Cybele Beckham is the marketing manager for World Languages at Cengage. She’s passionate about language learning and eager to give students the opportunity to practice their communication skills.
Speaking is the most challenging skill for Intro Spanish and French students. To help your students in their Intro Spanish and French courses overcome nerves and practice speaking, MindTap for World Languages offers two new Communicative Video Activities — Comunicación (in MindTap for Spanish) and Communication (in MindTap for French).
In this blog, we’ll spotlight these new activities, along with other MindTap exercises, that help students go beyond just producing one or two-word answers in Spanish or French. By building on ACTFL proficiency guidelines for novice speakers, these activities allow students to communicate in predictable social situations like the ones they might encounter in personal and professional interactions.
New Comunicación and Communication activities
The new Comunicación and Communication activities are video-based listening and speaking assignments that simulate the experience of a real-world conversation with a Spanish or French speaker. Students listen to a native speaker talk about a topic that aligns with the textbook’s chapter themes. The speaker occasionally pauses to ask the student a simple, direct question, relevant to the topic of discussion. Students record their responses and continue through the simulated interaction, then repeat this 4-5 times throughout the activity.
How they’re different
These activities differ from other listening-speaking tasks since students respond to a specific, real person in the video, mimicking the back-and-forth cadence of a natural conversation. The Comunicación and Communication activities help students respond in their target language as they would when talking to a live person.
The framework of a conversation helps students communicate in their target language all the way through the video. Unlike other AV Board activities, the speakers in the video model the language and forms which students are asked to learn.
Why talking to native speakers matters
The native speakers in the Comunicación and Communication activities also present students with various accents from throughout the Spanish and French-speaking worlds. By completing these activities within MindTap, students hear a variety of native speakers, helping them learn their real accents and speeds, current colloquial expressions and culture through the context of the conversations.
Pedagogically, the Comunicación and Communication activities are carefully designed to provide an authentic experience that is cohesive with the rest of the program.
Because these activities mirror real conversations, student responses aren’t timed, helping them think in Spanish or French just as they would have to in a face-to-face conversation. Each conversation is also designed with open-ended questions so that students must respond with more than one word. Through these exchanges, they practice speaking, listening, responding, phrasing and pronunciation.
The conversations focus on the communication objectives from the beginning of each chapter. For example, if the chapter objective is for the learner to be able to describe a recipe, the chapter gives the vocabulary and grammar to do so. Then, the activity provides a true-to-life simulation talking about the course material.
Instructors can then give personalized written or oral feedback to each student. For each student portion of the conversation, instructors can provide feedback that they want the student to consider as they move forward in the course.
What instructors are saying about Comunicación and Communication activities
These activities have already made an impact in World Language classrooms. Here’s what instructors have to say about their experience with the Comunicación and Communication activities:
“This is a meaningful assignment that imitates an authentic conversation in French. It will allow students to practice their listening and oral comprehension skills outside of the classroom.”
– Instructor from Davidson College
“Great! I like the conversation prompts by a native speaker. Good way of getting students to speak and practice what they are learning.”
– Instructor from Pellissippi State Community College
“I like this idea for assignments. I have constructed similar tasks, but it takes forever to develop everything myself.”
– Instructor from Oklahoma Baptist University
“Especially good for intro students, who are shy to speak in public.”
– Instructor from St. Mary’s College
“I love these activities — they are quick to grade and more ‘authentic’ ways to practice speaking at home. They work especially well if you do similar role-play activities in-class regularly, with students rotating partners, so this feels like a natural extension to do at home.”
– Instructor from the University of Alabama
To see the Comunicación and Communication activities in action, watch this brief preview video.
More listening and speaking activities in MindTap for World Languages
Comunicación and Communication activities aren’t the only resources for teaching a World Language course. MindTap also offers plenty of resources to help students learn their target languages more effectively.
With Bongo, you can create your own speaking practice activities to replicate real-time conversation where students have a limited time to answer questions asynchronously, giving them a chance to provide off-the-cuff responses.
Conversifi connects your Spanish or French students to native speaking peers for on-demand language practice and cross-cultural exchange over video chat.
Audio activities (Learn It! and Practice It!)
The use of audio in these interactive listening activities helps students practice listening comprehension skills by hearing it spoken with proper pronunciation.
Video activities (Ready! Practice It! and Use It!)
Students get exposure to spoken language through videos where the language is coupled with context and visual cues, making it easy to understand.
Recording activities (Practice It! and Use It!)
Students listen to a pronunciation explanation, then record themselves pronouncing words listed in the activity. Students might also be asked to answer a static question listed in the activity in complete sentences, then record their answers.
Students practice pronouncing words and short phrases from each chapter. The program then compares students’ recordings to the example and provides a Confidence Score. This score must match or be higher than the Confidence Required for students to pass the assessment. (Note: Currently only available for Spanish.)
Discussion forum activities (Use It!)
In these assignable activities, students interact and converse with each other in Spanish or French by posting, liking and replying to comments in writing on an online discussion thread.
Multi-student recording activities (Use It!)
In pairs or groups, students take turns creating audio recordings and video of themselves conversing in Spanish or French based on assigned prompts.
To learn more about tools in MindTap for your World Language course, connect with a Cengage representative.