When I asked my students about communicating in class they asked for more short conversations with different partners and time to do this every day. They felt it helped them become more confident in their signing skills. As a teacher, I know this is true. Placing a student with the same partner all period doesn’t always make a good learning environment for students. Vary partners with preselected rotations or try what I do by keeping a stack of index cards with student names on it to randomly select partners. If you are short on time, revert to the good ‘ol partner clock.
Topics for Communication
Use short topics to get students talking. Use speaking ideas that resonate with students and review topics to keep ideas fresh. Vary the speaking activities you use. I like to keep a PowerPoint of topics for each unit that rotate through review of what we have been learning and questions that bring in topics that relate more to teenagers. This allows for better peer-to-peer communication to happen.
The Family Dinner Project has a lot of appropriate conversation starters to use. Write topics on index cards and pass one out to each student. Set a timer and have them talk on that topic until the timer sounds. Use inner and outer circles or place students in groups to discuss topics. I try to encourage students to stay on a topic for the entirety of the time set. Circulate through the class and guide the flow of conversation. This will also help students stay in the target language.
Follow Up with Peer-to-Peer Communication
After students have had the opportunity to use peer-to-peer communication, follow up with them. Have students report back what they learned about their partner(s). Ask students questions about their peers so they can practice the exchange of receptive and expressive communication. You can even incorporate self-assessments and reflection. Have readily available self-evaluation slips that are quick and easy for students to use and think about their signing skills. I like to use ACTFL’s I can statements because that is what we use in my classroom for outcomes and expectations. You can really make this whatever works for you. See my example below. Always debrief the activity for the whole group with common errors you took note of during your movement around the classroom.
I hope you get some great ideas. If you like what you are reading about, don’t forget to click on the follow button at the bottom right of this post. Thanks and happy chatting!
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