Oral Participation in the Foreign Language Classroom

Synopsis prepared by Lee Risley
in Six Parts   [Menu]

Part #2. Promoting the Use of the Target Language

A. Grading Oral Participation; Documentation of Participation
B. Encouraging Participation
C. To Reward or Not for Participation
D. Self-grading of Oral Participation
E. Activities, Hints and Suggestions

At all levels of all five of these parts the notion of motivation is either overtly stated or implicitly understood. That is, oral participation is not only important for learning a language, but it nudges motivation upward (or gives it a mighty surge), which makes the learning curve do what makes all our hearts soar just as high. (Although the converse of all this seems for some to be a truism, others stand forth to disagree.)

And as the reader will soon see, the five parts into which this section is divided are somewhat artificial, since there is so much overlapping. I hope some of these distinctions help make the reading easier.

A. Grading Oral Participation; Documentation of Participation

95/01 From-->   "K. LeComte" ecs001@hq.jcic.org
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

One of our local H.S. teachers uses an interesting method to increase
in-class participation. Each student has a "participation page" that
s/he is responsible for placing on their desk each class meeting. The
teacher circulates during interactive segments and places a stamp on the
page of students for each response given in the target language.
Students accumulate 1 point per stamp against an "ideal participation
score" established by the teacher. The student is, of course,
responsible for turning in their participation page weekly furnishing
the teacher with documentation for the assigned grade. This method would
be difficult to implement with large classes, but the typical HS class
is workable. Criteria for appropriate participation, grading, and working
details could be altered to fit most any group.

K. LeComte

95/01 From-->   Marilyn Hannan mhannan@omnifest.uwm.edu
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

I like the idea of using a stamp for participation... but how can you
circulate when you're using an overhead picture for vocabulary and
questions? Also how can one manage it when my typical class is 30 high
school students with desks and backpacks and two teachers and their
desks and paraphernalia crowded into one room?! It's hard enough for me
to wade through the aisles to check their homework without breaking my

Marilyn Hannan


95/01 From-->   lkimoto <kimotol@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
Subject:        Effective discussion technique

I received permission from Tony Galt to post this. I think it adds a
different dimension to the current discussion on grading participation.
The rules are simple:

1. No hand raising.

2. Students are called upon depending on some gimmick that the
instructor devises off the cuff during the discussion (e.g., all
students wearing horizontal stripes; all students wearing a sweatshirt,
etc.) One should be careful to call on every student in the category one
has devised.

3. When called upon, students can: a) pass without dishonor, b)make a
contribution, c)amplify someone else's contribution.

... Except for the first person chosen in the category, every one else
in it has a minute or two to think about an answer, given the
inevitability of their being called upon eventually. This immediately
generates an atmosphere of concentration in the class that I have rarely
seen. I have found that fewer students "pass without dishonor" if the
initial questions used are small and incremental rather than large and

... Students this semester (the first in which I have adopted this
technique as a policy) report that they really like the technique. It
may frustrate the habitual contributor--the sort of student with his/her
hand up all the time under normal circumstances. However, it greatly
broadens participation, and one hears good insights from students who
would say nothing otherwise. (The habitual hand raisers can be placated
by creating small categories of students in which their names will come
up.) I've had to be a little careful about creating gendered categories
(there are more women in the class than men). One day I thought I had
surely done so when I called out: "O.K. everyone wearing a necklace."
But, then I noticed that four men were wearing necklaces of some kind.
If done carefully this technique might actually be used to counter
tendencies call upon men more than women, or vice versa.

My one worry this semester was a student who is very very bright, but
very very shy. She wants dearly to go to graduate school, and it is
important for her to conquer her shyness to do that, and she knows it. I
was a little afraid she would run from the discussions, but she has
reported to a colleague that she really likes the technique because it
forces her to contribute. I think that as she realizes the value and
sophistication of her contributions, she will be fine.

Laura Kimoto

B. Encouraging Participation

95/01 From-->   David LaBrie <david@toto.plymouth.edu>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

I give my students index cards and during drills I stamp each card with
a small stamp. Mine happens to be an owl (hibou). I let the students use
the cards in exchange for a missed homework assignment. 25 stamps for
one assignment. These cards could be used for anything, quiz points or
even keeping track of class participation. If the students start to tune
out, I take out my 'hibou' and they fight to participate.

David LaBrie


95/01 From-->      Karen Van Howe     <KVanHowe@aol.com>
Subject:        Re: Grading participation

Another method I use to increase oral participation and assure oral
grades every day is to use the clipboard with a class roster/worksheet
and a kitchen timer. I have a timer that looks like a tomato (instead of
la bombe atomique, I call it la bombe tomatique). I set the timer for 5
minutes and pick a subject (i.e. Gossip about what your classmates did
last night; give advice for a student who just broke up with his or her
boy/girlfriend; what will you be doing in 10 years, etc.) Students must
raise their hands and give an original response. Every time someone says
something, I make a hash mark on the clipboard by his/her name. I
usually tell the students I have a goal of x number of points per day or
week. This depends on the level and difficulty. Anything over that
number is extra credit, and the required number counts toward 20% of the
total grade. It is amazing how many responses you can get in 5 minutes.
If the class is extremely communicative, I set the timer for 7 minutes.
In classes of 25-30, I can easily get 2-3 responses per student. It is
much more participation than usually occurs during an entire class
period. It helps reinforce and review material from the day before and
is a great warm-up to get students in the mood to speak the rest of the

I usually do this as the first activity of the class.

Karen Van Howe


95/02 From--> "Ania Lian" <ania@cltr.uq.oz.au>
Subject:        Re: Rewarding participation

>> I know that I am not an ordinary student, however participation makes
>>a big difference. Those who tried hard in my high school class and spoke
>>out even if they weren't sure of the answer did well, not only on exams,
>>but in their spoken language. Those who didn't speak much didn't even
>>go on to Spanish II or any class in college. The only thing I would change
>>is to make participation a larger part of the grade than it was in our class.<<

When faced with the pressure from teachers specialized in applied
linguistics (to be precise, in teaching methodology) the argument which
they are presented with from the traditional teachers is that people
learnt foreign languages before all this communicative stuff and they
achieved high results.

Whatever the "high results" may refer to, the following issues mentioned
in the previous mail have to be considered:

a)      how to encourage the "participation" referred to in the previous mail
and so appraised.

b)      how should the techniques employed to achieve (a) be applied in order
not to discourage/ frighten away those who unlike the author of the
previous mail and so much like many other students for one reason or
another will NOT raise the hand nor say anything, and as a result of too
much pressure give up what they thought they could carry out.



95/08 From-->   Madeline Bishop <bishopm@mail.yamhillesd.k12.or.us>
Subject:        Re: participation

I pass out little slips (2"by 2") of paper (recycled) about 3X week to
my French I and II classes. They have to write: Their name:
le 25 janvier
J'ai parle francais: (1 pt)

J'ai pose une question au professeur: (2 pts)

J'ai parle anglais: (-5 pts)
*If you want a translation, post back, OK?*

Sometimes I will add under the positive speaking one: "J'ai utilise
l'expression du jour:" and give them 2 pts or "J'ai utilise le passe
compose:" or some other tense. I explain in English that we are going to
speak French for the next 40 minutes (varies) and that they are to mark
their own speaking. Often I will then give them 5 minutes to speak to
whomever they want to, before we regroup to do our normal class

Everyone speaks under this system, because they know it will be graded
and counted, even though I don't hear everything they say. The first
year students will say what time it is and "How are you?" and "I have a
dog" and stuff like that, but they mark a point for every sentence and
they are forcing their brains to recall and use what they know.

I almost always use this system when correcting homework on the
blackboard. (Someone writes it the minute they come in.) I teach the
kids early to say "For number 7, erase the "t." (or there is an accent
over the e or add an "s" on the word "bleu.") But even then, not all of
the French in the class is teacher talk or talk to teacher because 1) I
remind the class what the teacher says while correcting (Are there any
mistakes? Is this one perfect? etc.) then ask a volunteer to assume that
role. 2) Students will continue to speak to each other during this
exercise. ("I'm right!" or "I didn't finish number 12" or "Rats, I
messed up number 5!" )

At the end of the designated speaking period, I have the kids mark down
the number of minutes we spoke, then total their own points. Do some
kids cheat? Exaggerate is more like it. Most do not. I have many other
ways to assess their oral ability so it doesn't matter. What does matter
is that they see that speaking is fun, that it is graded and that our
whole class can do it.

Often until the end of the period, kids will continue speaking mostly
French because they are "in the groove."

Do I put those speaking points in my gradebook? Yes, but usually a
student aide will do it. Another thing that makes it easy is using
post-it notes, if your school buys them. Just have the kids at the back
stick their note on top and pass it forward. Stick all of them together
and plop in your "in" box.

>How to require the 3rd and 4th year
>levels to speak only in the foreign language?

I'll send this idea directly to Beverly because I'm taking up too much
space for a list-wide message.

Madeline Bishop


95/08 From-->   June White Middlebury College <JWHITE@midd.middlebury.edu>
Subject:        Re: Motivation and participation

A couple of years ago I had a class in which most students were anxious
to speak the Spanish but there were about six that would not go along.
Since most of their activities were done in small groups, this really
bothered those who wanted to learn to speak. We talked about the problem
and their solution was to play games every day-they always enjoyed days
on which I allowed them to spend the entire period playing Careers, Clue
and Monopoly. So-I promised them to make a game-like activity the focus
of each class for four weeks (this was in a cold Vermont January) if ALL
of them would promise to enter the class "en espanol" and remain there.
We began that first week with an immersion day for the class at my home,
cooking, sledding, and playing communication games. It worked really
well and was interesting for me because I realized that I could take
anything I wanted them to learn and make a game-like activity of it.
After a week or two, they really didn't need to have a reason for
speaking Spanish in class-it became a habit!

I've also had great success with stickers. Even the seniors get really
excited about choosing and pasting a sticker on their Diarios. I always
carry photocopied sucres (Ecuadorian currency) in a single denomination. I
give them out whenever a student does something wonderful-make a special
effort to use Spanish to explain something, keep her group on task, be
especially kind to a student who is having problems etc. I also give
them to all members of groups which complete a task within a time-limit
or whatever....When a students has 400 sucres, they can select a sticker
from my package. It sounds ridiculous but they love it and are extremely
proud of the number of stickers they can display.

June White


96/08 From-->   Francine Shirvani shirvani@ousd.k12.ca.us
Subject:        oral presentations

One that I did last year which the students liked was what I called
"trucs" (tricks). They had to describe how to do something- like for
example how to remove an oil spot from a shirt, or how to fix the stem
of flower that has broken (with a tooth pick). They bring all the
necessary material and demonstrate while explaining ( of course in the
target language) and it's supposed to be three to five minutes. We
usually end the class with one of these presentations. I'll never forget
one "truc". To sharpen scissors cut a piece of sandpaper with them
several times and that sharpens them.

