Posts Tagged 'Communicate'

Analyzing a Modern Language Textbook for Authentic Communication

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

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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

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

Modern Language Spontaneous Speaking Find Someone Who +

Many modern language/ foreign language teachers use a form of the common Find Someone Who activity to get students speaking. For example, the teachers may ask, in the target language, for the students to  find someone who has five pens, has two books, has a blue notebook or find someone who sings, bikes, swims, etc.  Students enjoy asking each other questions and hearing the answers. Usually, the answering student simply repeats the question as a sentence.

However, with just a slight modification, this modern language activity can turn into more spontaneous speaking.

1) Usually, if the answering student answers in the negative, Do you swim?  No, I do not swim, then  the asking student moves on to another student. In a variation, if  the student answers No, he changes his/her answer to be a positive.   Do you swim? No, I do not swim.  I do bike or No, I do not swim.  My father swims.

2) When a student answers in the positive, he /she adds at least one more piece of  information.  Do you swim? Yes, I swim when it is hot,  Yes, I do swim in Lake Ontario, Yes, I swim with my friend, Bob.

3)  When a student answers in the positive, the asking student asks a follow-up question such as Where do you swim?  When do you swim? The answering student answers the additional question.

4)  After the answering student answers, the asking student agrees, “Me too” or Me neither” or  disagrees, “I do not like to swim.”

How do your get your modern language students to speak spontaneously?

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

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

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


RSS Education with Technology

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