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