World Language Students’ Perceptions about Class

While world language teachers may have a certain perception of their courses such as that their students are learning to communicate in the language, students may have a very different perception. College students who were in a beginning level Spanish class that did about fifteen percent of each class in student-to-student conversation were asked at the end of the semester for their suggestions on how to redesign the class in any way they wanted.

Their comments reveal their perceptions of the class:
– At the start of each unit, give the students a packet of all the vocabulary and grammar.
– Instead of having students talk with partners, spend more time covering the textbook information.
– Go over the Spanish words and translations at the end of each class.

Even though the students were in a class that devoted much time to conversations, they still perceived the class as a basic vocabulary, grammar and textbook language class. They did not seem to value conversation in the world language.

What perception do your students have about your world language class?

An activity that can help your students move toward focusing more on communicating in the language is Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk    Describe a person using guided supplied vocabulary . A packet of 13 beginning student Spanish activities speaking activities about family and friends http://bit.ly/ssfamilysp

 

 

World Language Teachers Still Ingrained in Grammar Translation

Burke’s “Rituals and Beliefs Ingrained in World Language Pedagogoy: Defining Deep Structure and Conventional Wisdom” explains how grammar-translation is part of the deep structure and conventional wisdom of modern day world language teachers (2011, http://ojs.academypublisher.com/index.php/jltr/article/view/02010112/2479).

Grammar-translation teachers divided language into listening, speaking, reading, and writing; they do not see language as integrated. Culture, if included, is an add-on. Furthermore, English is the predominant language of instruction. The purpose of language instruction is the learning of vocabulary and grammar.

1. Translation

– When teachers introduce a new unit, they distribute word lists or refer students to a textbook page with the words translated.

– Teachers review vocabulary through drill practices and games. The games focus on the discrete meaning of the words. The only context is that they are from the same list.

– Students are to learn a set number of words each unit, Their teachers have the students pratice with the words so that the students can cover the unit, not so the students will be able to communicate with the words.

2. Grammar Practice

– Most teacher assign activities out of textbook or make up grammar activities.

– Teachers ask questions to see if the students know the correct forms; they correct the students.

– Students study the language through translation and verb conjugations.

– Teachers emphasize a sentence-level structure with explicit attention to forms.

– The grammar activities have no personal meaning to the students.

– Attempts to produce communication are absent

3. Non-contextual explicit grammar teaching

– Teachers give explicit instruction on forms and the teacher frequently test the forms through quizzes, online and paper exercises, and tests.

– Teachers usually use English during grammar lessons and students usually ask questions in English.

– Numerous explanations of grammar rules with many exceptions and irregularities are explained in grammatical terms. Students learn many different tenses.

– Teachers have the goal of grammatical mastery for their students. One of the teachers’ primary goals is for the students to use grammar correctly

– Comparisons are made to the structure of English sentences.

Are you a grammar-translation teacher? Or a communicative teacher?

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult  contains many communication activities for beginning to advanced students; they have high structure to help students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.

Polyglot Benny Lewis’ advice on learning languages

Bennie Lewis, the Irish polygot,  speaks over 12 languages. He did not start his language learning until he was 21.

When he was in Spain, he took a language courese and it did not work. He tried Spansih language books and that did not work;he  tried software and DVDs and that did not work; he tried to read a book in Spanish and that did not work. After 6 months living in Spain, he could not speak Spanish. He began to speak it and use it all the time and he became fluent.

He states several reasons for not learning a language and why these are not true

—  Don’t have the words- if learning a Romance language, then 10,000 words from English are similar; figure out how to say things. Think of a word that has a cognate: country to nation (nación) and come in to enter (entrar in Spanish). Use Cognates.  Even in a non Romance language use brand name or technology – coca cola,  ipad.

— Can’t learn the vocabulary. Learn  vocabularythrough association- make it more fun – playa = beach in Spanish ( think of a player walking down a beach).

