can talk with people in Mexico?”

He did not say “How many courses do I need before I can use the subjunctive?” or “How many courses do I need before I can use  double object pronouns in a sentence?” He wants to use the language, not study it.

I wonder how well our textbooks teach students to converse with other people.  How well do these books help students to survive in the target language country?  Take a moment and ask yourself,  “What  well can my students now converse with target language people? Can my students participate in an actual conversation that starts at one point and goes to another quickly?  Can my students express their travel needs in a country?”

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (29+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Speaking Mats ( Student can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas in pairs or small group), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask their  partners one question from a card-whole class), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), 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.

At the same site, I have a series of modern language visual stories with no words (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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Different types of Modern Language Apps and Questions

At my sister  technology blog, I posted a blog about the various types of modern language apps.  My greatest fear about mobile learning  is that we will turn mobile learning devices into drill and kill machines instead of using them to engage the student in communicating and  reacting to culturally authentic material.
If you do use mobile learning, which different apps do you use? How does each help your students to communicate better?  Do your students spend more time communicating in the target language when using mobile learning  or in creating something that has very little actual communication? Do your apps involve your students in the current culture of the language area?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (29+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Speaking Mats ( Student can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas in pairs or small group), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask their  partners one question from a card-whole class), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), 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.

At the same site, I have a series of modern language visual stories with no words (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

Modern Language Textbooks Focus on Grammar, not Communication

I believe that our modern language textbooks are really just grammar textbooks in disguise. Here’s some reasons

1)  Most of the conversation or dialogues in the textbook are structured  to teach/practice the grammar.  These conversations do not have a natural flow as real life conversation do. Verification: Ask a  native speaker if she or he would actually say that conversation.

2) Most textbooks have more pages devoted to grammar than to communication. In one text there were twice as many pages devoted to teaching/ practicing grammar than to communication exercises or even vocabulary. Often the communication exercises were simply meant to practice the grammar.  Verification:  If no one cares about the answer, then the questions are probably grammar exercises.

3) Most textbooks have many identification nouns, few verbs and even much fewer adjectives so students cannot express their feelings about the topic.  Textbooks often teach a group of verbs only when they demonstrate a grammatical point such as stem changing verbs, reflexive  or preterite irregular verbs.  Most textbooks do not give students a wide range of adjectives so that the students can actually talk about the topic.  For example, one textbook has a unit on classes but only uses the verb  “is”; students cannot communicate much about classes. Verification: If students in a  beginning language class are studying classes, can they tell what they like or dislike about each class such as “”The test is hard, The teacher gives too much homework. We never use computers in class.”

Is your textbook really a grammar book or does it focus on communication?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (28+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner a question from a card-whole class), 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), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), 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

Increasing Students’ Speaking in Modern Language Classroom Through Paired Speaking

Students need language input as they start out in the language. A major goal of the modern language classroom is for students to speak (Krashen’s comprehensible output or Swain’s students learn to talk by talking), therefore, students need to talk more. However, they can only speak more when the teacher speaks less. The more the modern language teacher talks, the less opportunity the students have to speak.

Furthermore, the more foreign language students speak in pairs, the more they speak. If students only talk when the teacher calls on them, then they get to speak every 26th time (if there are 26 students in the classroom). On the other hand, if the modern language  teacher has the students work in pairs, virtually all students are talking at the same time. Some quick math will reveal the efficiency of pair work.  If the teacher has each of 26 foreign language students speak individually for one minute, it takes 26 minutes or 52% of  a 50 minute class period.  If the teacher has students speak in pairs, then 26 students can each speak for one minute for a total of   two minutes or 4% of the class.

The listing shows some spontaneous speaking activities that I have developed for paired speaking. They are available at http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle
TuttleSponSpeakingActivitiesListFeb103

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