Speaking Activities

I encourage my students in every level to “Franglais” their responses instead of abandoning speaking altogether out of frustration. My #1 rule is also that they must speak in complete sentences. I use the Middlebury Writing and Speaking Rubrics and AP French Rubrics.

  • Weekly speaking assessments: Students create questions for each sub-theme of a unit, compiled into a common Google Doc. Students have a weekly speaking assessment (every Thursday), knowing that they could be asked any question from the document they collectively created. No hiding the ball and all student ownership of the material.
    • This Google Doc is posted on their class page, always accessible. I proof questions (often completed in-class or for homework) and use them as warm-ups to prepare for their weekly exam. Students who quickly finish written assignments often ask if they can study the questions while others are finishing an activity.
    • You can find an example here: Weekly Speaking Assessment (Master Template)
  • Weekly speaking (AP French): A weekly requirement for students is to prepare a presentation over a theme and minimum one sub-theme (found here: AP French Themes and Sub-themes). Students record on Flipgrid and then present in order for students to have a strong cultural bank to draw from by the end of the year.
    • The AP exam requires students to give a two-minute cross-cultural presentation. I give students more than the standard four minutes to prepare but scale it down as we progress throughout the year.
  • Flipgrid: When it comes to Flipgrid, I’m all in. I have loved this resource from the moment I first started using it. You can create separate classes and assign Grids with speaking topics. The videos are stored and you can leave comments for the student’s pronunciation, etc. You can also easily duplicate Grids if they apply to multiple sections of the same course.
    • Why I love it: FlipGrid is extremely user-friendly and has made speaking assessments possible from French 1 to French 4. The students can take a picture (typically a selfie) at the very end and decorate it with stickers. When the essay I’d originally planned was going to drag down the lesson, I made a new Grid in less than 30 seconds and sent my students on their way. The new assignment? “Confessions of a Fairy Tale Character.”
  • Partner music video description: Another favorite among students, students pair up with one who turns his/her back to the projector. I play a music video twice: first, with no sound while the partner describes the video; second, watching and listening altogether. Ask in between showings and you’ll hear a lot of curious confusion from the partner whose back was turned!
  • Speaking warm-up: Thanks to Google Images, I have an ongoing Google Doc of Speaking Pictures, varying the instructions per level. Whether it’s basic description, creating a story, continuing your partner’s story, or making an argument for or against the given topic, students become fairly animated when asked to describe zany pictures!
  • Physical descriptions: My students use a lot of whiteboards but this can also be done with a Paint-like application on a device. Students take turns describing a person or creature. Their partner must draw according to the partner’s description. No peeking until the very end to see the final drawing!
  • Demo Slam: Inspired by Google’s Demo Slam, students have two minutes to present their favorite aspect of the unit. Preparation time, tools, and even the topic will vary by level but forces students to speak a bit more impromptu than a standard presentation.
    • LET’S EDTECH THIS! Students constantly use whiteboards in my classroom to draft just about everything. Depending on their skill level, students could instead create Google slides with images, embedded links, and videos to enhance their two minutes.
  • Shark Tank competition: Students are divided into two groups: inventors and judges. While this could be on any given topic, my students research an underdeveloped nation or territory and determine its need. Students have a time limit on their pitch (2-3 minutes) and present their invention as well as background context about their chosen country to the panel of judges. Each judge must provide feedback (impromptu speaking!) and a final vote determines the winner. (*Note: This activity takes an entire period and is not assigned for homework. At this point, we have already read and discussed a current events article to introduce this activity.)
    • LET’S EDTECH THIS! The technology skills that could be incorporated in this activity are endless. Here are a few ideas:
      • My students often use Stanford University’s Design Thinking process, an empathetic, solution-finding process to identify the true problem and need.
      • GSuite Products: Google has a variety of tools that can facilitate group work and presentations. Students can create a Google Slidedeck, collaborate on a Google Doc that is within a shared Google Drive folder, using information that they found in a Google search using filters, such as for Google Images. They can also coordinate their work by sharing their Docs, Slidedeck, or other resources found through Gmail.
      • Give them the option: When it comes to the early stages of speaking in the target language, some students may be more comfortable pre-recording their video. As long as they know this crutch will eventually be taken away to perform impromptu speaking later in the year, why not give them the option? Students could record a video with their phones or devices but I recommend creating a Flipgrid for them to easily upload. Trust me, this will avoid glitches when it comes to presentation time.
      • Polleverywhere.com: You can easily create a live poll for the judges’ votes by using Poll Everywhere. The students love to see the bouncing bars as the votes come in!