— Don’t know the grammar. Most of language learning in school is grammar, Grammar is a list of rules, it is not language, Language is a means of communication,  More effective is to embrace speaking and speaking wrongly. Speak with many mistakes a day, 100. Start with Tarzan like speak.People will understand you in broken language. After you can speak, then go back and learn the grammar.

— Will make mistakes. People feel like they’re not allowed to use the language, to speak it, unless every conjugation is perfect, every pronunciation is right, they know a thousand words, or whatever it is. They feel they need to know it perfect, and that is a mistake because a language is not like geography or history, a list of facts that you need to cram into your brain. It’s a means of communication, so you can’t study it for five years and then suddenly be able to speak it. You have to be speaking it throughout the entire process. It is a mistake to not be okay with making mistakes.

— Will frustrate the listener. It does not work like that. Frustration over not speaking language is the greater frustration. All over the world people are over joyed that you are speaking their language, they encourage you even though your grammar is bad.

Live the language, it is not locking yourself away with a dusty old grammar book, It is about getting out there and using the language..

Summarized from the following sites:

TEDxSanAntonio – Benny Lewis – Fluent in Three Months – Rapid Language Hacking  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZqUeWshwMs

Benny encouraging language learners on RTE’s The Saturday Night Show  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQFb9_FPPBM

5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot  http://blog.vocapp.com/5-brilliant-language-learning-tips-from-benny-lewis-the-irish-polyglot,140/

Benny Lewis’website  https://fi3mplus.com/premium-3/?_ga=1.261621704.438442521.1440099707

How does your class encourage language learners to communicate in their world language?

Many activities to get your students actively using the language in beginning levels at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult and a list of mobile speaking activities at http://bit.ly/90mlact

Create a modern language final using Can-Do Statements

At this time of the year many college  modern language teachers are preparing their students for finals. Some finals test the textbook while others test certain language skills.

Many modern language finals reveal very little about the actual proficiency of the students. The final in one school district or college probably differs in content from the final in another school district and from state to state. Such finals may not represent language proficiency but represent translation skills, discrete vocabulary learning, discrete non-contextual grammar learning at a low level and random cultural facts. Modern language teachers benefit from a national standard to use so they can truly evaluate their students’ proficiency against other students’ proficiencies.The NCSSFL-ACTFLCan-Do statements serve such a purpose.

When teachers compare their finals to the Can-Do statements for their level, they may discover that they are testing on items that ACTFL says students should not be proficient in. For example, a beginning college class may have a  past tense, the preterite, questions on the final. Students in a beginning level may only reach Novice High and talking in various time frames does not show up until Intermediate High; therefore, students cannot be tested on the preterite. On the other hand, students may be tested at a lower level than ACTFL states. When students read in the target language, they are expected to respond in the target language. ACTFL does not include “translate into English” in any of the reading Can-Do statements.

Also, teachers may find that their final does not focus on language functions as NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements do.  A Can-Do based final represents real-life language use, not isolated discrete statements. The final reflects the various language functions for that proficiency level. For example, at the Novice Mid level, can students describe their family and friends? At the Novice High, can students complete map directions based on an actual map?

Does your modern language final show what your students Can-Do according to NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements?  Or is it a grammar-vocabulary tests of discrete items?

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 for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

 

Unrealistic Expectation for Students’ Grammatical Perfection in Modern Language

In addition to teaching college Spanish, I also teach a college English course, Writing Essays Through Literature.  My literature is all Hispanic-translated literature. My English students are native USA citizens.  They have lived in an English-speaking environment all their lives.  They have gone through twelve years of school in which all their classes were conducted in English. They have had twelve years of English classes. My students are at least 18 years old.  However, they still make many English grammar mistakes in their writing such  as subject -verb agreement,  sentences without verbs, incorrect past tense forms, pronoun errors, etc.

Based on my English teaching experience with native English speakers and their mistakes in their native language, I realize that  we modern language teachers cannot expect our students in the modern language to be grammatically perfect no matter what their level.  Even four years of a language course is not equivalent to eighteen years in the native language!

