Final Modern Language Exams – What real speaking goal?

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.

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Visuals Convey Meaning in World Language

Many methodologies such as Comprehensible Input, Immersion, the Total Physical Response Approach and the Direct Approach urge that teachers uses visual techniques to convey the meaning of a word, phrase or sentence (http://moramodules.com/ALMMethods.htm#The%20Direct%20Approach). By using these techniques teachers and students can be in the world language for 90% of the class (http://www.actfl.org/news/position-statements/use-the-target-language-the-classroom-0). In addition, instead of students going from learning an abstract world language word to an English word, they learn a world language word and see a concrete image for that word’s meaning. Dale’s Cone of Experience indicates that students remember better when they see instead of just hear (http://imagestack.co/52385894-edgar-dales-cone-of-learning.html).

A Sample of visuals:

1) Visuals – pictures, pictures from travels, pictures from the Internet, drawings, chalk talks, maps, timelines, projected images, graphs

2) Realia and props – clothing, food, movie ticket, game ticket, doll house

3) Actions – demonstrations, modeling, manipulatives, gestures (hand gestures, facial expressions, body language)

(Sources: http://mslizethbrown.weebly.com/tangibles.html

How often do you use these visual techniques to help your students better understand meaning in their new world language? How often do your students use visuals to help them express their ideas?

At http://bit.ly/mlcomcult, there are many world language visual stories for students to talk about.

Internet Images for World Language Culture

Some ideas from Beers, Maggie. (2001). A media-based approach to developing ethnographic skills for second language teaching and learning. Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht [Online], 6(2), 26 pp. Available: https://zif.spz.tu-darmstadt.de/jg-06-2/beitrag/beers2.htm

Instructional materials for modern languages were once limited to one-dimensional textbooks which often presented a static, unproblematic representation of the target language culture (Kramsch, 1988, 1989).

Now the Internet can deliver multi-modal texts from the target language culture that include sound, image, text, and video.

These texts, deemed “authentic” because they are intended for native speakers of the target language, are able to present a dynamic, multifaceted view of the target language culture with up-to-the-minute detail and accuracy. “

– Do your students use one-dimensional textbook cultural images or do they see many different images of a place or event?
– Do your students see and hear the culture through images, texts and videos?
– Do you use authentic images?
– Do the images show multifaceted views of the culture?
– Are the images up-to-the-minute?

May the way you use culture help students to see the oneness of the world.

For cultural activities that actively involve students go to http://bit.ly.mlcomcult and look under culture. Also, there are many cultural activities in 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities.