Building Communication

From: “Cammie R. Williams”
Date: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ways to build oral proficiency

Use whatever the topic is for Q and A (conversational straight from text such as ‘what do you like to do?’ or finish a statement ‘If I saw [ Justin Bieber],…). Students are up and walking around the room. They fill out a chart(See sample below) to record the answers they hear from other students. Students are encouraged to respond with a DIFFERENT ANSWER each time. Having them get out of their seats also goes along with brain research-purposeful movement helps learning.

Simple example: Working with reflexive verbs in the past.

Q: (In target language) What did you do this morning? As students record, don’t worry about perfect grammar. They can use short answers and you can direct them to record in target language or English-whichever seems more appropriate for the level. The point is to keep talking and keep moving. The first couple of times are messy; they have to be trained. You can also call ‘Time out’ and give a reminder of varying vocabulary, repeated structure problem (i.e. forgetting reflexive pronoun) Don’t give up. Usually have them talk to 5-7 people. Limit the time. Also, for variation, you could do a longer interview and talk to fewer people. Students hold onto their sheets and turn them in at midpoint and end of 9 wks. They might record on a colored piece of paper or mark with a sticky tab to find easily.

Chart of responses: Sample for above situation.
January 30 What did you do this morning?
Name Answer
Robert I woke up at 6.
Sue I brushed my teeth.
Ann I didn’t put on makeup.

Information gap or tables/Find someone who: Questions posed in target language to find someone in class that fits situation.
Has a sister
Has a mom with blue eyes
Has a step-father
Likes to ride bikes
Travels in the summer
Plays hockey

Bell ringer: Interview questions written on active board and students record answers from partner. With upper levels, recording is not always needed. Just talk and then ask for a couple of examples.

Single picture on activeboard. Say anything you can about this picture. All students are talking at same time to each other. Variation: brainstorm words; write words up and then students use to build sentences.

Picture story. Students draw four to six blocks related to vocabulary topics and tell you their ‘story.’ These can be very simple for lower levels but connectors and a variety of people should be used as they advance during the year. They DO NOT WRITE what they are going to say.

Voicethread. Teacher posts picture to account and then shares link. Students record comments related to picture. They DO NOT WRITE what they are going to say.

Restaurant scene: Students create a menu to use as a prop. They take turns ordering, playing the role of the customer/waiter. They DO NOT WRITE.

Use checks, stamps or signature cards for students as they participate; use rubrics for more involved activities. You don’t have to evaluate all participation; talking to each other counts; it doesn’t have to be perfect every time. It’s a process. Just as multiple writings improve the skill of writing, so it goes with speaking.

As you can see, the point is for students to have multiple opportunities for interpersonal communication without a memorized situation. This will help build communicative competency during the year so that the final assessments (that are open-ended and allow students to just talk on a topic, without preparing in advance) are manageable and do show each person’s growth.

Cammie R. Williams, NBCT
William Byrd H.S.
French Teacher and Dept. Chair


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