After I gave a recent presentation, a teacher talked to me about her June final which the department chair made up. This teacher stressed that she believes in communication and she wants to prepare her students to communicate with people from the target language.
However, the department final has a speaking component in which students wrote out a conversation, memorized the conversation, and said the memorized lines. She remembers that last year during the final speaking her students made comments to their partners such as “I can’t remember what we wrote,” “Say your lines,” and “What comes next?” All those comments reinforced that the final was not a speaking final but a recital or saying of memorized lines. It had nothing to do with the give and take of a real life conversation.
She remembers that no student displayed any emotion while speaking except for stress and frustration during the conversation even though they said happy lines (I really like to …) and sad lines (I am sorry). They mechanically delivered their memorized conversation.
She said that the speaking final was so different than the real life conversations her students had in her beginning level class. Often when her students talked about a situation, the students would laugh or smile (That’s my favorite show, too); they would ask more in-depth questions as they heard an answer that interested them (Why do you like the show?)
One of many possibilities is to move to final like a modified OPI in which someone asks students some general questions and some probing questions. Another possibility is for two students to spontaneously talk about a previously unknown topic or situation.
What does your speaking final show about your real goals for your students speaking in a world language?
http://bit.ly/mlcomcult has many activities that allow students to interact in the language.
At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.