We can change our focus from grammar perfection to communicating various language functions. Knowing how much something costs is much more important to daily communication  than knowing the present progressive irregulars verbs. Being able to ask directions is more essential language skill than knowing each stem changing verb. Let’s ask ourselves “What are the most critical language communication functions to survive and communicate in the language?” and then change our class time from a major focus on grammar  perfection to a major focus on  language functions as indicated in the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements

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 for students to don on their smartphone or tablet, 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/

Beginning of Year Modern Language Review for Upper Levels

Many modern language teachers start off the school year with a review for their Level 2, 3, 4 and 5 students . Usually, these teachers have the students review grammar or vocabulary. Often, the  teachers focus on the subgoal of learning vocabulary and grammar but not on the big goal of improving oral communication;  the teachers can begin the year with a review of oral communication. ACTFL Proficiencies and, particularly, the Can-Do Proficiency Statements focus on communication, not discrete grammar or vocabulary.   For example, modern language teachers can have their students work in pairs. One student in the group asks a common topic from a communication card. such as home, school, leisure time activities, food, etc. The partner answers the question and the asking student verifies that the answer is close to the written most likely answer.  When the teacher has the students review the communication cards, the students are also reviewing vocabulary and grammar but they are reviewing vocabulary and grammar in context of meaningful communication.

Another activity involves the students looking at a picture for a common topic such as home, school, leisure time activities, food, etc . The students either ask questions about the picture that their partners answer or they  role play two people in the picture.

In addition, as students who are involved in the communication activities mark down how many sentences their partner says or asks and their partners write the same thing for them. In this way the students are also reviewing their fluency to see if they’re at the same high level of fluency that they were at the end of the last year. They set their base line for improvement for this year.

Students want to find out about each other and they like to ask questions about interesting target language pictures; such communication activities allow them to do that. Students like to compete against their own fluency scores.  Students often become bored by doing  isolated non-contextual grammar or vocabulary review activities.

At http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle, I have 30+ 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.  Also, there are four modern language culture inquiry activities and one Spanish culture inquiry activity at  the same location.

Two ebooks, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities and Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies, are available at 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/

 

Modern Language Proficiency – What does it mean?

What does proficiency mean in the modern language classroom? Proficiencies are defined either by the state curriculum such as the NYS checkpoint A, B, or C or by the ACTFL proficiency standards / NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements.

Proficiencies do not refer to individual  activities such as  translating a word from English to the modern language nor doing a verb conjugation. A proficiency is not identifying the forms of a verb. A proficiency is not saying the names of  the family members in the modern language from a list of English words.  A proficiency is not pronouncing places. The ACTFL Can-Do statements do have a Grammar proficiency section. Grammar is integrated in meaningful ways such as Interpersonal Communication  Intermediate High- I can participate with ease and confidence in conversations on familiar topics..in various time frames.”

Proficiency refer to the student’s ability to communicate such as speaking  at the Interpersonal Communication Novice Mid level – “I can communicate basic information about myself and the people I know”  as the student says “something about the members of my family  and ask about someone’s family”. When students demonstrate this communication, they have shown a specific speaking proficiency. With the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, students can see their achievements as they accomplish more  proficiencies. Since the Can-Do statements divide up the big level of Novice into three subcategories and each subcategory has numerous proficiencies, students can see progress as they go from Novice Low to Novice Mid to Novice High.

For our students to be proficient in the modern language, we will want to quickly move them from the low subskills of vocabulary and grammar to the proficiencies of language for communication. The more we have them use the modern language for real life purposes, the more proficient they become.

What do you mean by proficiency?

By early May, my book, tentatively titled,  Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do Strategies will be published at Smashwords. It contains many strategies for developing  Can-Do proficiencies for speaking,  listening, reading and writing;it also has  sections on vocabulary, textbook and mobile; the major emphasis is on speaking. Each strategy contains a Can-Do statement and a sample activity.