Francine Shirvani


96/08 From-->   "Robert @ Carey" <killen@teleport.com>
Subject:        Re: oral presentations

Have students choose a weird object from home and bring it in for an
oral presentation. Students have to try to "sell" their object to the
rest of the class by using interesting descriptions and many comparisons
(it's better than...bigger than...goes faster than...). The other
students can ask questions about the 'product'. Encourage students to
bring in something a bit out of the ordinary.

Each student chooses a famous person (living or dead) or cartoon
character. Their job is to describe that person's typical daily routine
for the class, using props where appropriate, with lots of clues thrown
in (he trims his mustache, she paints for three hours...) The class
tries to guess who the person is.

Robert Carey

96/09 From-->   LIUDA KOSTIUKEVICH <lvk@cinf.usm.md>
Subject:        Re: oral presentations

Usually I invite my students to make a presentation of some stories I
give them to read. They do it in roles in attempt to present all the
positions that could be found with the characters. Then those other
students who listened to the presentation are invited to express their
opinions or give their comments, for example from the point of view of a
character's neighbour or his psychiatrist, etc. I must mention that this
is the task for classes of oral translation (English/Russian) and those
people who had prepare their presentation have to provide some
vocabulary of the most important or interesting words from their stories
and from their talks.

Liuda Kostiukevich


96/09 From-->   Michelle Osberg <mosberg@howard-winn.k12.ia.us>
Subject:        Re: Stimulating Conversation-High School

>Would appreciate learning of any successful techniques in stimulating
>conversation in H.S. Spanish classes. Gracias

I've been signing on to two or three computers with internet and they
have been chatting with native speakers. Great chance to converse
through writing in "real time". Spontaneous!!

Michelle Osberg


96/09 From-->   Jonathan Jones <javadude@clt.mindspring.com>
Subject:        HS kids learning a language!

I am forwarding a request for help from a friend of mine who is teaching
conversational english to kids in the Czech Republic. Getting the
elementary kids to converse has been easy, he says. Unfortunately he is
unable to get the 15-18 year olds to make an effort. They are
unmotivated and find the material uninteresting. My friend asked me to
find some help in the form of mind/word games, ice breakers, age
specific conversation materials, and any other ideas for getting the
kids to speak in english. I'm not sure if there are any Czech speaking
teachers reading this or not but I'm sure the ideas that are used in one
language can be transferred to another language. Thank you for your

Jonathan Jones


96/09 From-->   Mary Young <reospeeder@earthlink.net>
Subject:        Re: Stimulating Conversation-High School

>Would appreciate learning of any successful techniques in stimulating
>conversation in H.S. Spanish classes. Gracias

I teach French, so I look for materials and translate what I need.

1) Have you tried The Book of Questions, or The Kids' Book of Questions?
There are several books of this type out. I translate the more complex
ones, but have students translate simpler ones for the class.

2) I also have students write topics anonymously that they would like to
talk about. You get to edit, of course. We have brainstormed topics for

3) The school newspaper sometimes brings up issues kids want to talk

4) Occasionally I have them write a journal entry on a topic first to
get them warmed up to what they have to say, then we discuss it.

5) Maybe we are just expert at birdwalking (hate that term)(besides,
isn't spontaneous exchange to be desired in an FL class?), but we can
always find something to talk about. For example, we have an "Esperanza"
program on campus which allows teen mothers to bring their babies to
school for day care, and they (the mothers) take classes in parenting
along with their regular classes. This has raised some controversy and
my kids had opinions (!) on whether this encourages more girls to have
babies. We also discussed the possibility of kids at our school having
AIDS, and what could be done to make students aware of the real danger.
This was a small, fairly mature group of 17 year-olds. And they have
been very respectful of others' feelings during discussions.

Surprisingly, there were no calls from parents. But the kids had a lot
to say. The above are topics THEY brought up. We also talk about
situations on campus--the closed restroom policy, the new dress code,
the proposal to build a new stadium on our site, the chupacabra (sp?)
(Yes, we talked about it in French), OJ (got a lot of *heated* mileage
out of that), X-files, ... I have the best luck getting them to talk
when the topic is in their domain of interest. . Look for clues when you
chat with them.

Mary Young


96/09 From-->   "Jessica A. Roberts" <JRobe82544@aol.com>
Subject:        Re: Stimulating Conversation-High School

A good way to stimulate conversation is to ask the kids what possible
career paths they are interested in. Then you could open discussion to
how Spanish could be useful in these different career paths. I think
this practices languages skills, but also give value to the language we
are trying to teach them

Jessica Roberts


96/09 From-->   Lynn Nuthals <coqui49@online.dct.com>
Subject:        Re: Stimulating Conversation-High School

Take a look at my home page under Spanish sites

located at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4444

Lynn Nuthals


96/11 From-->   Janel Brennan <jbrennan@erols.com>
Subject:        Re: Oral participation

Re: getting the students to speak more Spanish in class I have a BIG
long poster (I used newsprint, taped it together and laminated it) down
one of my walls that I call their "chuleta" ("cheat sheet" in Spain
slang) it has just about every phrase they would need to use in the
class. In the beginning of the year, I have a matching exercise with all
the phrases that are on the "chuleta" that they can put in their
notebook so they know what each one means. If they can't ask me in
Spanish, I say, "No entiendo" and point to the "chuleta".

They've gotten pretty good at it and I think they can remember more
classroom phrases than "¿Puedo ir al baño por favor?" (their

Janel Brennan


96/11 From-->   Shar Soto <soto@dwave.net>
Subject:        Oral participation

Regarding questions on the pesos I use in class:

1. Do you spend a lot of time just walking around handing out pesos?

It depends on the day. As I'm walking around handing out pesos, I'm also
continuing on with the next question or the next whatever. This not only
helps me to distribute pesos, but also to be part of the class, instead
of just sticking to the traditional teacher territory at the front of
the room. I think it also allows all students to hear the language from
various points.

