Unmet Students’ Expectation of World Language Class

Beginning language students come to their world language class with an expectation. The vast majority of these students believe that the purpose of the language course is to speak the language. However, they soon find out that the class really focuses on “vocabulary and verbs” as a former high school French student wrote as he thought what his college Spanish class would be based on his former language experience. Students want to be able to speak the language and, yet, many teachers spend so much time preparing them to speak by learning vocabulary and learning verbs that the students do not get to speak. Students want to communicate in the language. How do we change our world language courses so that we met the students’ expectations and their parents’ expectations?

Some activities to help you develop communication in your  Spanish classroom:

Spanish Describing School Classes Spontaneous Speaking – Pairs    Speak about class with structured choices – two levels, 49 terms

Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk   Say 9 sentences about a friend using 36 choices.

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

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Two Different Language Learning Approaches: Self or Survival

ACTFL’s Interpersonal Level Novice Can-Do statements follow a pattern of having students talking about

self  -> family / friends  ->  community / city.
Most of the Novice level focuses on socializing.  In this approach students go from what is most known or familiar  to them (themselves) outward (to others). Most modern day textbook follow this approach. This approach assumes that students in the classroom will be talking in the target language  to other students about things in their lives.

Another approach is the travel approach where students learn a  language to survive in the target language country. This approach concentrates on daily functioning in the language country. Students learn how to order a meal, ask for a hotel room, check on the price of a product, etc. Very old textbooks and travel conversation books follow this pattern. The travel approach assumes that students in the target language country will be talking in the target language to native speakers.

Although students enjoy talking in the target language to each other and learning about each other as in the ACTFL approach, I have found that they feel the geatest sense of achievement when they can do a real-life daily survival task in the language such as “I can ask the price of something.” I try to blend the two approaches.  As soon as my students learn the numbers (1-59) in the first unit , I teach them to go from telling time to asking the price of things such as  “How much does this soccer ticket cost?” Since I use cultural products in class such as a soccer ticket, the students practice asking and answering how much real things cost. In the ACTFL approach, students cannot ask the price of something until the end of Novice Mid, very near the end of the course.

What approach do you use with your students?  What survival skills do your students have even in the beginning level?

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 investigation 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)

 

 

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

 

Certificates of Modern Language Speaking

The awarding of badges for successful achievement  of a learning goal has become very popular in education.  I have modified badges into certificates and, specifically, certificates of speaking for my beginning Spanish students.

I design a specific speaking task such as orally answering ten written questions about a previously unseen picture in two minutes. These questions cover very basic questions such as “Where is the person?… How old is the person?..”  The students orally answer each question and their  partners make a slash for each meaningful, appropriate, and comprehensible answer on a score sheet. I do include fourteen questions so that if students cannot figure out how to answer one question, they can skip  it and do another question.  In addition, more advanced students can try to answer all fourteen in two minutes.  When the speaking students have achieved three times of answering the required number of sentences in two minutes,  they  show me their score sheet, sign in on a class list under that certificate, and they receive a certificate.  My certificates are half page certificates and they state the exact speaking achievement such as “orally answered ten written questions about a previously unseen picture in two minutes”.

I tell them that they now have proof of well they are doing in their Spanish speaking for this particular task. They can put the certificate in on their family or dorm fridge, take a picture and email it to friends and relatives, put it on their Facebook page, etc.

I have different certificates for their different speaking tasks.  My students are now working on a family certificate in which they have to say ten different things about a family member. They cannot say the same basic sentence such as “”My father is tall….  My father is strong”; they have to include different verbs or use verbs in different ways.

Many students commented that this is the first time they have ever known how well they do on speaking in the target language  except on a speaking test.

How to acknowledge your students’  achievements in speaking their new  modern language?

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle
90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

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

ACTFL Survival Spanish: How to Get There?

Modern language teachers want their students to get to the survival level in which the students can do everyday tasks  in the target language such as to order a meal,  find out a bus’ arrival time, and tell a doctor about a pain. These survival tasks can be categorized by their language function such as  to order, to ask about, and  to tell about.  They can also be categorized by their topic (food, transportation and medical). This level represent ACTFL’s Intermediate level.

Which survival skills do our students have after a year? Can they tell personal identification information?  According to New York State Languages Other than English Check Point A  students  should be able to give the following personal identification for these categories  (Biographical – age, nationality, address, phone number, occupation, place of birth; Physical – height, weight, body description, hair color; and Psychological – character, personality, likes and dislikes, and interests)

It is not enough that our student cover the book’s chapters with these survival topics; our goal is for the students to be able to communicate on these topics.  I  believe that short communication exercises are the key. I like to use a variation of speed dating where students form two rows facing each other. Each student receives a card with a common question about one of the survival skills. He/She asks his / her partner the question.  The asking student listens to the answer and compares it to the sample written answer on the card. The asking student can help the answering student if he/she cannot answer the question.Then the students switch the role with the other student asking a question. The process continues. The teacher indicates when the student in the left  row move up one  person so that they have a new partner. They start asking their question.

I have several of these activities for Spanish such as Spanish Leisure -Sports Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking,   and Spanish AR Verbs Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking and Spanish Questions Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking

So how do you involve your students in developing their survival language skills?

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities by Harry Grover Tuttle

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

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:  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

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

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