The activity that I am writing about today is something that took more than one 40 minute to prepare students for the more independent part. After much vocabulary work through Quizlet, Kahoot, I wanted my grade 5s to start applying the learned words and expressions. They are working on expressing their preferences, specifically related to activities that they like to do in their spare time.
Here is the Quizlet set they practiced with the list of words and expressions.
Here is the Kahoot we played to reinforce these language structures. (Sports & Activities)
In order to scaffold their learning after the vocabulary work, I began modelling the question ‘Est-ce que tu aimes…’ with pictures of items they knew well, such as dogs, cats, horses, etc. I would ask the question ‘Est-ce que tu aimes des chats?’ and I would also model the response, ‘Oui, j’aims des chats’.
I would then model it with something I don’t like, for example, ‘Est-ce que tu times des insectes?’. ‘Non, je n’aime pas des insectes.’
All the while, I would also have the question and sentence starters on the Smartboard for them all to follow along as we did this.
Here is the smartboard file I would use. Est-ce que tu aimes…
Next, I would ask the students (in French) if there are any other possible answers to this question. Usually there are a few hands that shoot up, and they tell me that I could also start my answer with ‘Oui, j’adore…’ or ‘Non, je déteste…..’ Depending on the group, I may model a way for students to extend their thinking by including an answer like ‘Oui, j’aime des chats, mais je préfère des chiens’. This gets them thinking about the different ways they can manipulate the language themselves.
Once the modelling is complete, I would leave the sentence and question starters up on the smart board and I would get out my ‘picture dice’. The link above is to a smart board file that I already made and can be used (hopefully the images stay in the file, I find sometimes they delete themselves out of the flash-enabled smart notebook activities after they have been saved). At any rate, you can easily add whatever pictures you want to suit what your students are learning about.
This is where we would lead into student practice. I would roll the dice on the smart board, and ask the question to the whole class. The first few times, I would ask the whole class, and choose a few different students to respond. Even if they weren’t 100% correct, I would say the sentence back to them correctly, so they could hear the proper way but without pointing out mistakes and making them feel insecure about it. After 2-3 students, I would then have them ask the exact same question to their elbow partner and have a chance to respond. I find this works well because they are using the language in complete questions/sentences, they are using it in context, and they have had the chance to listen to me say several different responses as well as their peers. The words are still on the board as support for those who require it also.
After 2-3 times with students modelling for their peers, I would move the next phase of a bit more independence. We would roll the dice, and they would just work in elbow partners to take turns asking and answering the questions. After about 30 seconds, I would ask the class and get a few different answers from different students, trying to draw out all of the different possible responses. We do this so students can learn to self-verify. I am trying to create an atmosphere where students feel comfortable and confident to speak in the target language.
I have found that when I scaffold in this manner, students are more willing to take risks and participate in class discussion because they have had the opportunity to practice with their peers first, they can hear that someone else had the same answer and and whether or not their’s is right and that might give them the extra little confidence required to raise their own hand. They are the ones who are doing most of the talking in class. It can be loud, but as long as it is a ‘productive chatter’ I am ok with loud! Isn’t that what a language class should be like? Isn’t the point of learning a language to be able to speak it; to use it?
I grew up learning core French, and I barely remember practicing speaking in class, other than reading from a page or memorized scripts. I could read beautifully, and I could memorize and regurgitate information like no other! But when it comes to speaking, I STILL get nervous using the language. I constantly feel like I am going to make mistakes and that the other person won’t understand me, or will laugh at the way I talk. I don’t want my students to feel like this. I want them to be able to express themselves clearly about things that will be practical to them. To express themselves in situations that they could actually encounter one day in real life.
I don’t teach from a text book any more, because I don’t see the purpose in my students being able to describe the habitats of animals or insects in French, and I don’t see the relevance of them being able to talk about extraterrestrials either. We focus on preferences and talking about ourselves. My grade 5s will be moving into a restaurant learning context, where they will learn to order food (and take orders), express their preferences, wants and desires. The grade 7s will be learning to navigate around a city, asking for directions, etc. We are trying to focus on things that are relevant to them and authentic situations where they might actually have to use the language.
Sorry for the side rant.
How do you get your students speaking on a daily basis? And how do you make it relevant to their lives??