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

Increasing Students’ Speaking in Modern Language Classroom Through Paired Speaking

Students need language input as they start out in the language. A major goal of the modern language classroom is for students to speak (Krashen’s comprehensible output or Swain’s students learn to talk by talking), therefore, students need to talk more. However, they can only speak more when the teacher speaks less. The more the modern language teacher talks, the less opportunity the students have to speak.

Furthermore, the more foreign language students speak in pairs, the more they speak. If students only talk when the teacher calls on them, then they get to speak every 26th time (if there are 26 students in the classroom). On the other hand, if the modern language  teacher has the students work in pairs, virtually all students are talking at the same time. Some quick math will reveal the efficiency of pair work.  If the teacher has each of 26 foreign language students speak individually for one minute, it takes 26 minutes or 52% of  a 50 minute class period.  If the teacher has students speak in pairs, then 26 students can each speak for one minute for a total of   two minutes or 4% of the class.

The listing shows some spontaneous speaking activities that I have developed for paired speaking. They are available at http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle
TuttleSponSpeakingActivitiesListFeb103

My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at http://is.gd/tbook

Students Paired Oral Testing Better Than With Examiner Modern Language

Based on Brooks, L. (2009). “Interacting in pairs in a test of oral proficiency; co-constructing a better performance”. Language Testing 26(3): 341-366.

Brooks’  research shows that students who are tested in pairs outperform students who are tested one-on-one with the examiner.  In addition, the students’ interactions were more complex and revealed that students co-constructed a more linguistically demanding performance. In addition, when students worked in pairs, they more closely resembled the oral interactions typical of a real conversation.  In paired testing students demonstrated a wider range of interactions (17) to the individual format (10).   The paired students mostly commonly had these interactions: seeking confirmation, asking a question, asking for agreement, clarification requests, and prompting elaboration, finishing sentences, and referring to partner’s ideas.  Over half of all interactions in the one-on-one with the examiner was asking a question.

As Modern Language teachers, we will want to encourage oral communication in the classroom.  We can have our students do more oral work in pairs.  We can structure students speaking  from very basic conversations up to free-flowing spontaneous conversations about common topics. Our scaffolding will allow our Second Language students to have more complex and personally meaningful conversations.

Most of the  Spanish activities I have developed are for pairs. A few of them are

-Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences    (Partners substitute in their own answers to tell about themselves

Spanish Conversation Questions Spontaneous Speaking Partners  (Partners ask basic questions and then variations on those questions)
Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk   (Each partner talks about a family member using possible words)

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  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

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

This blog appeared at my EduwithTech blog http://wp.me/p262R-JL  before I started this blog.