Fluency = Overall World Language Proficiency according to a study

Baker-Smemoe, Dewey, Brown, and Martinsen’s article “Does Measuring L2 Utterance Fluency Equal Measuring Overall L2 Proficiency?  Evidence From Five Languages” in Foreign Language Annals 47-7 (Winter 2014), 707-728  reports on a study done in five languages. They measured elements of fluency using excerpts from ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPI) spoken by 86 participants.  Forty participants provided pre- and post OPI speech samples.  All the participants were native English speakers who spoke other languages.

Some of their findings:
– Speech rate seems to be the strongest fluency indicator of L2 proficiency”
– L2 utterance  fluency does not help distinguish among groups at lower L2 levels such as the Novice
– L2  fluency of the number of hesitations and false starts varies not by level nor language but by the  individual speaker.
– Fluency varies by language. Reaching L2 proficiency level in German takes longer than reaching the same L2 level in French for native English speakers.
– Incrememental improvements in L2 proficiency did occurr with concomitant changes in L2 utterance fluency for two of the measures (faster speech rate and longer run length). These two measures also predicted L2 proficiency in general.

If speech rate and longer run length help predict proficiency, how do you help you students develop these in their world language communication in your class?

http://bit.ly/mlcomcult has many fluency activities with fluency boxes for students to record how many sentences they say in a specific time.  Go to top menu – More.

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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 http://bit.ly/90mlact.

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:  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

Timed Fluency for Students’ Modern Language Speaking Improvement

One measure of fluency is the number of sentences per minute.  To assess the student’s fluency, the evaluator counts the number of sentences during a specific time period such as one minute, two minutes, three minutes, etc.  Mr. Pilo, a modern language teacher, easily teaches  his students to peer assess each other as they say sentences.  He  tells the students to count the sentences that he says during a minute.  After he talks for a minute, he has students tell how many sentences they heard.  He talks again but this time he includes two non-sentences such as “She downtown” and “To walk to the store”.  He verifies that the students counted the complete sentences and not the incomplete ones. In addition, he tells students to only count sentences that are comprehensible and meaningful.

Next, he has students get in pairs.One student becomes Student A and the other becomes Student B.  Student A talks about a topic he gives them while Student B counts the number of sentences by making a slash (/).  At the end of the minute, Student B counts the slashes and tells Student A how many sentences he/she said.  They reverse roles and Mr. Pilo gives a second topic.

Since students know how many sentences that they said, they can work on improving their fluency. Mr. Pilo gives suggestions and elicits suggestions from the high performing students.  The students  practice these improvements and then practice speaking for short period of times many times during a week. The students keep track of their fluency on a simple two row chart; the top row  has spaces for the date and the bottom row  has spaces for the number of sentences said.  The students see that they  increase in their fluency.

How do you frequently measure your students’ speaking fluency?

My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at http://bit.ly/90mlact.

I have developed 27  Spanish activities  and 4 Modern Language Visual activities that allow students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to begin 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 Final: From Memorized to Spontaneous

I have talked with many modern  language teachers about their final  and, specifically, about the speaking part of the final.  They all agree that speaking is important and  that speaking needs to be tested.  Sometimes, they give the students a few possible topics, give them a week or a few days to prepare, then, in class, the teacher picks one of the  topics for the students to talk about.  The students think about the topic, write out the sentences, memorize the sentences and  recite the sentences during the speaking final.

However, this type of speaking final contradicts actual speaking. Since during the speaking final,  the students recite what they have previously written,  the exercise is really a writing exercise.   Secondly, in no normal target language conversation, does someone walk up to a person, say give me a topic, and, then, return the  next week to talk about that topic. In a real conversation  when the conversation turns to a new topic, the people  begin to instantly speak about it. There is no time delay in talking about a new topic.  Thirdly, this type of speaking resembles presentational speaking and not interpersonal speaking.  The students just recite  their sentences, they do not  really interact with the other student. Usually their conversation becomes a memorized dialogue. They do not show language  fluency but they do show the ability to memorize.

Some suggestions
–  Have students speak spontaneously about a topic.  They may have a list of 30 topics such as restaurant or 30 situations such as  problems in the classroom  but they do not know which topic they will have.  Students can practice talking about any topic by asking  and answering  questions about any topic.
– Have students talk based on a picture. They do not describe the picture but use it as a context for their speaking. For example, they see a picture of a soccer game  and pretend to be a player in the game. Or one student interviews another student who knows about the situation.

Let’s make speaking assessments include the speaking for the final to be ones in which students speak spontaneously to more closely represent real-life speaking.

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My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (25+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask partner 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 drawings from 2-4 people), 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. 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

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

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.

Analyzing a Modern Language Textbook for Authentic Communication

Recently I analyzed a textbook for its communication value. Of the 25 activities in one chapter, there were 17 textbook only activities.  A textbook activity deals what is in the textbook such as questions about a picture.   For example, the book showed a tv schedule and asked students about the schedule.  There were  8 activities that encouraged students to talk about their lives .  Each of the 8 activities followed a strict formula in which students substituted in their answer for the given one.   What did your father eat yesterday? He  ate …….  What did  your mother eat?…  Only one activity was longer than 5 lines. The students do answer  questions but they do not react. None of the activities lead to a  free flowing conversation  in which students honestly reacted to each other. None of the personal activities lead to  a  full conversation.

Some questions to ask about your textbook:

1 How many of the exercises are personal ones in which students tell about their lives?

2 Can students tell many things about themselves or does this exercise really focus on practicing a  specific grammar /vocabulary point?  For example, I get up at six. I eat at 7, I lunch at 12.  People really  do not talk that way unless they are recounting their day and then they would add in more details.

3 How long of a conversation does the book encourage?  Do the students say a 8+ line conversation?

4 What part of the conversation is spontaneous and free flowing as opposed to strictly following the formula/questions?

5 Do the students’ statements and questions follow the logical fashion they would in a real conversation ? Or does it twist, in an unnatural way, to present a grammar point/ vocabulary term?

6  Would a target language speaker actually say this conversation?

Let’s help students to communicate not “grammarate”.

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

Copied from my other  blog http://wp.me/p262R-K8