Why Not Accept ACTFL Can-DO Proficiencies as Your Department Proficiency?

As I talk to many world languages teachers and department chairs, I am amazed at how few have actually accepted the ACTFL Can-Do as the school district world language proficiencies. I think that there are numerous reasons. They …

– Do not know about the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies. I have trouble with this reason since professional publications and conferences constantly refer to the Can- Do proficiencies. ACTFL has them listed on their web page.

– Do not understand the Can-Do proficiencies. The Can-Do proficiencies are written for students to understand. Unlike some some of the previous ACTFL standards, these standards are very easy to understand.

– Feel that the present district department proficiency standards are superior to the ACTFL standards. Often the same people that feel that their standards are superior cannot specify what their standards are. They refer to the existing syllabus, curriculum, or even textbook as their standards. They often cannot specify what students will be able to do in the language at the end of the first year except for grammar tenses.

– Do not want to be help accountable for meeting the ACTFL standards.When a district adopts the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies, they become part of a national and international world language curriculum. Their results can be compared year after year and be compared to other districts.

– Do not want to change the syllabus, textbook, classroom instruction and tests to meet the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies. Yes, if a district accepts the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies, then it has to figure out how to help their students to achieve the various levels.

– Do not really believe that world language is about being proficient in speaking, reading, writing, etc. They believe that the biggest factor in defining how good the students are in the language is the how well and how many verb tenses the students know. In their minds, conjugation is king.
Why has your world language department not accepted the ACTFL Can-Do proficiencies?
A few online activities that your students can use to begin to meet the ACTFL standards.
Spanish Speaking Food Cooperative Learning Can-Do Whole Class    Answer questions about food – Can Do
Spanish Speaking What I Do (Can-Do Statements)    Answer Can-Do based questions

Spanish Speaking: City Mat Can-Do Novice Mid and High   Talk about city using categorized word lists Can-DO

World Language Role Playing With a Photo

Steven Smith describes the role playing oral testing which is one of the three parts of the oral testing for the GCSE (General Certification of Secondary Education) in the UK. He describes the activity in which a student asks questions and answers questions.The questions are based on common topics/themes. The same situation can be used at all levels of the language but the language sophistication increases. This type of testing eliminates pre-learned conversations/ presentations.

Steve writes the following:
Instructions to candidates 
Your teacher will play the part of your French friend and will speak first.
You should address your friend as tu.
When you see this – ! – you will have to respond to something you have not prepared.
When you see this – ? – you will have to ask a question.

Tu parles de ton collège avec ton ami(e) français(e). 
• Ton collège – description (deux détails).
• ! Sciences –ton opinion et une raison.
• Projet – septembre (un détail).
• ? Matière favorite.

I have done a variation on this activities for many years. Each group of two students sees a photo (projected via PowerPoint) that they have never seen. They role play the situation such as a party, a family at a restaurant, two friends at a sports event,or students in class. One student picks a person in the picture and his/her partner picks another person in the picture. Each student has to ask and answer questions or react about the situation or problem; the goal is a total of ten (different questions + answers/reactions) for each student in three minutes; students need to have a fairly equal number of questions and answers/ reactions. To be counted each answer has to be comprehensible and appropriate.

Since I do this activity in pairs during class time, all my students speak at the same time. They record the number of questions and statements by writing a question mark (?) for each question asked and writing a slash (/ ) for each said response or reaction. They try to improve their score each speaking time.

During the actual testing, I listen to a pair of students. I find that when students talk to each other, their speaking is more natural, they ask critical questions, and they give authentic responses. They usually pick a topic and talk in depth about it. Sometimes they do one topic and go to a related one such as this restaurant food to food at a birthday party).

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult  contains many communication activities for beginning to  advanced students; the activities have high structure to help students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.
90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities contains many speaking activities
for beginning students. Students enjoy using their mobile devices as a basis for

World Language: Going from Learning About to Communicating With People

A previous blog , briefly described three levels of culture.  This blog expands on the critical difference between the first two levels.

The first level, learning about another country/culture, most often involves learning the facts about the country such as its currency, location, famous landmarks, etc. According to the Iceberg concept of culture, this level contains the mostly easily recognized things in the culture. This level can be devoid of seeing people of the country; the pictures usually focus more on famous monuments, mountain ranges, etc. Also, this level contains a very low emotional response. Students do not end up feeling more positive about the country/culture after learning the facts about the country such the population, the name of the capital, etc. Furthermore, the country view usually comes from an outsider’s view of the country. Often, the teacher or a web-site of someone who visited the country provides the information. Equally important, culture is seen as isolated pieces of information such as learning about the flag, then the currency, etc.

The second level of communicating with a person or persons from the country changes many aspects. Students actually interact with a person or people from the culture. Although students can do email and tweet exchanges, the most common form of communicating is a video chat. The students see what the people of another country look like, what they wear, what they drink,  where they study, etc. The students move from media stereotypes to contact with actual people of that culture. This level helps students to feel more positive about the people of the other culture. For example, when students do a “My Class/ Your Class” video conference, the students see many similarities between the two countries. Likewise, the students hear information from people who realistically know about the culture; the people from that country have an insider’s view. Students from another country can tell their  Saturday activities. In addition, the native speakers integrate aspects of culture; for example, they combine foods with family traditions.

At what level of culture are your students?

There are many cultural activities in the eboook 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities. For cultural activities that actively involve world language students go to http://bit.ly.mlcomcult and look under culture.

40 Minutes: How much modern language learning?

Each of us have a class period with our students each day.  How much of those forty minutes contributes to  language learning?  To make the most of the forty minutes, we need to be effective and efficient in our class.

How much time do we need to spend on any particular concept before the students learn it? If we have  taught the meanings of adjectives through showing students the colors and showing them the target language word for each, how much practice do they need before they solidify the meaning of the color?  As we say the color, they  point to anything that color in the classroom (one minute). As we point to things in the room, they say the colors (one minute).  As their partners point to things in the classroom, they say the color (one minute). As they point to things, their partner says the color word (one minute).  After those four minutes of practicing with those words, we move on to having the students communicate using those colors; they ask their partner (Do you have a red pen?  Do you have a brown backpack?  Is the door brown?  Is the wall red?) for about two minutes and their partners answer; then they answer for their partners’ questions for two minutes. We have had the students review the colors in several different ways. We have spent about eight minutes on colors in the class.

The goal is always to quickly move from pure vocabulary to using the words in meaningful sentences. The most time with any vocabulary item should be in communicating ideas. How much time do you spend in vocabulary identification/translation as opposed to the students using the vocabulary in sentences or questions?
However, we might decide to turn this into a vocabulary game. We give each student  a vocabulary card with the color written in the target language on one side and the English on the other. Each student has to go to another student and say the modern language color word for the English written  color. They do this until they have interacted with all the other  students.  By the time we give each student a card, explain what  to, have them play the game, and collect the cards we may have spent eight minutes.

As a follow up, we get students into teams, we say a color in English and they race up to the board to write the color in the modern language before the other team. We do this for eight minutes.

Let’s compare the two ways of learning colors. In the second way, the students have practiced identifying colors in one way. They have only focused on color  word translation. The activities have taken sixteen minutes. However, in the first activity, they have learned the color words in context and used the color words in questions and answers.These first activities have taken eight minutes. They take half the time of the second activities and produce meaningful communication. Which of the two  is an effective and efficient way of learning color words?  How can you double your classroom time by being effective and efficient in your class?

How do you effectively and efficiently help students learn to communicate when you teach vocabulary?

To help your beginning and more advanced students move toward spontaneous speaking, I have developed 5 Visual activities/games  for any modern language (no words) and have developed 28 Spanish activities for students.  I am developing activities based on the Can-Do Statements. Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.You can instantly use these many communication and cultural activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices. It can be downloaded as a pdf.

