Our Students’ Paragraph Length Speaking

The ACTFL guidelines say that at the Intermediate High Level  our students will speak in paragraph length.  Let’s assume  that paragraph length means at least six sentences. How often do your students speak six consecutive sentences about a topic at any level?

All students, even beginning first year freshman, can speak six consecutive sentences if we scaffold the speaking for them. Our students should be able to tell six things about themselves – name, age, their physical description, their emotional description, their birthday, and where they live.  Most students can add something they like to do and how often they do certain things.  Our beginning students can easily get up to ten consecutive sentences when they talk about themselves.

First year freshman students can say ten sentences about other common topics as long as they have a scaffolding to follow.  One scaffolding is to answer each question word and then to answer variations on those questions for any topic such as school.  For example, a student answers, “Who?” with “I go to school” and answers  “What?” with “I study math.”  Another scaffolding is to narrate about a picture using different verbs. As a student looks at a picture of a classroom, she  reads the picture as if it were a written passage. She tells what is happening in the upper left corner and then goes across the top line of the picture. She uses different verbs such as “A boy enters the classroom….The teacher writes on the board.”

Are students successful the first time they do these activities? Probably not. But as they use the scaffolding to practice, they develop fluency. Over time, they can spontaneously generate many sentences, more than a paragraph’s length.

What do you do to help your students increase in the amount of consecutive speaking so that they reach at least paragraph length?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (24+) 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 be used 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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