The first question to ask yourself is Why? Why is teacher use and pupils’ use of target language so important in the classroom? An answer to this is because it shows language being used for a purpose and with an audience in mind. Clearly, to begin with, the language needs to be simple and quickly understood. It ought to lead to further development by pupils. Questions are as important as statements. The language you choose should be building up a battery of language that pupils may want to use to communicate things that others don’t know. It begins from a simple base. Let me take a French example to show you what I mean. ‘J’ai + an object’ (I have..).
Teach the question first (Tu as…? Have you got…?), then structure the answer with a limited list of objects. You need to have in your mind not just a pair-practice activity but that by doing the practice activity the class will be standing, linguistically, on their own two feet. Here’s an example. A set of cards per pupil with an image per card of the objects you have just taught. The point of the exercise is to win as many of your opponent’s cards as possible. Pupil A asks: Tu as xx? (Have you got…?) Pupil B replies: Oui. (Yes.) and hands it over) or ‘Non’ and then takes their turn to ask the question. Can you see in this example that, though the language is simple the question is worth asking because you want to win the card from your partner. Another critical advantage is that this can be applied to different sets of objects and people and places etc. So it has general applicability beyond my example and sets up an easy framework for a number of different contexts.
It’s the most important job of the languages teacher to show pupils that they can talk to each other in another language, from the very start of their language learning. In these two books we look at how you develop classroom routines which help you get your pupils talking in the target language.
It Makes you Think (written with Ann Swarbrick)