Skip to main content

Battleships and beyond


Image: pixabay.com

Many teachers make use of the game Battleships to generate listening and speaking in the classroom. Frequently the game is used to drill verb conjugations, with personal pronouns in the vertical axis and infinitives to be manipulated on the horizontal axis. Students usually enjoy the game, lots of repetitive language is used and the teacher may feel satisfied that verbs are being drilled in and internalised for later more spontaneous use. But, as I've suggested in a previous blog, he leap from repeating isolated verb forms to unrehearsed sentences production is a pretty big one and we know many pupils don't make it.

One way to improve the use of Battleships is to extend it from verb use to whole chunk or sentence use. In this way students get to recycle, many times, whole chunks of language which can be later worked in to more spontaneous utterances. Without going in to the mechanics of working memory and long term memory, it's likely to be easier for students to retain the one item Je suis allé au cinéma (one whole chunk), than to combine two items in memory Je suis allé and au cinéma, or worse still a set of explicit rules about how aller works in the perfect tense along with rules for prepositions .

Once students have processed and used Je suis allé au cinéma multiple times over a period of weeks, they're far more likely to use it spontaneously on future occasions. Imagine then adding many more similar chunks of language and you begin to see how even less brilliant linguists can comprehend and produce a range of useful, high frequency language. That was certainly my feeling when working with students, especially those who were not "natural linguists" (the majority). Far better to do this than to teach a rule and get students to then adapt it to a wide range of vocabulary. (That's another debate, by the way, which I shan't pursue here!)

So, with that preamble out of the way, here is a teaching sequence which might tempt you.

1. Model then play this game of battleships where the focus is on FUTURE TENSE, using two high frequency verbs jouer and aller.


Bataille navale – le weekend prochain, verbes variés


aller à une fête avec amis
jouer au tennis avec parents
aller à un concert avec copains
jouer au foot dans le parc
aller au restaurant avec parents
jouer des jeux en ligne
aller en ville faire les magasins
jouer au hockey pour l’école
aller voir grands-parents
je









tu









il









elle









on









nous









vous









ils









elles










In the above example it's important you model the task first, especially since it requires some manipulation of possessives (avec mes parents, avec ses parents, avec nos parents etc). You could display a set of these possessive adjectives on the board to scaffold the task.

2.  Extend the activity

Once you've played the game, monitoring and helping where necessary, and insisting students stay almost always in the target language, you could then generate more recycling as follows:

a)  Have students create five novel sentences without showing their partner, then pairs play a yes/no guessing game: Tu iras au café avec tes amis? Tu joueras au rugby à l'école? The first person to guess their partner's activities wins.

b)  Hide the grid then display five of your own, new sentences. Read aloud, do choral reading aloud, then use the "disappearing text" technique (gradually removing words and chunks until nothing is left). Students should be able to say all the sentences from memory.

c) Back in pairs play the "first one who can't say something loses" game. Partners alternate in making up a sentence until someone cannot. This can last a while if the ground has been properly prepared beforehand.

d)  Dictate some sentences, offering a gapped version for weaker classes.

e) Do instant translation into French or English of previously practised or newly invented sentences in the future tense.

e)  As a written task students can now write up an account of their next weekend's activities. Depending on the class, you can give some more freedom for students to explore other verbs, using verb tables if need be. If they do this in class they can then read aloud their account to a partner.

f) In a subsequent lesson you can do an information gap task where each student has an incomplete diary of the following week's activities. Students have to ask either yes/no questions or a simple Qu'est-ce que tu feras? to fill in the gaps on their incomplete grid.

g) In another subsequent lesson you can play running dictation or translation.

So there you go. That's one way of structuring a set of activities to ensure lots of feasible TL use and recycling of high frequency language.

Comments

  1. Hello,

    Are there instructions for how to play method #1? Are students only producing the combined sentence in L2? Is there risk of students producing without comprehending? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…

Responsive teaching

Dylan Wiliam, the academic most associated with Assessment for Learning (AfL), aka formative assessment, has stated that these labels have not been the most helpful to teachers. He believes that they have been partly responsible for poor implementation of AfL and the fact that AfL has not led to the improved outcomes originally intended.

Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

I suspect he’s right about the appellation and its consequences. As a teacher I found it hard to get my head around the terms AfL and formative assess…

Five great advanced level French listening sites

If your A-level students would like opportunities to practise listening there are plenty of sources you can recommend for accessible, largely comprehensible and interesting material. Here are some I have come across while searching for resources over recent years.

Daily Geek Show

I love this site. It's fresh, youthful and full of really interesting material. They have an archive of videos, both short and long, from various sources, grouped under a range of themes: insolite (weird news items), science, discovery, technology, ecology and lifestyle. There should be something there to interest all your students while adding to their broader education. Here is one I enjoyed (I shall seriously think about buying tomatoes in winter now):




France Bienvenue

This site has been around for years and is the work of a university team in Marseilles. You get a mixture of audio and video material complete with transcripts and explanations.This is much more about the personal lives of the students …