Archive for the 'grammar' Category

Spontaneous Speaking in Modern Languages – Not Just Saying Grammar Exercises

I recently heard a modern language teacher brag about how much speaking her students did in the classroom. She said that her students orally did every book grammar exercise. She was amazed at how much they were speaking.  Yes, the students were orally saying the grammar exercises but they were not spontaneous speaking.  They could do the exercises perfectly but they could not use those  grammar concepts in their own conversation about a topic.  I asked her how closely the exercises resembled a real world conversation and she countered that the students  had to know every grammatical form to be able to communicate.

To change grammar exercises to real speaking, we have to ask ourselves, “How would a target language person  use this grammar point in an authentic conversation?” and try to duplicate that in the classroom.  We can start our students off with just responding to their partners. For example, in teaching the Spanish preterite tense, students can start on their path to  spontaneous speaking by seeing a long list of common verbs, selecting 10 verbs that describe what they did do in the past and then saying a past time word like yesterday or the past week  and the verb in   the “I” form.  I always have my students  do at least a three part sentence (Past time word +subject/verb +what or where or how such as “Yesterday I ate at McDonalds.”  As a student says the sentence to his/her partner , the partner agrees or disagrees by repeating it or modifying it; a modification may be “Yesterday I ate at Burger King.”,  “Last week I ate at McDonalds.”, or “Yesterday I ate two hamburgers and French Fries at McDonalds.”  Once students realize that their partners are listening and responding to what they say, they begin to make more realistic sentences.  Then the partners say a sentence and the listening students respond. They alternate until they each have said eight sentences. By saying their sentences and having their partners respond, they find out more about their partners. They start to use  language in an interactive manner where they have to listen carefully to their partner and respond accordingly.

Harry Tuttle has  over 15 Spanish spontaneous speaking activities at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

Tuttle’s formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

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Constant Peer Review on the Same Essay Improves Student Writing

I  teach a college composition course.  We spend much time in peer reviewing (probably 70% of class time) in a formative assessment process. Today the students had their 6th peer review on the same “essay” and we are just up to doing  three body paragraphs.  I asked my students to do a questionnaire on the process we use.  About 15% said that they did not peer review in their high school English classes.  Of those they did peer review, they stated that peer review  focused on grammar, spelling and punctuation. As one student said of our process,  “we  focus on changing idea.”  Most students (80%) had not had more than one peer  review their writing; so far we  have had 6 different peers react to their writing.  As one student mentioned “you get a different view and different aspects about your paper from other people ” and “You receive others’ opinions using the same format you used to write it.”  My goal is simple: for students  to constantly improve in their writing.  Formative assessment which focuses on monitoring and giving feedback continually through the process enables students to improve in each aspect of their writing, starting at the pre-writing phase.  A more thorough description of this process is found in my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

How often do your students peer review  each other’s work?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

No Basic Differences in Textbooks in 50 Years: Go Virtual

I examined two textbooks that are fifty years apart, a Spanish textbook from 1960 and one from 2010

Both:
Teach the same grammar – present, present irregulars, preterite, preterite irregulars, imperfect, …..
Teach the same basic vocabulary- family, occupations, house, …. The 2010 textbook does have more modern words such as cell phone, computer…
Start each lesson with  written dialogue
Focus primarily on grammar- almost all the exercises are grammar focused
Have images – The 1960 has black and white illustrations and the 2010 has many colored photos.
Include cultural information
Have dictionaries

Some differences:
The  1960 textbook contains 200+ pages while the 2010 textbook has 500+ pages.
The 1960 has some testing/practice material while the 2010 textbook has  much online grammar practice.
The 1960 textbook has a story line of a family with a father who travels to Latin America.  The 2010 does not have a storyline.
The 1960 textbook teaches practical vocabulary essential to daily living and traveling while the 2010 teaches specialized vocabulary such as words to describe art in a museum.
The 1960 textbook follows the grammar translation methodology while the 2010 follows the grammar use methodology.

The 2010 textbook, once all the colored photos are removed, is essential the same as the 1960 textbook.
Do modern language teacher still want to focus primarily on grammar instead of communication?

For your subject area, how has the textbook, the staple of most classes, changed over the last 50 years?
Does it scaffold information to make it easier for students to learn?
Does it include strategies to help the students better learn the material?
Does it organize information in a way to help students see similarities and differences?
Does it build in self tests so students can measure their progress in a formative assessment manner? Does it provide formative feedback?
Has it gone to the “less is better” with more concentration on critical learning  or has it gone to “the bigger is better” way of thinking?

I’ve written several blogs about textbooks Smartphone (Mobil Learning Apps as Alternative Textbooks)  and Why a Physical Textbook?

Think of creating your own virtual textbook that truly matches the state goals and your district’s goals.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Smartphones (Mobile Learning) Apps as Textbook Alternatives

In a previous blog, I mentioned that physical textbooks seem so “yesterday” and suggested using online resources.

I would like to enlarge on that concept through the use of Smartphone or Mobile Learning Apps.  Let’s use a Spanish class as an example.  Spanish students need to go from mere memorization to high level language use.

Students can use apps for basic memorization of words.  For example, they could use a program such as

Spanish Flashcards Free  (http://freeapk.com/app/1093_android+app+Spanish+Flashcards_1.6.html).  Likewise, they could use an   app such as 1001 Spanish Verb Android App  Free (http://androidappsgames.com/android_app_1691.html)   to learn basic verb forms and to see the various conjugations of a verb

A step up from mere memorization on individual words  is learning language phrases. The free Hola Spain Tourism HandAPP (http://www.appbrain.com/app/hola-spanish-handapp/com.movinapp.hola) has Expressions organized into categories such as Greetings, Phone, shopping (22 expressions), directions, etc..Since these are grouped into categories, the student sees both the essential questions and answers. These cover many of the common vocabulary topics presently in the school curriculum.

With these apps, students can practice on their own anytime and anyplace.The classroom time can be spent in creating conversations based on the learned words and phrases. If the student has done a practice conversation such as about health and has not remembered a certain phrase, the student can quickly review the phrases using app on the mobile device.

These few apps show that a language teacher can certainly replace a physical textbook. In a future blog, I show how students can use apps at a high language level.   Students can become more engaged and more active in their learning as they use apps

Are you app to use apps in your classroom?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Why a physical textbook?

It seems so “yesterday” to use a physical  textbook such as in a Spanish classroom. Any instructor can easily find PowerPoints, Youtubes, etc. that teach and practice the   grammar and vocabulary in Spanish.  Any instructor  can easily find online sites that explain grammar and drill that grammar.  An instructor can find Internet sites that have vocabulary lists or can easily post such lists to a class  wiki.  Imagine if a department asked each instructor  to create one activity such as a spoken conversation or  a listening comprehension that takes the grammar and vocabulary to the level of communication. The instructors can find current pictures of the culture from Flickr and other sources.  Students can converse about the daily culture that relates to  the situations in the virtual textbook.  Students can communicate about the situations.

With a few handouts made in Google docs and the links to the grammar, vocabulary, communication activities, listening, reading,writing,  and culture, the instructors could run a whole course without a physical textbook.   All the resources can exist in the class wiki.  Students can have access to theses resources 24/7.   Since the resources come from various sources, there is more of widening  of the students’ learning. When instructors use  virtual textbooks, they can add more resources in areas where students demonstrate weaknesses (formative assessment).

In addition, students can contribute to the virtual textbook.  As they do activities such as writing five important questions about the situation, these questions  can be posted to the virtual textbook for other students to answer.   I believe that within a year, instructors could have a virtual textbook that outshines the limits of the physical textbook. I have used  a virtual text and feel that it best meets the needs of my students.   The virtual textbook can fit the specific goals of the instructors while meeting national goals. The virtual textbook can be easily modified as better resources become available.

The virtual textbooks will not cost any money! Also as students migrate to smartphones, their phones become a valuable learning tool in class.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Pre-assessment: Open Eyes or Blinded

This semester I have given many pre-assessments to my students. Last semester, I made many mistakes in instruction because I did not know enough about my students before the beginning of the semester. I taught material that they knew and did not delve into material that they did not know. I assumed that they could read the textbook when their reading rate and comprehension which I tested once I saw a problem revealed an average class reading rate in the low 100s and a comprehension rate of 60% or lower. I thought that since they were college students they could organize their own writing.

So this semester, I have given them writing diagnostic, writing patterns past knowledge diagnostic, grammar diagnostic, vocabulary diagnostic, and reading diagnostic. I can hear the moans about wasting all the time on diagnostic. My students spend 45 minutes on the combined writing and grammatic diagnostic, three minutes on the vocabulary one, four minutes on the past writing patterns and about 15 on the reading one. So in just about one hour and ten minutes I have done six diagnostic tests that have transformed how I teach writing to the students.

What pre-assessments do you give and how do you change your instruction to better improve your students’ learning?


RSS Education with Technology

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  • Digital Badges: Naming the Badge October 29, 2015
    Once teachers have selected what learning and what digital badges (individual or category badges; see previous blog), the teachers encounter another decision. What will they name each badge? Will they use the full name of the Common Core Standard or the national proficiency? For English, under “Speaking and Listening,”will they write out SL.2 “Integrate and […]
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  • Digital Badges: Better Than Grades? October 19, 2015
    Teachers understand that the grade in a course consists of many different factors such as homework, participation , projects, tests, etc. Blodget observes that sometimes grades reflect attitude, effort, ability and behavior (http://www.academia.edu/9074119/Grading_and_Whether_or_not_Grades_Accurately_Reflect_Student_Achievement). Equally important, a letter […]
    hgtuttle
  • World Language Students Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom October 5, 2015
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    hgtuttle
  • Digital Badges: Individual or Categorized Learning Badges? September 12, 2015
    The idea of digital badges sounds appealing for the digital children in classes. As teachers start thinking about digital badges, they have to figure out what badges will be awarded. The teachers can award social or academic badges. If teachers decide to use academic badges, then the teachers may base their badges on the Common […]
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  • English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details) June 30, 2014
    Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session: Based on CCSS Anchor Statements: L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization) SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter. […]
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  • Global Cultural Learning Using Mobile Devices (ISTE Mobile MegaShare Presentation) June 28, 2014
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  • English + Common Core + Mobile = Success in Learning Poster Session at ISTE 2014 June 25, 2014
    In my ISTE Sunday 8-10 am poster session, I demonstrate many diverse mobile activities to help students achieve the English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Statements through mobile devices. The mobile activities focus on free common tool apps that are available on both the Android and the iPad. The students use the apps as a seamless […]
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