Some Modern Language Student Speaking Questions to Ponder

As we start the new school year, we might want to ponder these questions about our students’ modern language speaking.

Will  my students study the modern language or use the modern  language more?  Even beginning level students can have conversations if we structure class.

Who needs more practice in speaking the target language – me or my students? If my students, then, how do I have them practice the language more in the classroom?

If I want my students to converse in the modern language, how do I help them develop good skills in asking and answering questions?

How can I move from a tennis classroom in which I serve a question or sentence to one student at a time to a soccer classroom in which all students participate at the same time so that students can speak more in the classroom?

For how many minutes each classroom will my students converse? How many sentences do I want my students to use in their  conversation? Four, six, eight, ten sentences or more at a time?  How will I help to increase in the amount that they can say during a conversation?

How will I help my students to go from memorizing sentences to spontaneously modifying memorized sentences to create their own personal meaning sentences?

How fluent (in terms of sentences per minute) do I want my students to be in spontaneous speaking?  How do I structure my lessons for them to increase in their fluency?

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My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact. It has many activities that you can use instantly in your classroom with even beginning students when only half the class has mobile devices

I have developed  5 Modern Language Visual activities (no words) and 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

Modern Language Speaking Mats (Learning Mats) For Meaningful Conversations

A modern language learning mat or speaking mat allows students to quickly  find words that they want to use to talk about the topic.  These mats derive from the learning mats used for very young children who see an alphabet mat, a numbers mat, an animal mat or for older children such as a states mat.  Foreign language mats usually follow one of two formats: critical words and expressions for several important  topics or  critical words and expressions for a specific topic.

Speaking mats differ from the usual foreign language textbook listing of vocabulary such as classroom words listing. Most textbooks supply just a list of  common nouns such as  “chair”,  “teacher”,  and  “book”.  However, that list probably does not teach the students how to say   “The chair is uncomfortable”, ” The teacher praises me”, or “The  teacher always corrects me” which are expressions the students would want to say.

Most modern language speaking mats organize the topic by categories. For example, a clothing speaking mat may include a category of the  actual clothing, a category of  describing clothing, a category of where clothing can be worn, and a category of asking questions about clothing. The category of  the actual clothing is the smallest category in the speaking mat, on the other hand, the description of clothing category, usually adjectives, is the biggest category since these are the words that students most often want to use in talking about clothing.

The modern language students use the speaking mat as a  quick reference; if they do not know word, they look it up on the speaking mat that has both the foreign language word and the English word. The speaking mat has all the critical words in one location as opposed to a student having to look up each word in a dictionary or to constantly ask the teacher. These foreign language students use the mat to orally express their feelings about clothing and to describe clothing.

For example, modern language students for homework may be asked to prepare ten sentences about clothing.The next day in class they will be prepared to ask their questions or make their statements about clothing. They want to be able to say more than the simplistic “The dress is red” as they talk about movie stars in their dresses; they want to say, “That silk dress does not fit her;  the stripes make her look fat.”

I have prepared some Speaking Mats for Spanish and am working on several more:
Spanish Activities / Sports Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Small Group
Spanish Clothing Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
Spanish Casa /House Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
Spanish Food Speaking Mat

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

Modern Language Textbooks Focus on Grammar, not Communication

I believe that our modern language textbooks are really just grammar textbooks in disguise. Here’s some reasons

1)  Most of the conversation or dialogues in the textbook are structured  to teach/practice the grammar.  These conversations do not have a natural flow as real life conversation do. Verification: Ask a  native speaker if she or he would actually say that conversation.

2) Most textbooks have more pages devoted to grammar than to communication. In one text there were twice as many pages devoted to teaching/ practicing grammar than to communication exercises or even vocabulary. Often the communication exercises were simply meant to practice the grammar.  Verification:  If no one cares about the answer, then the questions are probably grammar exercises.

3) Most textbooks have many identification nouns, few verbs and even much fewer adjectives so students cannot express their feelings about the topic.  Textbooks often teach a group of verbs only when they demonstrate a grammatical point such as stem changing verbs, reflexive  or preterite irregular verbs.  Most textbooks do not give students a wide range of adjectives so that the students can actually talk about the topic.  For example, one textbook has a unit on classes but only uses the verb  “is”; students cannot communicate much about classes. Verification: If students in a  beginning language class are studying classes, can they tell what they like or dislike about each class such as “”The test is hard, The teacher gives too much homework. We never use computers in class.”

Is your textbook really a grammar book or does it focus on communication?

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (28+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner a question from a card-whole class), 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), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle. I have a series of modern language visual stories (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students. 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

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

Scaffolding Modern Language Speaking For Fluency Through Questions

 

In the Modern Language / Foreign Language  class, speaking is the least developed skill.  Teachers may spend much time in teaching a new grammar concept but they usually do not spend that same amount of time in helping students to become better at speaking. One way to help students improve their oral communication involves scaffolding their speaking from very structured speaking to  spontaneous speaking.

Students can start off by  looking at a sheet  of questions and asking one of  the written basic target language question such as “How are you?” and   “Where do you live?”to their partner who answers. Then, the partner  asks them a different question from the sheet. They continue asking and answering for many questions.   A next baby step incorporates the students modifying these basic questions.  I have included  italicized words  for  Spanish students to change (http://bit.ly/squestc).  For example students might change ¿Cuántas clases tienes? to  ¿Cuántos libros tienes?

After students have reviewed question words, they can ask question words about   randomly given common topics such as school and home.  Their partner checks to see which question words they used and tells them which they did not use.  As students develop their ability to ask questions about a topic, their partners answer these questions (http://bit.ly/squestw).

Next,  the students move on to asking and answering questions about a  common topic as presented through a graphic such as clip art picture of a girl at a birthday party or  a family at a beach. The  students randomly select the topic to speak about and begin to have their conversation about the topic (http://bit.ly/scontop)

As students become proficient at asking a wide variety of questions and answering those questions, they increase in their ability to speak. They become more fluent; they begin to speak spontaneously.

This blog has been moved from my eduwithtechn blog  http://wp.me/p262R-EZ

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.  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

Possible Speaking Type Activities To Move Toward Spontaneous Speaking

Welcome to this blog to provide world language / modern language / foreign language teachers with strategies to help their students improve in their communication.

There is a huge gap between  the world language / modern language / foreign language teachers’ desire for their students to speak (converse) in the language and the students’ actual ability to converse  in the language.  I have created numerous activities that help to move the students through scaffolded output to spontaneous speaking. Equally importantly, these activities allow the students to communicate what they want to communicate, not just memorized dialogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics),  and Grammar speaking games. Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle