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

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Analyzing a Modern Language Textbook for Authentic Communication

Recently I analyzed a textbook for its communication value. Of the 25 activities in one chapter, there were 17 textbook only activities.  A textbook activity deals what is in the textbook such as questions about a picture.   For example, the book showed a tv schedule and asked students about the schedule.  There were  8 activities that encouraged students to talk about their lives .  Each of the 8 activities followed a strict formula in which students substituted in their answer for the given one.   What did your father eat yesterday? He  ate …….  What did  your mother eat?…  Only one activity was longer than 5 lines. The students do answer  questions but they do not react. None of the activities lead to a  free flowing conversation  in which students honestly reacted to each other. None of the personal activities lead to  a  full conversation.

Some questions to ask about your textbook:

1 How many of the exercises are personal ones in which students tell about their lives?

2 Can students tell many things about themselves or does this exercise really focus on practicing a  specific grammar /vocabulary point?  For example, I get up at six. I eat at 7, I lunch at 12.  People really  do not talk that way unless they are recounting their day and then they would add in more details.

3 How long of a conversation does the book encourage?  Do the students say a 8+ line conversation?

4 What part of the conversation is spontaneous and free flowing as opposed to strictly following the formula/questions?

5 Do the students’ statements and questions follow the logical fashion they would in a real conversation ? Or does it twist, in an unnatural way, to present a grammar point/ vocabulary term?

6  Would a target language speaker actually say this conversation?

Let’s help students to communicate not “grammarate”.

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  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 drawing from 2-4 people) and 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

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Copied from my other  blog http://wp.me/p262R-K8

Possible Speaking Type Activities To Move Toward Spontaneous Speaking

Welcome to this blog to provide world language / modern language / foreign language teachers with strategies to help their students improve in their communication.

There is a huge gap between  the world language / modern language / foreign language teachers’ desire for their students to speak (converse) in the language and the students’ actual ability to converse  in the language.  I have created numerous activities that help to move the students through scaffolded output to spontaneous speaking. Equally importantly, these activities allow the students to communicate what they want to communicate, not just memorized dialogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics),  and Grammar speaking games. Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

 

Greetings Using Flickr Images

Welcome to this blog to provide world language / modern language / foreign language teachers with strategies to help their students improve in their communication.

Free Flickr Images for common vocabulary collected by my students Blog, http://wp.me/p262R-De, for full info. 1) Go to http://www.flickr.com, 2) click on the word Search, 3) click on Tags only, on the right side of the search box, 3) then enter spancon +(casa, clima, comida, deporte, descripcion, la hora, naturaleza, numeros, or trabajo (no accent marks)- see the blog for  the listing such as spancon +comida. No words, just pictures. Can be used in any language for quick vocabulary review using real objects and for speaking in short sentences. Click on Slideshow in upper right for pictures to show the pictures quickly or to click on certain pictures.

Sample from spancon casa (house)

Three  of many activities:
– Have students identify the room
– Have  students describe the room
– Have students tell how the room is same as /different from their own room

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics),  and Grammar speaking games. Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle