Archive for the 'Question' 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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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

Using Modern Language (FL) Apps Even When …

I have written a blog about identifying and categorizing Spanish apps. As I’ve been thinking about the present state of modern language /foreign language apps, I’ve realized that the inadequacies of these language apps present great learning opportunities for our students.

Students can look at and do a vocabulary or phrase modern language app /foreign language app such as Learn Spanish ((Droid) or Hola (Droid)

Then

– Students can analyze what important vocabulary is missing from the topic and make a supplementary list. For example, the housing category may have tableware but not bed or chair.

– If the app only presents individual words, the students can create a meaningful target language sentence or question for each word. For example, for the word “lake”, the students may ask “What is your favorite lake?”

– Students can analyze what important phrases or questions are missing and can create those lists. They may see look at a “time”category but they find that the question “When?” is missing. They make up a question using that question word.

– They can analyze what important topics are missing from the app. Perhaps the app has housing and animals but does not have occupations and city places.

– They can see how many meaningful sentences they can create from the present vocabulary list.

– They can answer any questions given in the app. For example, they can answer “How much does this cost?” with the price of a shirt.

– They can rearrange the questions or statements to create a logical conversation about the topic.

– They can think of a typical language task for a topic such as having a dirty spoon on the restaurant table and use the existing sentences and add others to be able to get a clean spoon.

In this way, students go from consumers to producers. They analyze what they are doing to see what is missing. They think about critical vocabulary, phrases, and topics instead of simply doing a drill program. They do not just repeat but they answer or comment on. They build on. The students become language users!

How do your students deal with modern language apps that do not do everything  well?

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.

Just ask- Electronic Surveys for Formative Feedback from Students

In our classes we think that we are sailing our class on clear seas. However, if we stop to ask our students to reflect on their learning, we may get a story of stormy waters where they feel they are drowning. Unless we frequently stop to ask them to reflect and give us feedback we will not know their present learning conditions. Most quizzes and tests do not give us that information since they are summative. Frequent surveys or feedback forms do provide us with very useful information on how to help them better navigate their learning. When we give those surveys in programs like Blackboard or Zoomerang, we can instantly get the results organized by question so that we can immediately redirect our sailing and their sailing.

How often do you survey your students for their feedback about present learning strengths and learning gaps?

Instructional Uses of Clickers or Personal Response Systems

We can use clickers in many different ways in our classroom. Here’s a few. We can ask the students:

Background questions such as “Have you ever explained to someone the reasons you wanted to buy something? 1-Yes 2- No”

Learning style questions such as “How long did it take you to do the essay? 1-30 2- 40 3- 50 4- 60 + minutes”
Or “Which part of the essay was the hardest to do 1-Identify a topic 2- Pre-Write 3- Write topic sentences 4- Provide vivid details”

Low thinking level review questions such as “An effect essay 1-shows similarities between two things 2- tells a story of a change 3- gives details about a process 4- provides the results of something ”

Higher-level thinking questions such as “Which body paragraph in this essay has the most concrete examples? 1- first 2-second 3-third?”

The more questions we can ask at the higher-levels of thinking, the more we can engage not only the  students’ attention but their in-depth thinking.

Formative Assessment for Asking Questions in World Languages and ESL

Speaker and Listener with Formative Feedback

World Language teachers (Spanish, French, Germany, Chinese, Italian, etc.) and ESL teachers want their students to become fluent in the language. However, often they have no easy way to measure the students’ fluency nor the time to listen to each student. A solution is to have students practice in groups of two with their partner providing some formative feedback according to a checklist or collection form.

1. A student is to ask ten questions about a picture in a minute while her/his partner counts the questions. At the end of a minute, the partner gives feedback to the speaker such as “You asked nine questions. What else could you ask about …..? The partner points to a place, object or person that the speaker did not ask a question about.

2. A student is to ask all the question words about the picture. Her/his partner checks off each question word on the list as the partner says it. At the end of a minute, the partner gives the feedback such as “You used all the question words.” or “You used all the question words except Why? What is a Why question for this picture?”

3. A student is to ask and answer all the question words for a picture. His /her partner checks off each question word on the question column and checks off the answer-the-question column. At the end of the minute, the partner gives the feedback such as ” You asked and answered 4 questions. You did answer the question “When..” but what other answers are possible for that question?”

4. A student is to ask complex questions about a picture such as “What color is the table that is next to the door?” or “How many people who are standing have red shirts?” within a minute. Her/his partner checks off the question word column and the complex sentence column and gives feedback such as “You said four complex sentences about the picture. One question ‘Where is the girl?’ was not a complex question. How could you make it one? or “I did not understand your question about the food, could you please say it again?”

5. A student and his/her partner have a conversation about a visual. The first student is a reporter and the second student is a person in the visual. The second student jots down a slash for each question that the reporter asks and one for each answer he/she responds to. At the end of the minute, the non-reporter reports back on how many questions were asked and answered. The two students brainstorm how they could generate more meaningful questions about the visual. Then they do the same activities, after switching roles, for another visual.

How else can students give each other formative feedback on their speaking? Please share your additional ideas on how students give each other formative feedback in your subject area. I’m writing a book and would like more examples than the ones I generate.

(My 365th blog)

Harry Grover Tuttle©2007


RSS Education with Technology

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