But being human, there are days when I feel more sedentary or I'm just
genuinely pooped. On those days I perch myself on an empty desk I have
in the front, and hand the pesos to the students sitting on either side
of me and the students just pass them back to the appropriate person.
Since these pesos carry weight in the grade, they don't go astray. The
intended recipients makes sure the peso gets all the way to them. The
students do this by second nature and it doesn't slow down the class a

2. How do you keep track of who you've called on in class?

Since students know this is part of their grade, they have to take some
of the responsibility for volunteering. Some students are naturally
quieter than others and are therefore going to have to make more effort
than others to volunteer. But that also goes for written tests, some
students have a more difficult time taking tests than others, yet they
are still expected to take them. I had a student one year who could get
straight A's on written tests, but refused to volunteer in class. Being
the mature young lady that she was, she told me she accepted the fact
that she would probably never get above a B in Spanish. That was her

As for keeping track of who I call on, I do it in my head during the
week and then after we have counted up the pesos at the end of the week,
I quickly scan their totals and monitor and adjust the next week so that
I'm not calling on one student more than another who consistently has
his hand up. I also keep a lookout for the shy student who might only
get his hand up a couple of times per class. I also don't mind if one
of the students says to me, in Spanish of course, "Siempre escoges a
Marisol, primero." I just check myself to make sure that its not true. My
students tell me that they feel I'm pretty consistent in the peso
distribution when I check with them, which is about once a month.

3. Where do you get the pesos from?

I went to a travel agency and asked if they had any brochure with
pictures of the new Mexican pesos. They did and I preceded to enlarge
them and accommodate them on another sheet of paper so that when I was
copying them, I wasn't wasting paper or energy. I then used a paper
cutter to cut them up. I use bright colors not only because they look
better, but also because they're less likely to have a chance of being
counterfeited. And I never would have worried about that except for the
fact that last year when I was attending WAFLT two enterprising students
got into my desk drawer and stole a bunch of pesos. I had the sub that
no one wants and everyone has to take a turn at, at the time. Anyway, I
found an anonymous note on my desk when I got back and when confronted
the guilty student confessed and even turned in his partner in crime.
After talking to the parents, we all agreed that the punishment should
fit the crime, so the two students spent their next several study halls
cutting out new pesos with a scissors. We had to start all over again
and now when I leave, I put the envelopes and pesos in my file cabinet
and lock it. Of course, since everyone knows what happened to these two,
I sincerely doubt I'll have this problem again. And on a positive note
the two students and I somehow managed to mend our student-teacher

4. How hard would it be to start this right now?

Not hard at all. The first year that I started this I started in the
middle of December. The trick isn't when you start, it's how consistent
you are.

Shar Soto


97/11 From-->   Norma Y LaVoie <GUAPA8@prodigy.net>
Subject:        Re: oral activities

I had a problem at the beginning of the year. Students did not want to
participate at all. I did not push them into participating, but I kept
calling on the one or two students that did want to participate. I did
remind the students that were choosing to participate that their
participation grade was great! As soon as the other students felt
comfortable and knew that in no way would I embarrass them;
participation soared. I now have to tell them, that they must wait their
turn because everyone WANTS to participate. If something fails, you just
try again!

Norma LaVoie


C. To Reward or Not for Participation

See the discussion of "Rewards in Part #4.

96/11 From-->   Shar Soto <soto@dwave.net>
Subject:        Oral participation

I've enjoyed reading your comments on oral participation. A few years
ago, I was trying to think of a way to cut down on the English and
increase the amount of Spanish spoken in class with the least amount of
negative effort on my part. One night about three in the morning, I
finally hit on a solution that has worked for me and has been adopted at
this point by our department. What I do is to give the students an
envelope at the beginning of the quarter that contains five imitation
pesos in bright colors. Every time they speak English without permission
from me, which of course they have to request in Spanish, and I only
give that permission after at least some sort of an attempt, they lose a
peso. Every time they volunteer an answer, earn points in a game for
their team, volunteer to write something on the board, do helpful tasks
for me like erasing the chalkboard, handing out papers, etc., etc., all
of which they do in Spanish, por supuesto, they earn another peso. At
the end of the week we count up their pesos, record the date and the
number of pesos written in Spanish words. I then collect the extra
pesos, leaving them with five to begin the next week. If for some reason
they should run out of pesos, they are given a mandatory after school
study hall slip (M>A>S>H>) and expected to stay after for about fifteen
minutes. I think I've had to do this once in all the time I've been
using this system.

At the end of the quarter, we add up the pesos they've acquired, divide
by the number of weeks and they have an average. I put this on a scale
having the person with the highest average be 100% and anyone having an
average of only five pesos receive a 60%. Everyone else falls on a
sliding scale between these two numbers. This grade counts as their oral
participation grade and is one third of their overall grade.

To help them with phrases I know they are going to need, we add a phrase
on a daily basis. And I don't just stick to normal request phrases, but
also include things, I know they might want to say, like chapusero,
menso, etc. which are just for the fun of it.