To help your beginning and more advanced students move toward spontaneous speaking which students need as they climb the Can-Do statements. 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 NCSSFL-ACTFL 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

Modern Language Communication vs Grammar Focus: What is Your Focus?

Imagine walking up to a target language  speaker and saying “I talk, you talk, he/she/it talks, we talk, they talk”.  The native speaker would look at you weirdly since you are not communicating. You are reciting grammar.

Furthermore, imagine a native speaker listening to a  person who says , “Yesterday I to buy in store”.  The native speaker would hesitate a little but still understand the person.  However, if the person said, “Yesterday I swam in the store”, the native speaker would have no idea of what the person was trying to say even though the sentence is grammatically correct.

How do you know if you are focusing on grammar instead of on the communication of ideas?

1) A grammar based class  focuses on correctness, not on communicating ideas.  “Did you buy candy yesterday?  Yes, I bought candy yesterday.” has a grammar focus if the teacher  concentrates on the correct form of the past tense of the verb. If the teacher does not want to know more about the candy, then it is probably a grammar exercise.

2) In a grammar based or vocabulary based class, students do not comment or respond to the meaning of statements made by other students.  Communication is an interactive   exchange of ideas. John says, “I like to swim  I do not like to walk.” and  his partner, Jane,  waits her turn to say her two sentences using this specific verb structure.  Jane is not responding to John. She simply waits to talk regardless of what he said. In true communication, John’s partner, Jane would respond to  “I like to swim” with something like “Me, too” or “Where do you swim?” She listens and responds directly to her partner’s statements. She inquires. She interacts with John. She does not just exchange grammar based sentences that have no personal meaning to either speaker.

3) In a grammar based class, more of the textbook pages deal with grammar than anything else. Most of the  class exercises center on grammar.  Most of the workbook or electronic exercises concentrate on grammar. The teacher spends most of the class time in  practicing the grammar.  A teacher can time him/herself during a class to see where he/she spends most of his/her time by writing down each classroom activity and how long each takes.  At the end of class, the teacher totals  the different categories of classroom activities and divides by the total minutes of class.

4) In a grammar based class, the teacher’s main corrections are grammar based, not on how to communicate better.  A grammar based  teacher spends very little time on teaching common responses such as “Me too…Me, neither,  I do not agree” and does not correct students when they do not use these expressions.  The  communicative teacher does spend much time on specifically teaching language functions such as words or phrases for elaboration, inquiry, persuasion and constantly helps students to use these expressions. The teacher’s corrections center on meaning.

5) In a grammar based class, most student responses are short one sentence responses that show the correct verb form.. Or the students say a series of unrelated sentences that use the particular verb form.  In a communicative class, students often elaborate on their responses using multiple sentences.  “Yes, I bought candy. I really like chocolate because it is so sweet. I usually buy five candy bars and I share one with my father.” Each sentence adds more information to the original personal  idea.

6) In a grammar based class, students mainly respond to a specific question or statement. Their speaking is very structured and very controlled.   In a communicative classroom, students spontaneously speak and they can go from topic to topic. Students may start to talk about school, then they talk about the school’s sport team, next they move on to a sports game on TV.  Their conversations resemble a natural conversation with all of its twists.

Is your classroom grammar or communication based?

If you would like to see some communicative activities, I have some available at TeachersPayTeachers http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle (see below).

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 communication activities in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices. It can be downloaded as a pdf.

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

Transform modern language classroom activities into spontaneous speaking

Transform grammar or vocabulary recognition activities into spontaneous speaking ones so students can speak the language

Do Find Someone Who + Add a Question and add an alternative answer

Basic picture: vocabulary →  Say what is the Same/Different;   say  actions

Modify/ Substitute Basic Sentences – Substitute in your own words for critical word

Use variety – Students say different verbs

Scaffolded conversation  – Speaking Mats,  Columns

Extend Speaking  How many consecutive sentences do they say?  Use dice.

Role Play for people in pictures  speak with the emotions that that people would

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (29+) 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