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