So my second (and very long overdue…) post in my series about the new FSL curriculum will address the enduring idea of Authentic Oral Communication: Reception, Production, and Interaction. There is so much that could be said here in terms of methods and tools, but I will highlight three strategies that I used this past semester to promote spontaneous oral communication and interaction in FIF2D.
- Scaffolded Discussions (Chart Paper, Chalkboard, Padlet)
For the first three months of the semester, just about every whole class or small-group discussion we had involved some sort of scaffold to engage, encourage, and involve all students in the interaction. This also allowed for a bit more pre-thinking time so that it wasn’t always the quick-processing students dominating discussions. Although this makes the initial offerings less spontaneous, I find this method invites students in so that myself or their peers can then ask probing questions to allow for an actual spontaneous conversation based on their semi-planned opening.
As stated in the heading, I used the traditional chart paper and sections of the chalkboard for students to gather and display their thoughts of a small-group pow-wow before sharing with the whole class. I also discovered Padlet which is a web-based cork-board. I create the board, and then students can double click anywhere on the board from their device and begin typing ideas. I can display the padlet on the projector so students can see their own thoughts and everyone else’s being added instantaneously. To give you an idea, here is a Padlet I used in the first few weeks of the semester where I pre-created the five boxes, each with a different question, and each group added in their ideas before presenting their assigned question to the class. Here is a second one used later in the first month where I created the board with one question, and each group created their own box to gather their thoughts. This second style was more interesting as students could easily see what other groups were typing which forced everyone to think more creatively in order to have a unique response.
I only held one debate at the beginning of the semester, and looking back, I wish I had planned for more. When structured well, students really get into the debate and it offers a wonderful balance of prepared and spontaneous oral production. I mentioned in my first post in this series that the subject of our debate was which educational program (French Immersion, IB, SHSM, etc.) is the best. I compiled a list of seven such programs, I allowed students to select their own groups of 3-4, and then each group indicated their top three preferences of programs to argue for. I compiled their choices and assigned each group either their first or second preference, and then they researched arguments for their program, and if they so desired, arguments against any of the other programs.
On debate day, each group received up to three minutes to present their case for their program. From there we jumped into free debate! I kept a speakers list, and granted a group 1-2 minutes to argue against a program, followed by the “attackee” having a chance to defend their program, and then moving on to the next “attacker”. My students LOVED this part and just about everyone was active, engaged, and speaking French spontaneously. I definitely need to brainstorm some more topics like this where there are multiple points of view rather than just two sides so more students are pushed to actively participate.
- Oral Interviews
Over the course of the semester, I conducted four oral interviews: 1) an end of the first month self-assessment conversation, 2) a small-group interview based on our reading of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, 3) an interview in role where my student teacher was a journalist and each student acted as a real or invented artist, and 4) a final oral interview based on the content of their culminating tasks and their learning over the whole semester. They take up a lot of time when you have a large class, but they are totally worth it. I also think it was important for me to vary the type of interview and not just follow the same formula each month. The more contexts in which students are able to practice speaking in the target language, the more vocabulary they encounter and use, and the more learning they experience. Also, similarly to our discussions, the first two interviews were much more scaffolded with some of the questions being given in advance, whereas the last two interviews were entirely spontaneous. The final interview took the most planning on my part, as it involved me reading each student’s culminating task and pulling out questions to ask them based on what they had each individually written. It was time-consuming to prepare, but I really enjoyed how the interviews were truly differentiated and personalized, and each student comfortably and confidently expressed their thoughts to me. It was a wonderful way in my opinion to finish off the semester.