Return on Investment (ROI) in World Languages

How much teacher preparation, materials needed, and class time go into an activity and how much student learning comes out it? If we measure student learning by ACTFL’s Can -Do statements, then we have an objective measure of student learning.

If a teacher prepares a vocabulary bingo game to help students learn common actions by preparing  bingo cards for two hours and the students spend ten minutes in class, what ACTFL proficiency has been achieved for that investment? The answer is none. Vocabulary by itself is not communication. If on the other hand, a teacher prepares om thirty minutes two sets of ten written questions about the common actions of family members and this activity takes ten class minutes, then the return is a student demonstration of Novice Mid,  “I can communicate basic information about myself and the people I know.” There is a high return on the investment.

Backward planning improves ROI. How do what we do and what our students do lead directly toward the students achieving a specific oral proficiency? If we spend days on students learning and practicing vocabulary, we have a low ROI. If we quickly move our students from learning vocabulary to using the vocabulary in meaningful sentences then we obtain a high ROI.

What is your ROI in World Languages?

Some materials that can help you students communicate about topics are at http://bitly/ml, click on a top topic and then look at the list below.

Five Minute Classroom Check

What world language students do in their classroom reveals much about their teachers’ priorities. If teachers say that speaking is a priority and yet their students do not speak / converse in class, then speaking is not really a priority.

Teachers can do an every five minute check to determine what their students are doing in class. At the end of each five minutes, the teachers write down the exact type of activity that their students are doing in the classroom such as “learn vocab,” “tell time to partner,” “do gram. sheet,” “play gram. race” and “talk about classes.” Whenever the class is doing the same activity at the five minute mark, the teachers place a slash after the already written down activity.

After class, the teachers tally up what activities the students did and for how long. This provides a realistic view of what actually happens in the class. Teachers may find that their students spend more time preparing to speak such as learning vocabulary then in actually speaking. Teachers might consider ways to move their students from  “learning about” to “using” language.

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.

How to show student achievement (SLO) in Modern Language class for Teacher Evaluation

With the new teacher observation system, modern language teachers have to be able to show student gain from a pre-test to a post-test (student learning outcomes or SLOs) Although many teachers have opted to use a grammar point such as the future tense as their performance measure, I would suggest that having a speaking goal is much more impressive.

For example, a teacher could state that as a result of studying the vocabulary and grammar of the school unit, students will be able to say ten sentences about school. For a pre-test students talk to their partner who records the number of sentences said about school at the beginning of the unit. Most students will say no sentences or they may be able to make up one or two. The teacher collects these partner sheets and transfers them to her official sheet or puts them directly into a spreadsheet.

After studying the unit, the students can easily say ten random sentences to  explain what they do in the class such as “I study.  I do my homework. I work alot.  I write. I have three pens. I work with a classmate.  I talk in Spanish. I look at pictures.  My Spanish book is big. My teacher teaches.”   Again, they can tell these sentences to their partner who counts the sentences and records the number. The teacher collects these partner sheets and records them on her official sheet to show the dramatic increase in sentences said.

She puts the numbers  in a spreadsheet to get both individual and class achievement. She  produces a chart that shows the very low scores in the beginning speaking  and the very high speaking scores at the end.

Administrators who see the results will be doubly satisfied. Not only has the teacher shown improvement in his/ her students’ academic growth but he/she has had them speak which is what many administrators see as the main goal of modern language study. They see this as a worthwhile performance goal.

How will you show student growth in your modern language class?

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

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

Spontaneous Speaking in Foreign Language/Modern Language: Contrasting Spontaneous Speaking to Structured Speaking

There are two very different types of speaking in the modern language  or foreign language classroom.

Very structured speaking- mechanical speaking

…. Focuses more on the correctness of vocabulary and grammar than on the actual content. “What did you buy on Monday? I bought shoes. What did you buy on Tuesday? I bought a blouse.”

…. Uses the same vocabulary and grammar of the question in the answer. “Does she go to the store? Yes, she goes to the store.”

… Uses convergent questions (When? Where? Who?) which only have a few limited answers. Each answer is highly predictable.

… Often has different forms of the same verb in subsequent statements/questions. “I go to the store. My father goes to the store. My brothers go to the store.”

… Limits the questions/ statements to one topic such as places such as in the following fill-in-the-blank exercise. “I go to the store. I go to the mall. I go to the park.”

… Does not follow the logical order of a conversation in subsequent sentences/ questions but these sentences/ questions exist only to practice the indicated grammar or vocabulary. “Where is the bed? It is in the bedroom. Where is the stove. It is in the kitchen.”
… Is not interactive except in that the partner asks a predetermined question which the person answers.

… Is not personal. Usually a student does not express his/ her own opinion but follows the prescribed format.

… Most like a textbook/ workbook exercise

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Spontaneous speaking / free speaking

… Focuses on the actual meaning/content of the answer, not on the form (grammar or vocabulary). “Do you like winter? No, I hate it.”

… Uses different words in the answer or subsequent statements. “How was class? I took a test.”

…Uses divergent questions (Why? How? which leads to a huge array of possible answers. The answers probably are unpredictable. “Why do you think the team will win”?
… Moves the conversation/ monologue forward through subsequent statements/questions “After I left school, I went to my favorite restaurant. I had two hamburgers with fries.”

… Guides the conversation /monologue through many related topics. Students may start talking about school, then talk about sports, and then talk about things they will do this weekend.

… Requires the partner to react with the conversation. There is give and take during the conversation. “I thinking of going to a horror movie. How does that sound to you?”

… Is very personal. The speaker offers his/her opinions and views and tells how he/she does something. “ I never order onions on my pizza. I do have double cheese.”

… Most like a real conversation.

Do your  modern language/ foreign language students do more spontaneous speaking or structured speaking?

I originally published this blog  at my eduwithtechn site

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