Understandably, students need a lot of practice to become proficient in interpersonal speaking. I've found my novice-level students need a lot of repetition, structure, and opportunity to develop interpersonal speaking skills, but I've found several tactics that have my kiddos chatting freely away.
1) I frequently do a lot of short, interpersonal tasks based on cultural images and videos. Below are a few examples that include cultural images and prompts, usually in English, but occasionally in the target language. After students speak with their tables or with their partners, I model questioning methods and allow students to ask one another questions in front of the entire class. This helps students develop a larger question bank and struggling students to hear the types of questions they can ask to achieve a task.
2. When I first discovered question ladders six years ago, they changed the way my students approached interpersonal tasks. Unfortunately, I now have no recollection of where I got the original idea. I've scoured the internet and looked through every WL pedagogy book I own, but whoever originally came up with the concept is my hero. Novice-level students really need to be given question and answer frames throughout a given unit if they are going to successfully craft a conversation for the interpersonal summative assessment. When I first started using question ladders, I typically gave them to students toward the end of the unit. This year, however, I've been providing them to students at the beginning of the unit usually conveniently placed on the back of their vocabulary charts for easy access. I've found that when I give interpersonal speaking practice prompts like those shown above that my students are more engaged and more confident with the question ladder.
Notice that in the question ladder above, my students are provided a sample question, but must construct their own answers and a similar question. Students use the question ladders throughout the unit, but I find I see many of my students using them as a study guide so they're very versatile.
Also, please note that I'm not usually a big fan of talking about explicit grammar in the like in left column, but I teach in a large district that is largely not proficiency-based and I feel obligated to ensure my students know the grammatical terms that many of their teachers will use in the future. If you'd like to try out some question ladders with your students, all of my unit IPAs come with them, plus a whole lot more.
3. Now, let's get to talking about ways I let my students practice interpersonal speaking before the unit assessment. You saw the example prompts in the first bullet, but I often like to give my kids the opportunity to practice conversations with lots of their peers so they get a feel for the way different people approach a conversation. My favorite speaking activity is called speed-dating, an idea I think I originally got from the Creative Language Classroom. I'm kind of a classroom management nut, so I always spend a few minutes reviewing the rotation and after a few times, they've got the hang of it. They know to move when I shake the maraca and that if they finish the conversation early, they should start the conversation over in a different way. In my classroom, the rotation looks looks like the image below, but there are lots of different ways to get the same effect like inside-outside circles.
4. Finally, if you've never had the opportunity to attend a session with Laura Terrill, renowned language educator and ACTFL presenter, I can't recommend it enough. I've been fortunate enough to hear her twice in the last 18 months and she really made an impact upon my teaching. She has an a ton of easy-to-implement practices for interpersonal speaking in the classroom and you can read about them here. One of my favorite of the many ideas she taught to make the interpersonal task manageable is the TALK score concept shown below.
While she says it shouldn't be overused, I find myself assessing students with TALK scores maybe 2-3 times monthly to hold my students accountable and to set expectations. Students know they will be assessed on how well they meet the four requirements and I usually give 1 point per criterion for a participation grade. I always keep this graphic up on the projector as a visual reminder to kids that they're being assessed with a TALK score.
I hope you got some great ideas for practicing interpersonal communication in your classroom. In the next post, Part 5: Managing the Interprsonal task, we'll move on from practicing speaking to the actual interpersonal IPA task. I'll be giving lots of tips about how to design the scenario, assess effectively, and manage students. So you are sure to catch the next post, please take a moment to subscribe to my blog using the "follow by email" section in the right sidebar.