In the years that I have been doing this, and I've even done it with
fifth year students, it's worked like a charm. The students love having
something they can touch and count and that is a visible sign of what
they are doing. It's also forced them to try to talk to their friends in
Spanish because I have excellent ears and they also tend to patrol each
other. As an added benefit because only Spanish is spoken, it has been a
terrific discipline tool. And for me, I carry a fistful of pesos and can
pass them out as I wander the classroom. After a while speaking Spanish
becomes automatic and the nicest compliment I had was from an algebra
teacher who told me two of my students had come in to his class and
started talking to him in Spanish because they'd forgotten to stop
speaking it when they left my class.

Two cautions, have another student count the pesos at the end of the
week, not the owner, and have students turn in the pesos each day at the
end of the hour, as I had thefts taking place when I first started.

Shar Soto

D. Self-grading of Oral Participation

95/08 From-->   Linda Elliott-Nelson   <AW_ELLIOT@awc.cc.az.us>
Subject:        Student Participation Self-Evaluation Form

I have received enough requests for this form designed by Bill Van
Patten that I am sending it through distribution. The language in the
grid can be adjusted to whatever the target language is.


Week of Monday  Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

________ __________ ____________ _________ ________ ______

I, the teacher of the class, agree/do not agree with this

Signature and Date

Student: Use this grid and the rating categories below to track your
parti- cipation for the week. Your instructor will collect the grid and
agree or disagree with your self-evaluation.


Read each category and select the one that most closely describes your
participation for the week. Write the number of points associated with
the category in the box marked Points.

Superior - 25 points

I attended class and arrived on time.
I greeted people and took leave using Spanish expressions (for Spanish
class) I worked on my comprehension skills by listening when others
spoke. I spoke only Spanish.
I participated in all activities with enthusiasm and a positive
attitude. I helped others to do all of the above, too.

Average - 20 points
I attended class and arrived on time.
I greeted people and took leave using Spanish expressions. Every now and
then, I didn't listen to others when they were talking. I spoke Spanish
in class but also used English on occasion. I participated in all
activities, sometimes enthusiastically.

Overall I showed a positive attitude.
I made participating in class easier for other people.

Unsatisfactory - 15 points
I missed one or more classes or I arrived late. I used more English in
class than Spanish. I wasn't listening while others talked. My presence
in a group didn't make much difference in getting the task done.

Linda Elliott-Nelson


95/08 From-->   Barbara Law <KDB_LAW@MEC.OHIO.GOV>
 Subject:       Re: Student Participation Self-Evaluation Form

This sounds great . . . Do students ever choose 15 pts.? What happens if
the teacher disagrees with their evaluation? How does this figure into
their grade?

Barbara Law

E. Activities, Hints and Suggestions

97/03 From-->   Beverly Maass <maassbj@teleport.com>
Subject:        Conversation

I am looking for short 10 minute conversation ideas to use in the
classroom each day. For example, one student gives his/her partner a
word off the vocabulary list and that person must make up an original
sentence in the L2 using that term. Then roles are exchanged. Another
idea is that I start a sentence with a current expression, such as
"While I was at the game.....", and students take turns completing the
sentence for points. Or I bring an object in a box, and students ask me
questions in the L2 to figure out what it is. There is lots of partner
practice in the book, but I am looking more for spontaneous talking. Any
Ideas? Thank you.



97/03 From-->   Mary Young youngm@earthlink.net

Subject:        Re: Conversation

How about compiling a list of the functions your book has covered so far
(by chapter, starting with the current chapter) and another list of
vocabulary topics your book has covered (same order as functions list).
Take a function or two and apply them to a topic and create a situation
for the kids to role play in pairs.

Chapter 5 is in an airport (topic: places in an airport, luggage,
flights, etc.)
Functions include asking and giving directions
telling plans (ALLER + infinitive),
using the telephone
requesting information

Put them together with a problem, and voilà--instant (yeah, right)
role plays.

Here are some possible situations (these came from my text):

1) You just arrived at Orly (airport in Paris). You go to the baggage
claim to find your bags, but they are not there. What do you do? Act it
2) You are going to Paris. You have traveler's cheques and you're pretty
sure the busdriver won't take them. What do you do? Act it out.
3) Your host family is late coming to get you. Call and see what has
happened. Decide together what you should do to get there.
4) You hear your name being paged. Go to information and find out what
is going on. Your host family is calling to tell you to meet them at
some place in Paris. What do you do to get there? (get cash, take a taxi
or a bus, ask directions to the place, etc.)

Thinking these up is not that easy--3 of these 4 are straight out of the
text. Kids can help create scenarios. They could brainstorm the problems
and situations that fit the topic, then you could pull from that list.

Your 10-minute conversations for class starters is a good idea. I think
I'll use it, too, and if I think of any good situation prompts I'll pass
them on.

Are you familiar with the book on Role Plays (I got my copy from
National Textbook Company). It's a small format paperback with
situations given in semi-script (A and B are given directions in English
of what they are to talk about, but they frame the speech themselves) I
can't remember the exact title, and mine is at school.

The French version deals with getting a hotel, dealing with a
recalcitrant dry cleaner, confronting someone who stood you up, etc.
They guide the speakers through the conversations with some twists and
turns and things to resolve. Prompts are in English, with special vocab
glossed at the bottom of the page. Less than $10. It is available in French
and Spanish, perhaps also in German.

Maybe the topics and the task on an overhead?

