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

Advertisements

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

Equal distribution of questions for world language students

Do world language teachers engage all students equally? Do they have an equitable distribution of questions for all students as indicated in the Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement model? The research shows that teachers consistently call on those students with higher ability more often than students of lower ability. (Teacher Expectations for Student Achievement: TESA and GESA, http://schoolfile.org/index_files/u4/tesa.pdf). Those students who do not get called on as often feel inferior to the other students. Often those of lower ability need as much if not more teacher time as students of higher ability.

Teachers can assess if they do equitable distribution by using a paper or online seating chart. Each time they call on a student, the teachers record a slash for that student. At the end of the class, they can analyze if they did call on all students equally. Teachers may ask a colleague to do this observation as teachers do in the TESA model.

Teachers who want to do equitable distribution can use several techniques. In one technique, they use their seating chart. They may start on the left side from the back to front, go on to the next row from back to front, until they have called on all students. Likewise, teachers can write the students’ names on 3×5 cards, mix up the cards, and then call on students based on the card. The teachers do not call on any student a second time until they have called all students. When the teachers have gone through all the cards once, they mix up the cards and continue to ask students questions.

Teachers can vary the type of questions asked to students: yes-no (Do you eat pizza?); either or (Do you drink soda or water?); factual (When do you eat supper?); or evaluation (Why do you eat at Roberto’s?). Teachers can insure that all students can be successful in answering questions by modifying the type of question.

Although technically not equitable distribution by the teacher, simultaneous pair work ensures that all students get equal opportunities to participate.

How do you guarantee equal distribution of questions to all your world language students?

There are many pair language activities at http://bit.ly/mlcomcult for beginning to advanced students. These activities are for all world languages and specifically for Spanish.

Comprehensible Input’s Impact on World Language Learners

If world language teachers do 70% of the class in the target language, then the students hear the language and the students use the language for 70% of the time. If  those teachers use  comprehensible input through gestures, visuals, etc, then the teachers can increase the class to 90% or 100%  of comprehensible input (ACTFL says teachers should talk 90% in the target language). What impact does changing from 70% to 90% have?

In a comprehensible input based classroom where 90% of the classroom is in the target language, each day students hear  and use 20% more language than in a classroom with 70% language, Each week in less than four total classroom days of 90% input, the students have exceeded the amount of language heard and used  in a 70% classroom. By the end of the week, they will have heard 1.4 days more of the  target language.  Within less than a month of 4 weeks, the 90% comprehensible input teachers will have picked up 1.4 x 4 days or 5.6 days extra.  10 months at 5.6 days = 56 additional days of hearing their world  language.These teachers have actually increased the students learning time without increasing the school year.

Do you increase or decrease your students’ opportunity to hear and use the target language?

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.

World Language Fantastic 40 Minutes: From Translation to Communication

Students are in a world  language class for forty minutes five times a week or  40 minutes x 5 days = 200 minutes; 200 minutes/ 60 minutes in an hour  = 3.33 hours a school week.  These fantastic forty minutes are the only time that the world  language students can listen to their teachers speak the target language and react to the teachers and the only time the students can communicate in the target language and have other students react. During a five day school week of 120 hours (5 day x 24 hours), the students spend only 2.75% of their time in world language class. That extremely small number means that world language teachers have to maximize communication time in the classroom.

How much target language do your students hear during the Fantastic 40?  How much target language do your students speak during the Fantastic 40?  Could someone mistake your modern language class for an English class due to the large amount of English being spoken?

When world language teachers move from translation activities to communication activities, they move closer to the language goal of producing students who can communicate. Instead of having students play a translation game (one students holds up a card with English on one side and Spanish on the other while the partner says the Spanish for the English),  students can say basic sentences. For colors, the students can say the colors of the objects in the class such as “The door is brown.” or they can change it into a question activity such as “The door is brown, right?” or “Is the door brown?”  The teacher provides the sentence structure and then the students create the sentences that their partner answers/responds to. The students use the colors to describe or ask about their class; they communicate basic information. They use the colors for communication instead of for translation games.

How much world language do you use during the Fantastic 40 in you class?  How much do the students use? Do they use words for communication instead of translation?

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

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 the book,  Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment.

 

Enough Meaningful Modern Language Vocabulary to Communicate

Some textbooks provide the students with just a few vocabulary words so the students can practice the grammar point of the unit. For example, the textbook presents the verb “to be” and then provides five places the students can be. However, the students usually want to say a real place that they can be, not the ones that the textbook has selected for them. A textbook needs to offer students many vocabulary words so that the students can select those words that have meaning for them, that help the students to express what they want to say about the topic.  When students engage in meaningful communication, they use words that are important to them.

Students can have active vocabulary, i.e. words that can use  to communicate about themselves, family or friends and passive vocabulary, i.e. words that they can recognize when heard or read. I usually present my students with long lists of vocabulary for a topic and ask them to recognize all the words in the list but to be able to actively use at least six of the words to describe themselves, family or friends. For example, when  I present personal adjectives, they have a long list. I quickly pronounce the words and have them pronounce the words. Then, the students  scan the list to find words that actually do describe themselves, their  father/mother, brother/sister or a close friend. They “study” those words.  They prepare to describe themselves, family and friends. As they listen to other students describe themselves, family or friends, they passively hear many other adjectives.

Students can learn a handful of words that accurately describe themselves, family and friends. On the other hand, when teachers give students a list of thirty or more words for a topic and require the students to actively learn all the words, students often do poorly. Such a long list is not productive nor meaningful to the students.

Do you supply your students with sufficient vocabulary that they can communicate what they want to about the topic, not what the textbook wants them to talk about?

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, http://bit.ly/tsmash

 

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/