A Key Skill for World Language Learners
Presenting information is a great task for world language learners, and these four engaging activities will get them talking.
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) consider presentational communication to be essential. In the world language classroom, presentational activities give learners more opportunities to use the target language in meaningful ways, build their self-confidence, and share cultures with other people. The goal of presentational communication is to develop the learners’ ability to present information, concepts, and ideas, and to share, inform, narrate, explain, and persuade.
I’d like to share four presentational communication activities that particularly engage my world language students.
4 Presentational Communication Activities
1. Hop-On, Hop-Off: The goal of this activity is for learners to present the beauty and bounty of a town or province they’ve chosen from the target culture. The idea is similar to a hop-on, hop-off bus, where learners assume the role of a tour guide.
The teacher arranges chairs in the classroom to resemble the seating in a bus. The learners “hop off the bus,” and an appointed learner tour guide gives their presentation. When the learner tour guide is finished, the learners “hop back on the bus,” ready for the next learner tour guide to give their presentation.
The tour guides share specific details, such as the history of the locale, notable landmarks, main products and cuisines, festivals, etc., using the target language. The tour guides are allowed to switch from the target language to their first language and vice versa, to give more detailed information about the location. The learners can prepare tour pamphlets and display boards as visual aids. They also have the option to show tourism advertisements, similar to this one, featuring the town or province they’ve chosen.
2. At the Museum: During the activity, the class goes on a “museum tour.” Assigned student docents choose one cultural or souvenir item from the target-language country to feature in the exhibit and explain its cultural relevance. For instance, when we did this in class, I asked learners to pick and choose any item from the Filipino culture that they had learned about in class. One of my learners chose to display a baro’t saya, a pair of traditional Filipino clothing items for males and females. Teachers and students from other classes can also participate and experience a day at the museum.
3. Zoom-ing In: The next presentation activity is applicable to virtual classes. Using Zoom as a platform, divide the class into groups. A suggested presentation features food items or dishes. Each group of learners presents the steps or procedures for preparing a specific dish from their home culture as they fulfill the role of a key informant or chef. Students from the target culture are the audience.
For instance, American learners of Tagalog would present the steps for preparing an apple pie or cornbread using the target language. The presenting learners prepare the dish, while their audience watches online. The purpose is to allow exchanges of cultural practices (through food) between the world language learners and others from the target culture. Hence, the target audience would give a presentation on how a traditional dish is prepared in their country.
When we did this in our virtual Tagalog class, the Filipino learners we invited prepared a vegetable okoy, a Filipino vegetable fritter. Both groups can also share other interesting facts about the dishes or food items they prepared.
4. Minute to Vlog It: The last activity to enhance presentational communication skills should be very popular. With learners’ familiarity with social media, they’ll likely relish presenting information through a vlog (video blog), taking on the role of a vlogger. To make it more interesting, the learners create a minute-long vlog featuring different fun facts about the country where the target language is spoken.
Using social media platforms and video editing tools or a design application like Adobe Creative Cloud Express, vloggers include interesting features of the country they’ve learned in class, such as the language, the people, places, or a specific cultural practice. An example is this video from a YouTuber who describes the Philippines in one minute, but the learners’ vlogs should be in the target language and have the vibe of an advertising campaign. Students can view the one-minute vlogs during class time.
The key to successfully organizing presentational communication activities for world language learners is to be mindful of the event’s communicative purpose (to present, inform, narrate, etc.), the media or channel (physical or virtual), and the audience. Although the World-Readiness Standards describe presentational communication as one-way, the teacher can still foster interaction by encouraging the audience to ask questions, clarify ideas, and add more information.