Mary Young


97/03 From-->   Richard Lee <rlee@bloomington.in.us>
Subject:        Re: Conversation

One of the most useful conversation starters that I have found is a
simple discussion of whatever is currently in the news. I write a simple
paragraph which they can use as a "fact sheet". I try to include lots of
easy "anchors" that they can grab easily, such as well-known people (OJ
Simpson), place names, cognates, and focus on events which occur
frequently (floods, earthquakes, terrorism, plane crashes--I guess this
sounds sort of morbid, but we do talk about some other things, like
Charles and Diana getting divorced, etc.) I will then make a statement
based on the paragraph, have them repeat it, then ask questions about
who, what, when, where, why, etc. After a quick round of questions from
me, the kids can ask a question and have another student respond. I find
that they react more positively to things like this where we are
communicating about events in the real adult world and it seems like the
vocabulary just automatically gets focused on practical items which I
hope will prepare them to read actual newspapers and hear TV news
broadcasts with greater ease and accuracy as their vocabulary grows. We
have a section of the blackboard designated for new "need-to-know" words
as they arise more or less spontaneously in the discussion and everyone
is required to keep a log of the daily "harvest". It seems that after a
while you get used to this and the writing of the paragraph which serves
as the starter gets easier, and you never know where the thread is going
to lead. I hope that this is helpful.

Richard Lee


97/03 From-->   Michele Crefeld <crefeld@hicom.net>
Subject:        Re: Conversation / Thanks for Dutch Condolences

Hi Beverly and Listeros:

Saw Beverly's message concerning ideas for spontaneous talking in
conversation activities and here's one I picked up in grad school. Since
I teach FLEX, my students have never had enough L2 to use these. I did
use them when I taught ESL to university students, and they got a kick
out of seeing their friends actually have to think about what they were
going to say...

Have 10-15 'situations' written down for yourself.

When you get two students in the front of the class, whisper to the
first student (or take her/him outside the room) her 'mission,' for
example, 'You are a customer in a store. You have to return this shirt
to the clerk for a refund.'

When you're sure first student understands her mission, whisper to
second student *her* mission, but it must completely go against the
first student's mission. Example: 'You are a store clerk. Complete your
transaction with Student 1, but you may not give her a refund.'

These conflicting 'missions,' encourage spontaneous thinking and
conversation, because students are thrown a curveball with the other
student's mission being so contrary to theirs.

Hope this is helpful-I'd like to contribute to a list from which I gain
soooo much!

BTW, thanks to ALL of you who sent me Dutch condolences on Friday. They
got to me on time, and we are going to put them in the Sympathy card to
avoid pronunciation 'challenges' :)  I echo the warm and fuzzy gratitude
listeros have been showing towards those of you who contribute so much
to this forum!

Michele Crefeld


97/03 From--> Richard Lee <rlee@bloomington.in.us>
Subject: Re: Fear of speaking

I have found that oral participation is much better if I have the kids
move their seats into a close circle with me in the middle. The
proximity seems to make it more difficult for someone to drift away on a
cloud, and also, the moving together seems to act like a signal, after
having done things this way for a while. For writing exercises, etc.
they move the furniture back to its regular position in the room so that
they know that when we move together in the circle, it's time for oral
work. Something seems to click in their brains at that point.

Richard Lee


97/03 From-->   Sharon Vaipae <ohtani@gol.com>
Subject:        Small conversation group seating

Richard Lee wrote to Laura:
>I have found that oral participation is much better if I have the kids move
>their seats into a close circle with me in the middle.

This close grouping is common, is it not, for conversation/oral work in
language classrooms. It fits well with a piece of 'science/ psychology'
learned in an Interior Decorating class, that when planning seating
arrangements in homes, heads which are greater than eight feet distant
from one another do not feel as included in a conversation group as
those less than eight feet apart. This accounts for the tendency for
some of the more distant students in small groupings to be distracted or
less involved. This was American, and would likely not be universally
true of other societies - perhaps closer or further would do it.

Then again, this may be only a House Beautiful suburban myth, but it has
a good feel about it in the classroom.

Sharon Vaipae


97/04 From-->   Beverly Maass maassbj@teleport.com
Subject:        Oral activity

This idea came my way from a local community college, and while I have
not tried it yet, it is on my list to do. This can be done as an oral
exam or as an activity. Students are separated into pairs. The two
students each receive a different list of 10 questions based on the
material being studied in class-- perhaps the imperfect or preterite.
The pair is given several minutes to study their separate list of
questions, which may not be shown to the partner. Then the two students
decide who will go first and are to ask their complete list of questions
of their partner. As each questions is asked the questioner must write
down the answer that his partner gives. Once this activity commences no
English may be used. If the responding partner does not understand the
question being asked, it is the responsibility of the questioner to
convey the meaning somehow in the foreign language. Absolutely no
English may be used and the questioner may not show his partner the
written question either. Then the partner exchange roles. The final
activity is for each student to take the information that his partner
has provided and write a composition based on that info. Then teacher
just walks around the classroom and supervises the activity.

Beverly Maass


97/04 From-->   Gini Pohlman <pohlmv@dataplusnet.com>
Subject:        speaking activity/

I also do a word circumlocution. I think of words students couldn't
know, eg: white out, funeral home, dog groomer, etc. The students
describe to their partners what the words mean: a person who cuts dogs
hair or a thing that you use to correct an error on a paper, a place
where they take people when they die. Each partner has a list and they
see how many of each others they can understand. They seem to have a lot
of fun with this. Next time I'm gong to make them think up the words!

Gini Pohlman


97/04 From-->   "Laerte J. Silva" <silj@inetminas.estaminas.com.br>
Subject:        -Teaching Speaking Hints-


1. Point out to your students that if they want to speak they need to
take advantage of every opportunity to speak and that the classroom
environment is a safe place where they can make mistakes and learn.

2. Ask open questions. Ask yes/no questions or alternative questions if
the students are not able to understand the original question.

3. The less fluent students are and the more open an activity are, the
less dynamic a class becomes.

4. One of the main tasks of the teacher is to build up confidence. Help
your students to feel comfortable and relaxed to speak the language.

