Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Teaching comprehension

There are so many things that we can learn quickly but "comprehension of a second language" is not one of them!  Improving comprehension takes time and lots of repetition and practice.  When students are not yet able to understand everything that they hear in the foreign language we need to work at strategies to help them understand SOME of what they are listening to.  The more difficult the listening "podcast" or "tv commercial" or "speech" the longer it will take the students to get to a point where they understand most of what is being said. 

Today, I had my students watch a short video which was advertising "la fête des lumières", the festival of lights which starts tomorrow in Lyon, France.  I gave only a very short introduction to the video and then asked the students the write down all of the words that they understood as they were listening to and watching the video. I then asked them to use those words in a very short "quick write" of 6 minutes in length.  I didn't care what they wrote, I just wanted them to use some of the words that they heard.  I also wanted them to realize that they couldn't spend 10 minutes deciding about what they were going to write.  (a huge time waster when time in the classroom is precious)  When students are asked to write something they don't always have the vocabulary at their fingertips in order to write something of a higher quality.  This gave all of my students a place to start.  I then showed a second video where I had the students do the exact same thing, only this time the short video was about a short story that we had recently read and are studying in class. (La Chasse-Galerie)  Again, my goal was for the students to create a vocabulary list for themselves.  This list will now be used to study from in preparation to writing their culture test about the French Canadian short story.

As is always the case, the class has a large variety of abilities.  This exercise was difficult for some and much easier to do for others. 

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