Last week, I spent a lesson working in the role of Foreign Language Assistant (FLA) with four year 10 German students. Their class teacher wanted them to practise forming sentences verbally; mainly to develop spontaneous speaking and tense practice, which I thought was a brilliant idea. The teacher quickly explained the activity to me and the boys. Below, I will give you her no prep spontaneous speaking game instructions and resources. However, I have also added my own reflections, additions and a free downloadable 15 minute starter activity to do a quick bit of practice on tenses. I feel this would help students produce more accurate sentences during the main spontaneous speaking activity.
- Card cut up into squares (done
by a student whilst the activity is being explained for no prep)
- One different infinitive verb written on each (each student can write an infinitive from a list of collated verbs at the beginning for no prep)
- Small group of students (four worked well)
- Pen and piece of paper to be used as a score card per group
Instructions for No Prep Speaking Game:
- Put students in groups of 3/4
- Allow students to write infinitives from the topic or ones they have learned in the past on four pieces of card each
- Place all cards face down on a table
- The first student picks a verb from the table AND a tense (i.e. essen + present tense)
- The second student chooses the subject pronoun (ich/du/er/sie/es/wir etc or je/tu/il/elle etc)
- The third student chooses the topic (family/friends/food/music/freetime/films etc)
- The fourth student produces a spontaneous spoken sentence using the selected information (ich esse Pommes jeden Tag)
- If the fourth student accurately forms and pronounces a sentence or some extended speech and the rest of the team agrees, a point is awarded and written on the score card. You could allow the student a chance to correct the sentence if their team notices a mistake, or another student can steal the point by rep
- hrasing the sentence.
- The person who went second in the first round, now begins and steps 1-8 are repeated.
- WRITING CONSOLIDATION : If there is time, get the students to choose 6 verbs from the table randomly and get them to write a fairy tale using them – this will allow them to practise the past tense in more detail, but also use what they learn from the speaking activity to consolidate their knowledge.
- I loved the idea, since spontaneous speaking, verbs and tense formation are crucial parts of the reformed 9-1 MFL GCSE’s.
- I also liked the no-prep feel to it.
I did encounter some problems though…
- Firstly, I found that the students in the group didn’t know how to accurately conjugate the verbs in the past, present, future or conditional forms and so I had to spend time doing this after the task had started.
- Secondly, the students did not know what topics they should suggest, so time was wasted each time it came to choosing this.
For these reasons, I would suggest practising tense formation on the board and writing a couple of examples for each tense for students to refer to for support during the task if required. I would also recommend giving them some time to think about past participles and irregular present tense forms before commencing the activity though. You could also get students to share ideas for topics and jot them down on the board first too.
Having reflected on the FLA style lesson, I added the improvements mentioned above and tried it again with my own whole class.
- The group I used the activity with is quite a high flying set and so I got them to work in silence for 8 minutes to complete the No Prep Speaking Activity for MFL. The starter includes the translation of the infinitives, the past participles (with haben or sein), as well as (for some) the irregular forms in the ich/du/er forms. This is easily adaptable for different languages, topics and year groups.
- The students then shared their ideas in pairs and tried to fill in more of the grid for an extra 3 minutes. I also gave them another 3 minutes to work with another pair to add even more.
- I asked the students which verbs they struggled with and wrote these on the board for future reference.
- I then gave them the correct answers on the whiteboard for the whole sheet.
- We also quickly discussed how to form tenses and I wrote 1 example for each tense (but two for perfect tense, one with haben and another with sein) on the whiteboard.
It took me about 30 minutes to prepare the worksheet initially, but I have since used it multiple times for different year groups and the template reduces the prep time to 10 minutes.
We were only left with 15 minutes to practise speaking which was a shame, but, I felt the input at the beginning really made a difference to the accuracy of the sentences being produced. Next time, it should go much quicker since students know the format and will have a reference for tenses. I would also try and use the activity in a double lesson or with two lessons close together.
Have you ever tried this low prep speaking task with verbs in your MFL classroom? Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements and let me know what you think about this if you haven’t ever tried it before!
Check out my other great resources and speaking activities, including: Speaking Languages and Asking Questions Spontaneously PowerPoint.
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