Archive for the 'Conversation' Category

Are Modern Language Students’ Real Questions Found in their Textbook?

I recently asked my  Spanish college students to make a list of questions that they w0uld want to ask of a person whom they are meeting for the first time. I was amazed at how uniform their answers were:

What is your name?
What is your phone number?
How old are you?
When is your birthday?
Where are you from?
What are you like? / Are you (athletic, …..)?
Where do you live? /How long have you lived here?
How are you?
What school/college do you go to? What is your major?
Where do you work? /What do you do?
What do you like to do?
How many brothers/sisters do you have?
What is your favorite (music, team, color, hobby, TV show)? / Do you like ( a particular music group, sport, TV show)?

My guess is that if we look at most modern language textbooks, we will not find these questions in the first few chapters.  We may not find these critical question grouped together.   For example, one textbook might not teach “to live” until the 4th chapter and the course only covers the first  5th chapters of the textbook.

I think that we can learn a great deal about what is important to our  modern language students by asking them what they would want to say about a common  topic found in the textbook.  Does the language textbook reflects things that are of importance to students?  Or does the textbook focus on its own  grammar and vocabulary without focusing on what students, their intended audience,  would normally want to say about a topic?  A communicative book focuses on  what real people would ask/answer about a topic in a normal conversation. A grammar focused textbooks presents a very limited amount of  questions but concentrates more on a specific grammar point that has been worked into the questions/conversation.

I have put together numerous speaking mats that present students with a wide range of vocabulary for a given topic so that they can say and ask things that are important to them.  Some speaking mats:
Spanish Activities / Sports Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Small Group
Spanish Clothing Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
Spanish Casa /House Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
I have many other activities where I supply the students with a wide range of possible answers such as
Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk

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

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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

 

World Language Students’ Scaffolded Speaking Output With Substitutions

We teach world languages so that our students can speak it yet we do not teach them  how to speak.   Students identify  speaking in the foreign language as creating the most anxiety in language learning.    Young, D. (1990). “An Investigation of Students’ Perspective on Anxiety and Speaking.” Foreign Language Annals. 23:539-553

Krashen explained the importance of input, students listening to us as we speak the target language; however, he stressed that comprehensible output is the goal of language acquisition.  Krashen, S. (2003). Explorations in Language Acquisition and Use. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

The world language teachers’ overemphasis on input, their talking in the classroom, creates a myth of promoting  student speaking.

I watched many Olympic swimming events. I watched for many hours. Can I swim any better now than  before watching them? No!
I watch musicals on TV, go to musicals in theaters,  and listen to choral groups.  Can I sing any better now with all that input? No!
Every day I  watch marathon runners go past my house early in the morning.  Can I run faster and do a marathon from all their input?  No!

Input provides the initial sounds, sentence patterns, etc.  for students.  However, students have to move to guided  or scaffolded output so they can produce the sounds and,  more importantly, the sentences to converse with one another.  Students do not  magically go from hearing our speaking to their conversing in the target language.  We need to give them some assistance as they begin to put together sentences.

One technique is to provide the students with  modern language sentences which contain choices. They select what they want to say from the available words/phrases. They say what is meaningful to them through the selection of words/phrases. They do create sentences on their own.

Scaffolded sentences provide a starting point for narrating and conversing.  In one substitution  exercise, the students change an underlined word to be true for them  such as  “I live in Syracuse.”   For example, I have for Spanish students a “Tell Me about Yourself Activity” in which students say 13 changes, 22 or 34 changes to tell about themselves (Spanish Tell Me About Yourself Substitution Sentences).  In another variation, the students change a word in over 30  questions such as  “¿Te gustar jugar al béisbol?” in Spanish Conversation Questions Spontaneous Speaking Partners .   Once  students do these scaffolded sentences, they better understand how they can recombine sentences and questions to converse with one another. They move toward spontaneous speaking.

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

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

World Language Speaking – The Power of Asking and Answering Questions

As I looked at a modern language  textbook, I saw that it had mini-conversations of 2-3 lines.  For example, “Who is looking at the car? ….. Chris is looking at the car.”   In reality, such conversations simply practice the recently introduced grammar of the unit. These conversations do not communicate anything other than grammar.

For me, the ability to ask and answer questions is key to being able to converse in a world language. However, students do need to practice in asking and answering questions.  They need not only to understand what the question word means but also to know how to answer the question word. For example, the Spanish question word, ¿Dónde ….?” means “where” and the student answers with a place.  My students practice in asking and answering questions.  During a recent summer school final, my students, working in pairs, asked  ten questions and gave ten answers based on a randomly selected  common topic in a three minute period; they had no time to prepare to talk. They just began their conversation.  To develop that skill, I have my students do activities like Spanish Question Words Speed-Asking Partner Speaking (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spanish-Question-Words-Speed-Asking-Partner-Speaking)  in which they practice seeing how many questions they can ask about a topic and Spanish Questions Modified Speed Dating Whole Class Speaking  (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spanish-Questions-Modified-Speed-Dating-Whole-Class-Speaking) in which they ask a question from a card and their partner answers the question, then the partner asks a questions.  Students need much practice in asking and answering questions before they can do it spontaneously  to find out information from a partner.

How much do you have your students practice asking and answering questions about common world  language topics?  How well do your students communicate in a conversation.

My 20+ Spanish spontaneous speaking activities such as Modified Speed Dating -AR verbs, Modified Speed Dating -Leisure/Sports, Spanish Conversation Topics- Partners, Multiple Sentences  Speaking Board Game, Describing a friend, Talking about classes, Preterite Game & Speaking, and Clothing Spontaneous Speaking Mat are available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

Also, my book Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education,  includes a procedure to assess all students in the class in just three minutes. It provides, for each of fifteen language functions such as socializing, asking for and giving information, and explaining, ten different speaking strategies to help students to improve. http://bit.ly/Tutbks.  Also, my Formative Assessment Responding to Your Students, and    Student Writing Through Formative Assessment books.

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.

I have 20 Spanish spontaneous speaking activities at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook  including Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment

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 have Spanish activities that lead to spontaneous speaking at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, New Book

 

Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment

 

By Harry Grover Tuttle and Alan Robert Tuttle

Want a quick way to get your students conversing more in the target language? Want an easy way to help your students improve in their speaking on a daily basis? This practical book shows you how to use formative assessments to gain immediate and lasting improvement in your students’ fluency.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Help students climb the ACTFL proficiencies
  • Guide students as they develop in over sixteen language functions such as socializing and persuading
  • Embed the three-minute speaking formative assessment into every lesson with ease
  • Engage students successfully in peer formative assessment
  • Teach students to give each other formative feedback
  • Provide struggling students with over ten improvement strategies for each language function.
  • Engage students in over 170 speaking activities.
  • Use Web 2.0 tools to foster speaking
  • Move from summative assessment to daily or weekly formative evaluation of speaking

Each speaking assessment include instructions, the assessment form, extension activities, speaking topics, and at least ten strategies for improvement. There are ready-to-use checklists including the “I Can” log that helps students plot their own progress.

Research has confirmed that when teachers use formative assessment, students can learn in six to seven months what would normally take a school year to learn. You’ll find yourself using this book every day because of the gains your students will achieve in foreign language fluency.

These speaking assessment energize the class as the students have the opportunity to use a language function for a full minute. The students use language instead of practicing it.

Please share with your Modern Language teacher, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment


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