Increasing communication in the class with language carousels

Language Carrousels integrated with reading from the very first day!

- Check out the Back to school Argentine Video and activities towards the bottom of the page!

How to get students talking in the target language the first day of class: A new twist on a routine strategy. 

The first week of school is always exiting for freshmen students, especially those who have not taken a Spanish as a second language. From the very first day, I encourage students to speak only in the target language. Like most teachers, I start my stating my name in the language as a model and then asking by them to state theirs. We go around until we get the hang of it. 

During the first week, I usually engage students in this About Me activity, which is all in the target language.  The activity is loaded with simple at a glance cognates that really require no front loading.  It is also a great activity for ESL students who would benefit from compound words and Latin roots. 

Output Rich Activity play by play 

1. First, students look a list of words, mostly cognates but some, such as película are not as familiar. 

2. The most important thing is that students cannot use a dictionary!  This helps them engage in incidental learning. Students read over the cognate vocabulary words and decide what they mean. 

3. They complete a short-warm up cloze text activity that gives them a sneak peak into the meaning of most words. 

4. Here is the kicker- they read a simple interview about a Spanish girl who discusses her interests. Her interview contextualizes most of the vocabulary. 

From the basic answers she provides to the questions,  students then glean the meaning of the words. Also, don't worry about overloading then.  The questions and answers are really simple.  

5.  After reading the interview, students use it as a guide to complete their own questions. These questions and vocabulary words are provided in this About Me activity demo.  

5. The questions are split into two section and students engage in a paired interpersonal activity after reading. 

6. Complete a compare and contrast activity using their information and that of the girl interviewed. 

This activity could be great for engaging students in inquiry, allowing them to learn basic vocabulary, cognates, interrogative words, sentence structure without a formal lesson!  

Some modeling suggestions

       To maximize and optimize input, teachers could also consider answering the questions for themselves prior to the interview. Research indicates that it it takes interacting with a word 20 times before it becomes a part of our lexicon, so answering the questions before hand gives them additional experience with the word. I usually answer the questions for myself to give them an example of how it's done. For example, the question: Cuál es tu programa favorito, I'd respond by saying  mi programa favorito es el Internado. Then I'd ask them cuál es mi programa favorito. This sets up the stage for me to then ask them their favorite program.  After going over my questions and asking a few students, they can work on the Interview.  I try to get as much bang as possible out of this buck. 

I like to move it, move it!
After students have finished their activity (I have moved around class to make sure we are all on board), I have them engage in a little speed-dating activity, also included in the About Me activity document.  This takes about 5-10 minutes of class time. They move around and interview one person or they could get into pairs. They begin by  asking them one (or 7) of the questions. At this point they would also be practicing simple greetings such as hello, how are you, what is your name, goodbye, etc. 

Not done yet!
After this activity students are of course excited to share about their one person. After this I ask for a few volunteers to sit in the Hot Seat. Various students in the class asks them the same questions from the list.  My the end of the period the students have acquired new vocabulary, incidentally learned something about the structure of the language,  heard key words several times in addition to being introduced to their year-long roommates! 

If you have any questions, you respond to this post or email me at: 
  Get students talking at every interval!

I love my Spanish class, but I have to admit, It would be difficult to get the conversation going without sounding contrived or sacrificing free form for a more formulaic model. Year after year I am always exploring ways to get the students talking. This year, I took a slightly different approach.  I decided to include more visual stimuli while expanding the opportunity for more  comprehensible input. If you do not know what comprehensible input is, please click on this link comprehensible input as it may explain why students have a difficult time grasping language- it did for me.  In a nutshell it is providing students with rich, varied and slightly challenging language input before they are expected to output. I was recently at the ACTFL conference and I heard one of the presenters give the analogy of a sponge (recycling from a teacher at her school). The sponge soaks up the water, and then when you wring it out, it produces!  

Now that we are in the school unit of our curriculum, I am have amassed a few resources that I use with students for them to practice their vocabulary and also structures in the interpersonal mode. Using these resources have transformed my lesson and I have to say, I am truly impressed with the results- videos coming soon!

Argentine School Supplies Video to practice adjectives and regular -ar verbs. 

I found this really cool video on Pinterest. It is an Argentine commercial about school supplies. It is rebonito and the kids loved itArgentine School Supplies Video . Here is the lesson protocol. 

1. Watch the video through without taking notes. 

First, I had students view the video without their notes- remember input! This may be a no-brainer to most teachers but usually I have student take notes on everything!  This time I thought about how distracting taking notes could be and how much more they'd be able to withdraw from their "language ATM.  In addition, taking notes the first watch precludes students from watching the video as a whole, spikes up their affective filter and is overall not beneficial to the language learner.  

After watching the view, they describe the characters and any words they might have heard. 

2. Watch the video for a second time and then use the note taking sheet. 

3. Students then draw from their notes and discuss the video.  

4. Class discussion- after students have written elements of the video they have seen.  We have a class discussion about the video. Since we learned interrogative words earlier this year, they use those words to ask questions and follow up questions of other students. I sit back with my "ACTFL" modified class rubric and take notes on their language abilities. 

Notes: Students also were exposed to the verb gustar so they talked about the boy in the video liking the girl, the pen with the flower (we had just wrapped up our Day of the Dead Altars). 

How to extend this video activity?
You could also add: 
- True and false  activity
-Match activity for the vocabulary 
-Have students create a mini/simple back story.

Viewing with a purpose- Detective work 
The second video I showed students was one I also found on Pinterest. It may be part of a text book program. Again, I followed the same protocol as above with one variation- the students had to watch the video a third time and take the role of a detective to report the students whereabouts. This activity was sooo fun!!!  

School in Spain Video- School in Spain
1. Watch the video through without taking notes. 

2. Watch the video for a second time and then respond to questions in groups. Click here for activity Video Worksheet- School in Spain.

3.  Discuss the video as a class with the worksheet. I usually give the Writing for a Purpose Activity as an exit slip. 

While students are talking in groups or individually, I usually circle around with my board to take notes on their communicative proficiency and competence.

Let me know how it goes!  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at