One of the challenges in our current teaching context is that our time in class has been significantly reduced–for me, I see my students for about 90 minutes a week instead of 90 minutes a day. One of the casualties of this change has been the multiple scaffolded conversations that we would pepper in to class, from “talk to your partner” and “find someone who…” to taking a deeper collaborative dive into what students read/heard/viewed. I’m feeling this loss. We talk every period, but it’s just not the same, even with breakout rooms. It’s particularly easy for intermediate students to stay in the comfort of novice-level speech, but I want more. I want to continue to cultivate conversational skills and connections among my students, but am trying to figure out how to do this when I can’t be everywhere at once AND I want them to build their self-sufficiency with their language skills.
My favorite resources to use and create are ones that are flexible and versatile so that they are easy to adapt to multiple units. In an effort to support intermediate students in maintaining TL use in conversations, I’ve made a slide deck that can be used to spark/scaffold conversation after any reading. Each slide also has some sentence starters to help students get started speaking while remaining open-ended enough to allow them to include their thoughts. I’d like to send a shout-out to Sally Barnes (@MsBSpanish) because her ACTFL presentation reminded me how powerful these sentence stems can be for students!
The progression for this activity is for students to read/annotate a piece of text before coming to class, including preparing three discussion questions about what they’ve read. Once in class, I put them into small groups and provide them with the slide deck. Then as a group they talk through the questions with the goal of sustaining TL conversation. I rotate from group to group listening and assisting as needed. While it isn’t a total solution, it is helpful in supporting student growth and risk-taking with the language. Hopefully it will help you too!