One of the things that I struggle with the most teaching in a foreign language classroom is getting students to actually SPEAK. They are nervous to speak in front of their peers (or me), they can’t talk without writing everything first, they resort to English whenever they can’t ‘find’ the French word, they don’t care about the topic being discussed (textbooks are so lame and rarely authentic)…I could probably go on and as I’m sure other world language teachers could too.
Two weeks ago, my desks were set up in groups (as opposed to modified rows) so that my block classes could do group work (more to come on their review projects soon). As usual, I was finalizing what my year long classes would be doing that day. I had also recently added Frenchified to my google reader. So…5 groups + frenchified + 5 iPads = a speaking activity based on authentic & interesting topics!
I allowed students to sit wherever they wanted and then placed an iPad at each table. When I told them we’d be speaking, there was a collective groan. For some reason, they don’t actually want to speak 😦 First we discussed strategies for how stay in the language once I turned the flag over to the French side (piece of paper – 1 side French flag, 1 side English flag). Demonstrating how (on the smartboard) and telling them what to do, I helped them navigate to their assignment (I’m still having trouble embedding google docs) on the iPads. Each table read/looked at the links for their table and then discussed (in French) the big picture (i.e. music, TV, etc). After about 8 minutes, we debriefed (in English). We discussed strategies that worked and those that didn’t. We talked about any words they didn’t know how to say and the strategy of ‘talking around the word’ (circumlocution). I allowed them to ask questions before they moved on to the next topic (I want them to be successful when speaking French!). I also talked to them (again) about how important it is to actually attempt to speak in French when the French flag was showing (they’re only hurting themselves if they don’t!).
This lesson actually ended up taking 2 days (45 minute periods). Students were able to make it to each topic and had to switch group members between each (variety). At the end of the 2nd day, I asked them to tell me what they thought about the way we did the activity, if they would want to do it again, if they enjoyed talking about relevant topics, what their favorite topic to talk about was, how they felt when they were successful in speaking only French, etc (I think student feedback is extremely valuable).
This format for speaking could have endless possibilities because of the variety of topics that could be discussed. I liked that students had to interpret & communicate. Students could also do the job of finding the articles to make them own it even more. I would (and hope to) do it again 🙂