If you’re anything like me, you are constantly trying to find new and fun ways to engage the students, especially when it comes to learning vocabulary. As much as I would like to say that my students can just innately learn the words and expressions to communicate in French, I have to admit that without practice and truly learning these words and expressions, communication in a second language becomes near impossible.
Insert the saviour for every second language teacher: games that reinforce these important expressions and words.
Recently I have been trying to find new games that encourage communication in the target language and as often as possible in complete sentences. It is my job to find as many ways as possible to get my students speaking in each 40-60 minute class as possible. The only way for them to get better at the language and to retain the necessary vocabulary is to use it.
That had meant a change in the way I teach and sometimes transforming games and activities that I originally used. It means creating new things. I find that I can not shut my brain off sometimes because it is constantly running around in circles at a million miles a minute. I feel like a hamster stuck in a wheel.
I am always trying to connect with other teachers to share different ideas and activities. Especially with regards to how you get your students to communicate in the target language. How you move them along from structured conversation to spontaneous interactions.
I also struggle with rote learning, however do think there is some need for it in a core French class, primarily when it comes to learning new vocabulary. If students don’t have a good basis of words and expressions, it makes it difficult for them to communicate their ideas at all in the target language.
Just like with most things in life, I find there needs to be a happy medium; a balance.
Here are a couple apps that I will be using in my classroom this year to help with learning and practicing vocabulary which will help create the foundation from which my students can build their oral communication skills.
I have used Quizlet for the last year and plan on continuing with it. I like that students can download the app, or access through a web browser from anywhere they can access internet. This means students can practice vocabulary from, at recess or lunch, when they finish work early, etc.
I create a class account, which I post the ‘expression lists’ to. All of my grade 5s access the same account, all of my grade 6s share one account, etc.
For example, my grade 6 login is mme_mallette6 and the password is Mallette. The students can all login at the same time and practice.
- there is a great iPad app
- students can ‘learn’ vocabulary through flashcards that actually read the words to them (with proper pronunciation as long as you have selected the correct language when making the vocab list)
- you can download the vocabulary lists for students
- there are different games where students can practice the words and expressions and it times them, which I use to create a bit of competition in the class
- there is a good public database, so you can search for pre-made activities and lists that suit your needs
Check out some of my lists:
I just started using Kahoot at the beginning of this year, thanks to a recommendation from one of my colleagues. Again, you can create quizzes, discussions or survey, which the students then access from their own devices. While students don’t have the benefit of hearing or saying the words and expressions, it does improve their recognition of the vocabulary and significantly has improved motivation to learn it.
Essentially what happens, is after you have created a quiz, you ‘play’ it for the students. They login at www.kahoot.it to the game with a ‘game pin’ that is randomly generated every time you start a new game. You will see who is in the game, as they also have to type their name in and it will tell you the number of people who have joined.
When you start the game, a question will appear on the main computer/smart board with multiple choice answers below. Students have to read the question on the board and then refer to their own device where they select the proper answer. Students obtain points based on having the correct answer and how quickly they can answer it. It keeps a scoreboard and from what I have seen so far, students have become extremely competitive at trying to ‘win’ the game.
In my eyes, I feel like I am tricking them. What they don’t realize is it is a win-win situation. They are learning the vocabulary and have been begging me to play it in class every day! Talk about amazing!
Here are some more benefits of Kahoot:
- Students get immediate feedback because when the time is up, the proper answer is shown on the board
- Engagement is extremely high
- You can download the results at the end of the game in an excel file, which will show you in colour which students got which answer right and wrong. This gives me a great picture of which vocab words and expressions I need to focus most of my attention on, and will help me red flag any students who really are struggling.
- There is a good public forum where you can search for pre-made activities
- It works on all devices that we have tried so far (just open the web browser)
Check out some of my kahoots:
I hope you enjoy these two great apps.
If you have different apps or games you use to engage your students when learning vocab, comment below to share your expertise! Like others, I am always looking for new things to use as well!