5. The students are paying to learn how to speak a language, thus
make/let them speak!

6. Being a good conversationalist also means being a good listener.

7. Provoke discussion, contradict the students for discussion's sake,
raise alternative possibilities and solutions.

8. Ask real information questions. Your students are a potential
teaching material. Let/make them talk about themselves.

9. Do not be anxious and press you students for talking, allow them the
time they need to start to speak. If it takes too long, check if they
have understood the question, comment or instructions.

10. Demand your students use what they have already learned.

11. What is your objective with a given activity: fluency or accuracy?

12. Do not bother to interrupt the students mid a conversation to
correct them. Usually they are so much involved with what they are
saying that the correction will be lost and the flow broken uselessly.
Make notes and given them feedback at an appropriate time.

13. Every student has a favorite subject and even the shiest students
will talk about their predilection.

14. Do not try to force a quiet student to speak or say that he/she
never speaks. Children do not start to speak overnight and different
people have different rhythms.

15. Grade and vary the activities in terms of level of control. An easy
way to help to build up confidence is to go from more controlled and
guided activities to less controlled and guided ones.

16. If you expect your students to expose themselves, start by exposing
yourself. Many times students are afraid of being ridicule and laughed
at. Show them you are not afraid of this.

17. Correct by rephrasing or paraphrasing what your students have said.
This helps to prevent the break of flow in conversation.

18. Do not patronize. You do not need to call the students attention to
their mistakes and to the all-knowing teacher's corrections.

19. Let students correct and teach each other. They will be talking and
pleased to use what they know to help each other.

20. If the students start or prolong an activity, take their lead and
exploit it to the best.

21. At more advanced levels, you do not need to correct students' every
mistake. If it is something you know they have already learned, just
call their attention to their mistake and they will correct themselves.
This strategy will help them monitor themselves when the teacher is not

22. The teacher does not need to evaluate and correct all the time. Let
students practice the language they have been studying freely.

23. Beware of free conversation classes. It is very easy to keep
repeating oneself and make no improvement. Be sure to take such
opportunities to teach your students too as the opportunity arises, but
it does not mean you have to play the teacher 100% of the time and never
be yourself.

24. Walk off the stage, become the director and let your students take
the lead role. Do more pair work (even if you are your student's pair)
and group work.

25. Use some sort of strategy to vary pairs, such as games, songs, split
sentences slips, word pairs slips, etc.

26. Use conversation oilers to keep your students talking (polite
noises, facial expressions, gestures, short questions, interjections,

27. All class activities are potential conversation activities, take
advantage of it.

28. Communication is basically an exchange of information. See to it
that your students have different sets of information or an information
lack so they will have a real need to talk.

29. Ask obvious questions and your student will give obvious answers and
be fast bored. Ask clever and involving questions and your students will
be engaged body and soul in the activity.

30. Silence is golden. Listen to what your students have to say.

Laerte J. Silva


97/08 From-->   Connie Vargas <connie_vargas@eee.org>
Subject:        Participation "cards"

When students are working in pairs and groups, supposedly in the target
language, what do you do to ensure participation.

Here are a couple of ideas from my friend, Ken Kirkeby et al.

Give each student 3 different colored cards. These are one-hole punched
so that they may be kept in the binder and are available for daily use.
Each student writes his own name on each card. At the beginning of class
(daily or only special days) the cards are laid out on the desk in front
of the student. The colors have significance and any combination may be
used. Use, for instance, BLUE for outstanding job of staying on task in
target language; PINK for a good job that could be improved; YELLOW for
a poor job today - too much English or not on task. As students work
together during the period, teacher monitors and takes one card from
each student as an evaluation. At the end of the day, the teacher
records the color as points. You could give BLUE 5 points, PINK 3 points
and YELLOW 0 or 1 point (after all - he was physically in class, wasn't

These same cards can be put together when working in teams. As teams
work, teacher walks around and adds cards to the pile when good work is
being done. By the same token, cards are pulled away as students are off
task or out of the language. Clip cards together and give the group
points accordingly. Teacher needs to be aware if the behavior is a group
PROBLEM or individual. Others need not be penalized for one bad apple.
Remember the clout you can have since the threat of losing of cards can
scare them "chitless". :-)

Have cards with the color code ready to go when students start
paired/group work. As they work, teacher circulates and gives instant
feedback to students by laying one of the cards on each desk. The
student knows immediately if his work is outstanding, needs improvement
or is poor. Those "outstandings" can go a long way and feel pretty good.
They may write names on the cards and you give points OR just pick them
up and save them for another day to use an indicator or success.

Just a few ideas. Can you add more?

Connie Vargas
Apple Valley High School
Apple Valley CA


97/11 From-->   D3troiter@aol.com
Subject:        Re: Oral Activities

One good way that I use to encourage speaking is the use of francs. I
have photocopied French francs onto different colored paper. The francs
can be used to buy candy from me or can be used in the cafeteria for
chips and pop (I have to repay of course). Some teachers also accept
them for different things also.

Anyway, I tell the students that there is a person in the building who
has 500FF for someone who will ask them how they are doing, or there is
someone in the building who has 300FF for someone to tell them the time.
The kids then, during the day, ask any adult they can the necessary
questions or information. I pre-select a teacher and tell them what is
acceptable and not acceptable. For example, "Quelle heure est-il?" is
not acceptable. "Pardon, quelle heure est-il?" is acceptable. Those
unprepared teachers have often responded that my students were driving
them crazy by continually saying "Bonjour Monsieur (Madame)" and shaking
their hand once.



