We all know that in order to learn a second language, our students must SPEAK that second language.
Makes sense, right? You learn to speak by speaking!
This means that it is SO, SO important to maximize the amount of time that all of your students are speaking – not just one or two.
Often, I am sure you’ll find that when we ask a question to the class and get our students to raise their hands and wait for us to call on them, it is always the same few students answering our questions over and over!
And other times, a whole day can go by before you realize that you didn’t speak to a particular student – especially the shy or quiet ones! We are SO BUSY and there is so much going on in the run of the day in maternelle. It is really hard to seek out the quiet students for conversation when we have 10 or so noisy and excited students scrambling for our attention.
But we HAVE to make sure that ALL of our students are getting equal opportunities to speak and practice French, each and every day, if we want them to become successful and fluent in their second language.
Small group time is great, but it isn’t enough. If you’re like me, you don’t see all your groups each day. And there is so much more that our students need to know how to express!
One of my mentors/teacher heroes did a PD session with us recently, and I will never forget what she told us. She said:
“When you wake up each morning and your feet hit the floor, ask yourself: ‘What can I do today to make sure that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT speaks as often and as much as possible?’.
That should be the number one question on your mind each day. In order to read, to write, to play, to understand, to everything, our students must first SPEAK!
And there are things that you can do, every single day – things that don’t even require extra prep!
What are these things?
Well, here are my three favourite ways to get my students talking!
1. “HOW ARE YOU?” CIRCLE
Every single day, we begin our day with a “how are you?” circle. We all sit on the perimeter of the carpet, and I have a “magic cube”. Only the person with the cube is allowed to speak.
We pass the cube around the circle, and I ask each student how they are.
Every single person has the chance to share something about how they are feeling and why they are feeling that way (but they don’t have to!). And everyone gets the opportunity every day; even if you have a super shy student who doesn’t often speak, you never know when they will decide to share.
A successful circle takes practice, and you have to have high expectations for it to work properly, but it is easily the most valuable part of my day.
My students are learning extremely important communication skills – both speaking and listening to their peers respectfully, and reacting to their stories appropriately. So many teachable moments happen inside of these 10-15 minutes!
This time also allows me to hear personal stories from my students and really get to know them and what is going on in their lives, and also allows me to share things from my life with them. A strong relationship with our students is key to helping them feel comfortable with taking risks… and you can’t learn to speak another language without being willing to take some risks!
I also learn of any events or issues that could affect someone’s day or mood, and can be ready for potential meltdowns or grouchies.
When we first start the circle in September, most students just say “ça va bien/mal/etc” and pass the cube along (which is quick and awesome for our low September listening stamina!), but I then teach them the vocabulary for different emotions after a week or two. By this point in the year, I actually have to limit how many things they are able to share, or we would be in our circle all day (which would be super fun for me, but super hard for busy five year old bodies!) :)
Sharing and expressing feelings and emotions is an important outcome for kindergarten students in Nova Scotia, and in case you need another reason to give this a try, a “how are you” circle is a wonderful way to practice that, every single day!
2. TURN & TALK
I use this activity alllllll the time!! It requires ZERO prep, only takes 1-2 minutes, and you can use it with any lesson at all!
At the tapis, my students all have a partner. You can use bits of coloured masking tape along the lines on your tapis to “connect” two squares together (if you have one with individual squares like I do) to show who is partners with who, if you like. It is best if their partner is right beside them, because all you have to do for this activity is tell your students to turn and tell their partner something!
If you want to, you can even use different colours of tape and give each student multiple partners to switch things up (turn and tell your red/blue/green partner…)
I use this activity most often during our literacy block. It is great for read-alouds! You can get your students to turn and tell their partner their favourite part, the problem, the solution, important details, beginning/middle/end, etc.
If you have students who waste a bit of time getting to the point, you can use cubes – give each set of partners 2-3 cubes and then they can say that number of things. So, for beginning/middle/end, they would put one cube down and say what happens in the beginning, the second cube down for the middle, and the third cube for the end. Or you can say something like “turn and tell your partner two words that rhyme with …” and they would put a cube down for each one.
As with anything worth doing, this does take some teaching and practicing – but not a whole lot. It is so important for our students to learn how to listen, understand, and ask for clarification. To really encourage them to listen to their partner, after each share, I will call on a couple students to share what their PARTNER said – not their own idea!
3. WHOLE CLASS GAMES WHERE EVERYONE SPEAKS
You have probably already read about my favourite game that gets everyone talking – Mme Andrea a perdu. It is my favourite because my students love it and because I can use it to practice any sentence structure I want!
And, of course, every single student is speaking every single round!
Another collection of resources that follows a similar idea is the AIMS plays and lesson plans. They work really well because every student is speaking all throughout the lesson. If your school has the budget and your students need basic language practice, I highly recommend them!
I also play the game Le pot qui parle from Michelle Dupuis with my students. It works well for us because we are already used to sharing circles because of our daily morning circle.
My chef du jour picks a question from the pot, and we go around in a circle and everyone shares their answer.
Simple, but effective!
I like that there are seasonal prompts – these provide a great occasion for practicing the seasonal vocabulary we are learning during other activities.
I hope that some of these ideas are helpful to you! If you have any other things that you do to ensure that all of your students are speaking every single day, I would love to hear about them! I am always looking for more :)
We learn to speak by speaking, so if you want your students to be successful in French, remember this wise advice from one of the most brilliant teachers I know –
“When you wake up each morning and your feet hit the floor, ask yourself: ‘What can I do today to make sure that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT speaks as much as possible?’
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