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at  http://bit.ly/tuttlebks

ACTFL Survival Spanish: How to Get There?

Modern language teachers want their students to get to the survival level in which the students can do everyday tasks  in the target language such as to order a meal,  find out a bus’ arrival time, and tell a doctor about a pain. These survival tasks can be categorized by their language function such as  to order, to ask about, and  to tell about.  They can also be categorized by their topic (food, transportation and medical). This level represent ACTFL’s Intermediate level.

Which survival skills do our students have after a year? Can they tell personal identification information?  According to New York State Languages Other than English Check Point A  students  should be able to give the following personal identification for these categories  (Biographical – age, nationality, address, phone number, occupation, place of birth; Physical – height, weight, body description, hair color; and Psychological – character, personality, likes and dislikes, and interests)

It is not enough that our student cover the book’s chapters with these survival topics; our goal is for the students to be able to communicate on these topics.  I  believe that short communication exercises are the key. I like to use a variation of speed dating where students form two rows facing each other. Each student receives a card with a common question about one of the survival skills. He/She asks his / her partner the question.  The asking student listens to the answer and compares it to the sample written answer on the card. The asking student can help the answering student if he/she cannot answer the question.Then the students switch the role with the other student asking a question. The process continues. The teacher indicates when the student in the left  row move up one  person so that they have a new partner. They start asking their question.

I have several of these activities for Spanish such as Spanish Leisure -Sports Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking,   and Spanish AR Verbs Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking and Spanish Questions Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking

So how do you involve your students in developing their survival language skills?

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.You can instantly use these many activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices

I have developed 5 Visual activities/games  for any modern language (no words) and have developed 27 Spanish activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook

Photos Provide Context in Modern Language Speaking

When native speakers have a conversation, they use context. They talk about what they see and experience or have seen or experienced.  Visuals supply our students with a context to improve their speaking. Visuals such as photographs provide a scaffolded structured technique to talk about common topics.

One way for teachers to obtain photos is to search Flickr (flickr.com) in the target language with the topic and the country such as the  ”casa venezuela”.

When teachers do a house unit, teachers can have their students talk about the rooms in a  house that they see projected on the screen or that they have taken on their cell phones.  The vague “Talk about a kitchen” does not have any meaningful context to the students but “How does this (projected) kitchen compare to your kitchen?” has a very meaningful and concrete context.  Students can use all the visual clues to help them talk more. Students can see what is in the projected kitchen, go through the kitchen item by item, and say many comparisons.

Photos allow students to get engaged in a situation.  As students exam the people, their activities, the objects, and the location in a photo, they explain what is happening. The teachers ask their students to explain,  in detail, to their partners in the modern language,  “Will you stay at the party or leave?  Why?” as they look at a party photo from the target language area. Students can give many reasons in the modern language to support their opinion.

Projected images from sources like Flickr have the additional advantage of being culturally authentic. For example, as students do the house speaking, they are looking at an actual  house in the target language country.

How do you put your students into meaningful contexts for speaking through photos?

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 4 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook

Improving Students’ Modern Language Skills Through Mobile Learning

Recently, I was honored to have a chapter, “Improving Students’ Modern Language Skills through Mobile Learning” published in the Handbook of Mobile Learning. The Handbook covers these major categories: Foundations and Future: Learning and Learning Support; Teaching and Instructional Design; Policies, Administration and Management; and Cases and Perspectives.  While most of the 53 chapters have a review of the literature or are a research study, I selected a different approach. My article suggests a wide variety of  classroom mobile activities  to improve students’ modern language speaking. I focus on speaking since the essence of language learning is to be able to speak the language. I believe that often teachers do not use a new technology such as mobile learning since they cannot envision how the technology will help their students.

After doing that chapter, I expanded my activities into an e-book, 90 Mobile Learning Mobile Learning Activities.

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