Increase World Language Comprehensible Input through Gestures

World language teachers want to immerse their students in the target language. One technique to keep the class in the target language is through gestures that indicate the meaning of a word or sentence. As the teacher introduces a new word, he/she does a gesture to help the students understand the meaning of the world. A good gesture makes the meaning clear to the students and helps students to remember the word  since the gesture visualizes the meaning.  For example, one sign for “separated” as in
“My father and mother are separated” is both hands in fists with the knuckles touching, lift up the thumbs and quickly spread the hands apart ; students understand “separated” instantly.  Likewise, as a teacher tells a story and comes upon a new word, the teacher gestures the meaning of the world.  Additionally, as students talk in the language, they may not remember a world and the teacher can do the gesture to help them remember the word.  Gestures can help clarify grammar such as when the teacher does a flip of the hair to indicate a feminine ending after the student uses an incorrect masculine ending.  Gestures help the class stay in the target language.

The teacher has several options for gestures:
1) Create his/ her own gestures to convey the meaning of words or sentences.
2) Use the gestures from a program such as the  Accelerated Integatived Method (AIM)
3) Use TPR gestures
4) Use ASL (American Sign Language) signs such as from the Signing Savvy webiste.
5) Use sign gestures from the target language country by searching for “sign dictionary online” +country such as this one for Spanish teachers  from Ecuador 

How do you use gestures to help your students have more comprehensible input in the  class?

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

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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.

 

Minimize Transitions to Gain 5 weeks of Modern Language Learning

One of the ways to save time in the modern language classroom is to minimize the  transition time between activities. If a teacher does five activities during the class and there is a minute transition between each activity, then the teacher has lost five minutes per class. Five classes a week times five minutes per class is twenty five minutes lost each week. Twenty five minutes per week times forty weeks of school  equals 1,000 minutes; 1,000 minutes divided by forty minutes (a class) is 25 classes or five weeks of school!

Transition time may be lost in the classroom due to the teacher having to hand out material, rearrange the room, collect materials back  or the students having to regroup themselves, get material from their notebook,  or move to a different location. For example, the teacher may have to give each student a  card before the students can do an activity. The students may have to  get up and go to the section of the room that represents their group number.

Teachers can minimize transition time.  When students enter the classroom, they go to the desk nearest the door and pick up a card that they will need for a classroom activity. The teacher makes the  card activity one of the first activities they do and  when the students leave they return the card to the desk. Likewise, students may be in the same group for multiple days to avoid the time in regrouping students each day.  In a similar manner, a teacher may have groups and their locations listed on a PowerPoint screen as the students enter the class. In addition, instead of students moving from one location to another many times during the class, they can stay at one location and progress from a vocabulary activity to a sentence creation activity at that location. Futhermore, the teacher can have a packet for each student with all the various materials for the day.The teacher spends time before the class in preparing these packets but then the students quickly move from one activity to another by going through the packet. As they finish the activity, they move the material for that activity to the bottom of the packet. At the end of class, they hand in the packets as they leave the class.

Modern language teachers can increase the amount of learning time by minimizing the transition time in the modern language classroom.

How much time do you spend in transition time?

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 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

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

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

How to show student achievement (SLO) in Modern Language class for Teacher Evaluation

With the new teacher observation system, modern language teachers have to be able to show student gain from a pre-test to a post-test (student learning outcomes or SLOs) Although many teachers have opted to use a grammar point such as the future tense as their performance measure, I would suggest that having a speaking goal is much more impressive.

For example, a teacher could state that as a result of studying the vocabulary and grammar of the school unit, students will be able to say ten sentences about school. For a pre-test students talk to their partner who records the number of sentences said about school at the beginning of the unit. Most students will say no sentences or they may be able to make up one or two. The teacher collects these partner sheets and transfers them to her official sheet or puts them directly into a spreadsheet.

After studying the unit, the students can easily say ten random sentences to  explain what they do in the class such as “I study.  I do my homework. I work alot.  I write. I have three pens. I work with a classmate.  I talk in Spanish. I look at pictures.  My Spanish book is big. My teacher teaches.”   Again, they can tell these sentences to their partner who counts the sentences and records the number. The teacher collects these partner sheets and records them on her official sheet to show the dramatic increase in sentences said.

She puts the numbers  in a spreadsheet to get both individual and class achievement. She  produces a chart that shows the very low scores in the beginning speaking  and the very high speaking scores at the end.

Administrators who see the results will be doubly satisfied. Not only has the teacher shown improvement in his/ her students’ academic growth but he/she has had them speak which is what many administrators see as the main goal of modern language study. They see this as a worthwhile performance goal.

How will you show student growth in your modern language class?

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

Different types of Modern Language Apps and Questions

At my sister  technology blog, I posted a blog about the various types of modern language apps.  My greatest fear about mobile learning  is that we will turn mobile learning devices into drill and kill machines instead of using them to engage the student in communicating and  reacting to culturally authentic material.
If you do use mobile learning, which different apps do you use? How does each help your students to communicate better?  Do your students spend more time communicating in the target language when using mobile learning  or in creating something that has very little actual communication? Do your apps involve your students in the current culture of the language area?

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 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