What do modern language tests reveal about speaking?

Modern language students know that tests are important. They know that the tests measure what the teacher considers to be  important.

If students have a unit test that does not include a speaking component, then the students learn that speaking is not important.  If the students have a speaking test, they know that speaking is important. If students have four unit  tests worth 20 points and a speaking test worth ten points, then they discover that speaking is only worth half of what the other tests are worth.

Likewise, if students only have speaking tests at the midterm and at the final, they learn that these tests are not as important as the other tests that they have at the end of each unit. The regularity of the testing adds to its importance to the students.

In addition, the type of speaking test reveals the teachers’ priorities. If students have to memorize some lines of a conversation and repeat those lines, then the teachers’ emphasis is on mechanical or memorized speaking, not the interactive spontaneous communication of real life. In the same manner, if the teachers grade primarily on the grammatical correctness of each utterance, they focus on grammar, not communication.

A suggestion for changing speaking tests is to incorporate speaking “tests” into daily classroom speaking. As students speak with partners, the partners record the number of sentences that they say. After they are done speaking, the partners tell them the number of sentences and suggest other topics that the speakers could have included. For example, a student may describe a family member to his/her partner.

What do your tests reveal about the importance of speaking?

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. Students work in pairs to communicate and they usually assess each other.

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

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 Mobile Activities for Pair or Small Groups

Many modern language teachers do not use mobile learning in their class because they worry that not every student has a mobile device. However, the modern language classroom is a cooperative environment. As long as at least half of the students have a mobile device (and they do according to Pew 2012),  then students can work in pairs. Even if only a third of the students have mobile devices, then students can work in small groups of three.

For example, in pairs or triads, the modern language student who has a mobile device finds a picture of a family member or friend on the mobile device. The other people in his/her group ask questions in the target language about the person in the photo.  When the partner has a turn, that partner looks at a different picture of a person and tells information about the person.The person with the photo confirms or negates the information.

In pairs or traids, world language students can take a series of five pictures that tell a story by using one student’s mobile device.Then, they combine with another group. The other group narrates the first group’s story and the first group adds any other information to the story. Then they switch roles.

Additionally, in their pair or triad, they look at an Internet image search of a city or town in the target language area.They say a sentence in the target language for the first fifteen different pictures. Each sentence proves unique information. Beginning students can say basic sentences  such as “It is tall.”

How do you use mobile devices in your class to promote student speaking?

I have 30+ activities (about 24 for Spanish and 6 for all Modern Language) to develop student speaking at http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle.
The following ebooks are available at http://bit.ly/tsmash

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

 

 

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Reflection on Students’ Modern Language Success Using Can-Do Statements

Although I try to reflect during the semester/ year on what I can do to improve my students’ modern language  success, I find that the end of the semester/year allows me a bigger picture of their success. This semester I gave  the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements to my college beginning Spanish students at the start of the semester. I used a reformatted form which had the Novice Level on one side and the Intermediate on the other. Students checked off what they felt they could do.

During the course, I extended the textbook material  to cover the Can-Do Statements. I modified the tests to include more assessment of these Statements. I gave them the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements at mid-point for their self-assessment.  Many students, especially students who had never taken a language before, were amazed at their progress. They realized that they still had much to learn before they could function in many world situations.

At the end of the semester, I gave out the Can-Do Statements for self-assessment again.  I asked the students to comment on their ending results. All students had mastered at least 85% of the Novice level. They could not do the statements that requirement different tenses since we only cover the present tense in beginning Spanish.  Many could do numerous statements on the Intermediate Level. They were very aware of their language growth in the course. I gave a supplementary speaking final to assess how well their self-assessment was realistic. 95% of the students exceeded my expectations.

The Can-Do Statements provide built-in reflection as to the students’ progress. I have a plan for how to help the students do an even better job of meeting the very real-world Can-Do  Statements. The following ebooks are available at  http://bit.ly/tsmash

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Modern Language Proficiencies: Can-Do Strategies

Making Modern Language Long Vocabulary Lists into Meaningful Communication

Oftentimes a modern language teacher such as Miss Windber has to teach a long list of modern language vocabulary words such as forty food words to her students. Her students have great difficulty in learning forty words at once. She starts by dividing the food list into categories such as fruits, vegetables, meat, etc.

Miss Windberg prepares an important target language question about food for each  group of seven to nine words. As an illustration, she starts off with the question “What would you like to eat?” then she teaches seven to nine of the category words. After her students quickly practice identifying and saying these words, she has her students get into pairs. Each student asks his/her partner   in the modern language the first category question of “What would you like to eat?” four times. The partner replies with a different answer each time using “I would like to eat (the food)” or “I would not like to eat (the food)”. For the next set of seven to nine words, she introduces another food question such as “How is the ….?” and follows the same pattern. The long vocabulary list is broken into the smaller units and every time the students learn or review an important question for the topic. At the end of the vocabulary lesson, not only do they know the forty words but they can ask and answer questions about food in a mini-conversation.

How do you teach long list of vocabulary words?

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 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.

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

Assessing Modern Language Variety of Speaking With Questions in Spontaneous Speaking

This semester before the official final, I had the students, in pairs, have a question and answer conversation about a common topic.  They saw a previously unseen picture based on one of the common topics in our class such as family, school, sports or activities, and restaurant/ eating. Immediately, without any preparation, they began to ask and answer questions about the picture for three minutes. Each pair had a different picture. I used a scoring sheet which had the different question words on it.  I marked down which question words each student used and counted each question and each answer.

The average for my students was 10.5 sentences with 6.3 different question words in three minutes for a previously unseen picture. The two students did twenty one sentences (answers and questions) in that time.  For example, one pair ask six different Spanish question words (How many?  When?  How?  Which?  What? and Where?)  However, this score does not really represent the variety of questions since that group had three different How (¿Cómo?) questions (What is the person like? How is the person’s health? What is his/her name). My students showed that they can ask a variety of questions and answer those questions in spontaneous speaking about a previously unseen picture.

What speaking variety do your students show?

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://bit.ly/tuttlebks

Certificates of Modern Language Speaking

The awarding of badges for successful achievement  of a learning goal has become very popular in education.  I have modified badges into certificates and, specifically, certificates of speaking for my beginning Spanish students.

I design a specific speaking task such as orally answering ten written questions about a previously unseen picture in two minutes. These questions cover very basic questions such as “Where is the person?… How old is the person?..”  The students orally answer each question and their  partners make a slash for each meaningful, appropriate, and comprehensible answer on a score sheet. I do include fourteen questions so that if students cannot figure out how to answer one question, they can skip  it and do another question.  In addition, more advanced students can try to answer all fourteen in two minutes.  When the speaking students have achieved three times of answering the required number of sentences in two minutes,  they  show me their score sheet, sign in on a class list under that certificate, and they receive a certificate.  My certificates are half page certificates and they state the exact speaking achievement such as “orally answered ten written questions about a previously unseen picture in two minutes”.

I tell them that they now have proof of well they are doing in their Spanish speaking for this particular task. They can put the certificate in on their family or dorm fridge, take a picture and email it to friends and relatives, put it on their Facebook page, etc.

I have different certificates for their different speaking tasks.  My students are now working on a family certificate in which they have to say ten different things about a family member. They cannot say the same basic sentence such as “”My father is tall….  My father is strong”; they have to include different verbs or use verbs in different ways.

Many students commented that this is the first time they have ever known how well they do on speaking in the target language  except on a speaking test.

How to acknowledge your students’  achievements in speaking their new  modern language?

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. It can 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