Promoting Conversations by Two Sentences a Day

I used to teach Spanish in a public school but, having retired, I teach it at a community college. I have three fifty minute classes a week. So far I have had nine classes.

My students have learned at least two sentences or questions each day so that they can have a conversation of at least 18 statements/questions.We started out with greetings, introductions, and added more statements or questions each day. Each day we review the whole conversation and add more to it. After we have practiced the conversation with it in a PowerPoint, I turn off the screen and have them say the conversation in pairs. After the greetings and introduction, they can ask and answer the questions in any order. It is amazing to hear them talk for over two minutes without looking at any notes or the book and ask personal questions such as How are you? What are you like (personality)? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you a romantic? What time is your English class? What is the name of your English book? How much does it cost? How is the class? How many students are in the class? Do you like the class?

I teach high frequency questions that can be easily modified. The question are slightly modified from ones that the students have identified as being important for that topic.

How much of a spontaneous conversation do your students have each day?

There are over 40 highly structured speaking activities at http://bitly/ml

Are your world language students conversing now?

A critical question for world language teachers is “Are my students having a conversation in the target language now?” If students are not conversing in the language, then teachers have to ask themselves, “How can I modify what I am doing so that they can converse in the language?” Vocabulary study is not an end to itself and grammar study is not an end to itself. The sooner that teachers move their students from isolated words and isolated grammar into communication, the soon their students will converse. For example, in terms of verbs, as soon as students learn the first person and the second person of a verb they can begin to converse with a question such as “Do you smoke?” and a response such as “No, I do not smoke.” or a question of “Do you cook?” and a response of “Yes I cook.” When world language teachers teach high frequency verbs that students want to ask questions about and answer, then students will want to communicate. Likewise, vocabulary can be incorporated into questions. For example, for location vocabulary, a student might ask, “Which ice cream store is your favorite?” and the partner can respond. When students ask each other meaningful questions about their world, they communicate in the language. Little mini-conversations can build into big conversations. Are your students conversing in the language now?

Some Spanish activities to help your students move are
Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences    Talk about yourself by substituting your information in given sentences.
Spanish Family Indepth Speed Interviews- Partner Talk    Do 4 Family Interviews of 10 questions each Spanish Answering Oral Questions Review 1 – Partner Talk   Answer 10 questions with a time period
Spanish Describing School Classes Spontaneous Speaking – Pairs   Speak about class with structured choices – two levels, 49 terms
Spanish AR Verbs Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking   Answer Oral Questions Review 1 – Partner Talk

Real Life Conversations in World Language, Not Textbook Topic Conversations

World language textbooks do not have real life conversation in any meaningful order. For example, in a college textbook the food unit and the question “How much does it cost?” are in the last chapter covered in the semester. Students wait for over four months to learn the foods and how to say “How much does it cost?”  However, if a person actually went to a world language country that person would have to use food vocabulary and the question “How much does it cost?”  on the first day!  A textbook topic such as “the classroom” is not critical to a real life conversation and yet is is often a very early chapter in many tesxtbooks.  Many textbooks use  topics that do not produce real life common language conversation; these textbooks prevent students from being able to have a realistic conversation with someone outside the classroom.

Do your students learn critical vocabulary for real-life conversations or do they learn vocabulary for classroom based conversations?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).  At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

World Language High Frequency Vocabulary For Student High Use

If world language teachers teach their students high-frequency (or high-use)  words, then the students will be able to communicate sooner and better.  There are lists of  the 100 most common words for any language and teachers can check what vocabulary they teach against this list. They might even look at the bigger 1,000 most common words. If the vocablary does not appear on the list, then probably it is not  worth teaching since the word has such a low level of use. Often thematic units in a textbook present vocabulary that is not high-frequency. For example, students may never use the word “chalk”  or “chalkboard” outside of the classroom but they certain will use words like class vocabulary such as “table” ,  “chair”, and  “wall”.  All of these words are used in many other settings such as “home”, “restaurant”, and  “buildings”.   When world language teachers teach high-frequency words, the students learn words that they would normally use in a conversation.  These high-frequency words are repeated often in normal conversations.

So far in my first Spanish unit, I have covered 35 of the top 100 words. I am replanning my second unit to incoporate more of the top 100 and some of the top 200 words so that my students can communicate in the world language with essential words. I want students to spend their time in learning critical vocabulary.

How high-frequency are the world language vocabulary you teach?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities and 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous students-as-investigators cultural activities(modern language culture).   At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have a book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

 

World Language Fantastic 40 Minutes: From Translation to Communication

Students are in a world  language class for forty minutes five times a week or  40 minutes x 5 days = 200 minutes; 200 minutes/ 60 minutes in an hour  = 3.33 hours a school week.  These fantastic forty minutes are the only time that the world  language students can listen to their teachers speak the target language and react to the teachers and the only time the students can communicate in the target language and have other students react. During a five day school week of 120 hours (5 day x 24 hours), the students spend only 2.75% of their time in world language class. That extremely small number means that world language teachers have to maximize communication time in the classroom.

