Promoting Conversations by Two Sentences a Day

I used to teach Spanish in a public school but, having retired, I teach it at a community college. I have three fifty minute classes a week. So far I have had nine classes.

My students have learned at least two sentences or questions each day so that they can have a conversation of at least 18 statements/questions.We started out with greetings, introductions, and added more statements or questions each day. Each day we review the whole conversation and add more to it. After we have practiced the conversation with it in a PowerPoint, I turn off the screen and have them say the conversation in pairs. After the greetings and introduction, they can ask and answer the questions in any order. It is amazing to hear them talk for over two minutes without looking at any notes or the book and ask personal questions such as How are you? What are you like (personality)? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you a romantic? What time is your English class? What is the name of your English book? How much does it cost? How is the class? How many students are in the class? Do you like the class?

I teach high frequency questions that can be easily modified. The question are slightly modified from ones that the students have identified as being important for that topic.

How much of a spontaneous conversation do your students have each day?

There are over 40 highly structured speaking activities at http://bitly/ml

Reach ACTFL’s Culture Thru Ethnography & Mobile

First page of my  NECTFL presentation handout:

Good mobile traits

ACTFL’s Culture Standards

ISTE’s Culture Standards

Most students and level of most culture

Facts vs feelings


Levels of Culture


Learning about another culture
Quantify information


Fact, inference or value for a picture

Lima, Perú

Sports Analysis

One picture

Qualify information

Ethnographic questions
Weather and Location
News/TV app

Communicating with another person/people

Video chat projects



90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities ebook with many speaking and cultural activities
45 +Modern Language and Spanish spontaneous speaking activities for beginning students. Game like speaking-

Modern Language in-depth cultural investigation activities (4 activities in one pack)-

Foreign language formative assessment speaking book:

Modern Language Proficiency: Can-Do ebook

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).  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

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 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:

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

Promoting Real Modern Language Speaking in Your Class- 30+ Activities

If our real purpose is in the modern language classroom is student communication skills and specifically, student speaking, what do we do to improve that speaking skill?  When our language students say grammar drills or do oral vocabulary exercises,they are not communicating as defined by ACTFL Proficiency Levels. Have you ever heard a native speaker walk up to another speaker and say a verb conjugation?  Have you ever heard an adult native speaker walk up to another speaker and rattle off a list of nouns? Research shows that speaking is the least developed skill in the modern language classroom and, paradoxically, an extremely critical skill for being in a target language country.

Our students need to progress from orally identifying vocabulary to responding to and creating sentences as they climb the ACTFL Proficiency Levels. They need to interact in the modern language.

There is a wide range of speaking activities that can help the students increase in their speaking  and particularly spontaneous speaking.  Most encounters in authentic language are spontaneous ones.  Students can develop their speaking skill through learning how to substitute words in standard sentences, learning how to ask and answer questions,  answering questions, talking about specific topics, and role playing real situations.

I have created the following activities to develop speaking in the classroom. There are numerous speaking activities for any modern language  and many for Spanish. You can decide on how you want to develop their speaking skill, select any activity, print it out, copy it for the students, and use it immediately in the classroom (95% require no other  preparation). Each activity engages the whole class, small group or partners at the same time so that all students maximize their speaking.  These activities are found at


My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 5 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:

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

Develop Flexible Sentence Learning for Better Modern Language Speaking

Many students deal on the literal level as they learn a modern language. When they learn a sentence, they learn it on a literal level; this sentence means this specific thing.  They see the sentence as a fixed sentence, as one block of solid cement even though the cement has various sections. For example, when  they learn “Where is the school?” they do not realize that they can ask “Where is (the party, house, concert, game, etc”). Even more, they do not realize that they can use various verbs after “Where?” such as  “Where (do you eat, does he practice, do the people go?, etc.”). They are stuck in the literal one cement block of learning the sentence.

“Where is the school?” can be transformed into many modern language sentences; this flexibility opens up the students’ speaking.  Each part of the student becomes a flip book with many different possibilities.  They can change the question word, the verb and the noun.  When students see sentences as flexible  flip books, they discover that they can say many different  things with a few basic sentences or questions.  One sentence widens out to many sentences.  This flexibility contributes to their modern language  fluency.

These steps help develop this flexibility:
1) From each unit or section, pick eight target language critical sentences that have great flexibility.
2)  Underline in each of the first four sentences the part that the students can change.
3) Have the students see how many different modern language sentences they can say by just changing the underlined part of the sentence. They can say them to their partner who counts their variety. Then the partner can say different sentences based on the original sentence. If they make changes to questions, their partners can answer the questions.
4) Give students the other four sentences without any underlined parts and see how well they can transform those sentences into a multitude of meaningful sentences. Have pairs of students compete to see who can make the most different sentences.

I have developed two activities for Spanish  students that develop flexibility with word/phrase substitutions  1) Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences and  2) Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk

How do you help your students to be flexible in their modern language use?

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, shows how easy it is to use mobile learning in the classroom  to develop language communication even when only half the class has mobile devices.  It is available at

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 5 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:

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

Do We Teach Modern Language Survival Skills?

For modern language teachers, an essential question is “What would your students do if they were suddenly transported to the target language area?” This question leads to other questions: “Would they be willing to talk to native speakers?… Would they be able to communicate their basic needs for survival?…Would they be able to communicate personal things to the native speaker and ask the native speaker about personal things?”

A follow up question is “How well do we prepare our students to communicate in the target language?” Do we truly teach them survival skills? An exchange student emailed his mother that he had not learned how to say “Where is the bathroom?” so that was the first thing he looked up on his computer when he got to the target language country.  Another student commented that she wished her teacher had spent more than two minutes on “turn right.. turn left..go straight..two blocks” so that she could follow map directions.

How well can your students communicate their basic survival needs?

My e-book, 90 Mobile Learning Mobile Learning Activities, promotes language communication through fourteen different categories of easy-to-implement  mobile 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:

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