97/11 From-->   "Constance J. Eno" <Enocvj@aol.com>
Subject:        Re: Oral Activities

I've been teaching for a long time and trying different things to solve
the oral participation problems you mention. Of course one keeps on
trying all different kinds of activities and sometimes one will work.

In addition, however, I have started something that is working well for
me.. mainly because students perceive something as important only if it
has a grade attached. I now have an Oral participation QUIZ grade each

A student gets 5 "franc" notes (with a spot on the franc for their name
& period.) Each franc is worth 20 points for a total of 100. I also have
used 6 or 8 or 10 francs.
The student must approach me - in the hall, after class, before class,
maybe if I give them 5 minutes to start their homework during that time
- and have a conversation with me or recite a poem & answer questions,
or sing a French song, or interview mw about a particular topic, do a
Regents dialog, or..on & on... Of course this must all be in French. If
I think what they have done is sophisticated enough I ask for one of
their francs. They must always have their francs with them and ready.
If they talk to me and get rid of all their francs they have a 100 quiz
grade. Sometimes I also ask for a franc in class if someone has done a
really outstanding job in French. Never have my students spoken French
as much as they do now. They talk when they see me in the store, in the
hall, at a game, everywhere. It is great.
Just an idea for you. I hope it helps.

Connie Eno
Vestal Senior High School
Vestal, NY


97/11 From-->   Mary E Young <young-m@juno.com>
Subject:        Re: Oral Activities

(1) They have to have a reason to learn what you're giving them. And not
just for a test. There has to be some application of the language so
they can maintain focus on what you're having them practice and learn.

(2) They get *far* more out of practice and exposure to contextualized
language than from explanation. The less you explain and the more you
show them, the better.

(3) They like a reason to "buy in" -- maybe it's getting involved in a
story (yes, TPRS is great for this), or working on a project with a
purpose (a book about themselves that they will present to someone,
sending e-mail or letters to real people, etc.) The more abstract the
things you ask them to do, the less they will care about them.

(4) They hate to be "uncool". I'm always frustrated when neat activities
that work so well with FL teachers (who really want them to work) fail
miserably with real teenagers. They won't do anything that might tarnish
their image. The trick is to provide imaginative activities that don't
require them to take personal risks beyond what they are willing to do
in front of their peers.

(5) As far as suggestions, my students remember and comment on
activities such as: extended role plays (soap opera style), projects
(not bookish ones, but one they did with peers and presented to the
class), cooking, certain films, and animated discussions (we pretended
to do a Rikki Lake show in French and got some very interesting

The hard thing for us to remember is how fragile their egos can be, and
how important their emotions are to them. My students seem to enjoy
"being someone else" in a speaking activity, because they can say more
without necessarily having to own what they say. They can say something
dumb, and it's the character, not them.

Also, we are in competition to keep the strong students, who also want
to take all the AP classes they can get, are involved in activities and
sports and student government, and sometimes need to get a job their
senior year to pay for their senior activities. If they are
college-bound, you might consider pushing for AP or honors advanced
classes to keep them in the program.

A strong, active language club can help, or if students are emotionally
tied to the French class they might opt out of class and keep club
affiliation to soothe their guilt feelings.

Hope there is something useful to you in this. Keep up the good work!

Mary E Young


97/03 From-->   Ritsu Shimizu  <ritsu@telerama.lm.com>
Subject:        10 Minutes conversation--Recall drill

This is what I do in my Level I class. Once in a while (I have not
figured out the most effective pacing of this activity though), I use a
class set of conversation clue card constructed according to a topic;
such as self intro, family, at classroom, at a birthday party, etc. , on
Friday. One topic is used at a time. These topics were already covered
so they are expected to know. It is a pair work, one asks and another
answers. Question items are written in English (such as asking age,
residence...). What students do is not actually free conversation, it is
recall drills for the basic vocabulary and lang. functions. For the
second level students, new items are added to a same topic. Students
enjoy this activity because they think that they can speak. I let three
or four pairs perform after class drill. Then, I move to a next plan of
the day.

I certainly like to check the National Textbook company's Role Play
guide book. In the language of Japanese, there is a set of conversation
cue cards made in the University of Toronto, Canada, this card is more
appropriate to use for upper level students.

Ritsu Shimizu


97/03 From-->   "Bonnie A. Eng" <england@hutchtel.net>
Subject:        Re: Daily Speaking Proficiency Grade ?

Another thing that encourages oral participation is the use of funny but
soft toys. Things like koosh balls are great and are thrown to the next
student that has to do an activity response. Their friends are calling
on them - not me. The kids love it when I get a new toy- they actually
find new ones for me and tell me where to buy them. Try a Goosebumps
oozing eye! Everyone wants to participate! A friendly "cabezas arribas"
(heads up) is all the reminding I need to do. No one gets hurt =)
Although I try to monitor the points, encouraging ALL to participate,
the students will be quick to remind me that if a students does NOT
raise their hand and WANT to participate, that is *their* problem. I
encourage sharing of points and generosity etc, but one student openly
stated today that he is selfish and wants more points! For the painfully
shy, I offer the opportunity to come in and talk with me one on one in
order to get the points. We have a friendly personal chat and I enjoy
getting to know the shy ones in this way. In order to compensate for a
week in which the student was absent, my grading program "Making the
Grade", allows me to drop the most damaging score in any category. At
the end of the quarter, I drop both an oral score and a homework score.
We all feel good about this in the end.

BTW, the seating charts are a great source of info at parent
conferences. It is a visual record of their son/daughters work for the 9

Bonnie Eng


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