When I began my language teaching career, I really struggled with orals. Skits? Conversations? I quickly found them overused and underwhelming for ‘authentic’ use. A conversation with an amazing French teacher sparked my interest in “tâche finale” (a summative final task). So I started my re-think with one idea in mind “How/When would these topic areas be used in Real Life?” From there its a bit of ‘backwards and forwards’ design to determine what they already know that they can use in terms of vocabulary and grammar, and what they need to acquire.
All of these activities ask the students to do the following:
– communicate in the Target Language but record information in English
– use language that is common to anyone in class – no dictionaries!
– spend half the interactive time ‘manning’ their booth giving information and half gathering information (generally 25 minutes for each)
– use the information gathered as part of their written summative test
– students self-evaluate for language use at the end of the task using a rubric that touches on asking/answering questions, use of the target language and how they felt during the activity
School – School Fair: My 3rd year students work in rules, uniforms, subjects and more in their school fair. The only info for potential students to see is a name card on the desk. So students must ask and answer questions to get information. Then they use that to write about which school they would like to attend and one that they wouldn’t.
Food – Taste Tests: Students are asked to recommend food items for the school store/cafeteria by testing on their classmates. They choose 3 producers of the same product (chocolate, cookies, coffee etc) and then do a blind taste test activity with their classmates. They gather information on demographics, buying habits and preferences. Then they use the information to prepare a report on their findings.
Daily Routine – Murder Mystery: Who did it? Take one dead rich guy, an ex-wife, ungrateful children, a lover, his new lonely wife and a chauffeur besotted with her and you have a great mystery. Students volunteer to play the roles – in a twist detectives even interview ‘the dead guy’ and are encouraged to get into character. Teams of 2 detectives get 5-6 minutes to interview everyone involved. The key? The students don’t know the time of death until the next day and when they get it write out ‘who did it’. Suspects and ‘the dead guy’ write as well on who they feel the culprit is.
Travel – Travel Fair: The key here for me is that traveling to major urban centres in the country is not allowed. Students plan an optional 2 or 3 day tour to the destination of their choice ‘off the beaten path’. During the travel fair day they visit 3 – 4 tour booths. Tour operators work to sell their tour by finding out about the tourist – and tourists have their own questions. Then the twist on the written task if for them to write a ‘long’ email to a friend complaining about a tour their parents made them go on!
Hobbies/Sports – Activity Centres: When my 2nds year students begin to add reasoning and ‘purpose’ into their speech they finish with the chance to design their own activity centre. They include outside and inside activities (weather info) and try to appeal to a wide variety of their classmates. Not only do they have to give information for potential clients but they also have to ask the clients about their interests to try to sell them on their centre. After the fair students write about 1 or 2 centres they’d like to be a member of and why.
Students love the ability to communicate information in a ‘realistic’ setting – and I love the 45-60 minutes of target language use I see during the time!