How much target language do your students hear during the Fantastic 40?  How much target language do your students speak during the Fantastic 40?  Could someone mistake your modern language class for an English class due to the large amount of English being spoken?

When world language teachers move from translation activities to communication activities, they move closer to the language goal of producing students who can communicate. Instead of having students play a translation game (one students holds up a card with English on one side and Spanish on the other while the partner says the Spanish for the English),  students can say basic sentences. For colors, the students can say the colors of the objects in the class such as “The door is brown.” or they can change it into a question activity such as “The door is brown, right?” or “Is the door brown?”  The teacher provides the sentence structure and then the students create the sentences that their partner answers/responds to. The students use the colors to describe or ask about their class; they communicate basic information. They use the colors for communication instead of for translation games.

How much world language do you use during the Fantastic 40 in you class?  How much do the students use? Do they use words for communication instead of translation?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have  5 any language  picture speaking activities; 25+ ready-to-use Spanish structured speaking activities (including 5 Can-Do ones) for beginning students; and numerous Spanish students-as-investigators cultural activities.

At  http://bit.ly/tsmash, I have two ebooks, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies and 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities (mainly speaking and culture).,

At http://bit.ly/tuttlebks, I have the book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

 

Enough Meaningful Modern Language Vocabulary to Communicate

Some textbooks provide the students with just a few vocabulary words so the students can practice the grammar point of the unit. For example, the textbook presents the verb “to be” and then provides five places the students can be. However, the students usually want to say a real place that they can be, not the ones that the textbook has selected for them. A textbook needs to offer students many vocabulary words so that the students can select those words that have meaning for them, that help the students to express what they want to say about the topic.  When students engage in meaningful communication, they use words that are important to them.

Students can have active vocabulary, i.e. words that can use  to communicate about themselves, family or friends and passive vocabulary, i.e. words that they can recognize when heard or read. I usually present my students with long lists of vocabulary for a topic and ask them to recognize all the words in the list but to be able to actively use at least six of the words to describe themselves, family or friends. For example, when  I present personal adjectives, they have a long list. I quickly pronounce the words and have them pronounce the words. Then, the students  scan the list to find words that actually do describe themselves, their  father/mother, brother/sister or a close friend. They “study” those words.  They prepare to describe themselves, family and friends. As they listen to other students describe themselves, family or friends, they passively hear many other adjectives.

Students can learn a handful of words that accurately describe themselves, family and friends. On the other hand, when teachers give students a list of thirty or more words for a topic and require the students to actively learn all the words, students often do poorly. Such a long list is not productive nor meaningful to the students.

Do you supply your students with sufficient vocabulary that they can communicate what they want to about the topic, not what the textbook wants them to talk about?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student’s spontaneous speaking starting with highly structured or scaffolded speaking for beginning students. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other in a formative assessment manner.

My ebook, Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many communicative and cultural activities, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

Communicative or Grammar Textbook Focus: Look at the Grammar

A test of a modern language textbook’s communicative ability is to look at what the book has students do with the grammar after the textbook presentation of the grammar point. For example a Spanish textbook may supply the forms of the verb ser and then give the rules for using ser. The book may give one or two examples of origin such as “I am from Argentina.” Or they make have a sentence or two example to show that ser is used with occupations such as “Sr. Ríos es dentista”. The book may explain ser being used for identification with a sentence such as “It is a backpack.

Does the book provide the modern language students with enough vocabulary to be able to talk about themselves, family or friends using the verb? Does the textbook provide the critical questions that students might ask using that verb? For example, does it provide the students with “Where are you from?” for origin? Do it provide the question “What is this?” so students can ask the question of identifying something? Furthermore, does the book give numerous countries so students can tell what country they, their parents or grandparents are from so they can realistically answer the question? For occupations, does the book provide numerous occupations so the students can say the actual occupation of family and friends? For identification, do the students have a list of classroom objects so when someone says “What is this?” they can respond, “It is a book”? with things they do see in the classroom?

If the textbook does not supply essential questions or realistic answers for the modern language students to apply the grammar to talk about their own lives or the lives of family and friends, then the book’s focus is grammar, not communication.

Does your textbook have a communicative or grammatical focus?

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle,  I have 30+ ready-to-use activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student speaking through highly structured or scaffolded, speaking. Students work in pairs to communicate.

My ebook ,Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies is available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash.  It contain many activities to help students advance through the Can-Do statements with half the activities focusing on interpersonal communication/ speaking.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity.  My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook contains many cultural activities, http://bit.ly/tsmash

My Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment and a general Formative Assessment book are available at http://www.routledge.com/books/search/author/harry_grover_tuttle/