Speaking Logs

Last Updated on 2017-12-19I was sitting in my office the other day with one of my students minoring in Spanish. She was concerned with her scores on our recent oral exam and frustrated at how her speaking skills seemed to lag behind her writing and reading. “That’s normal!” – I said, as a way to[…]

Our mission aligns with ACTFL’s position on technology

Last Updated on 2017-10-03The Extempore team’s mission to support language educators in the facilitation of instruction and assessment of oral skills aligns with ACTFL’s position on the role of technology in language learning. When I introduce Extempore at conferences and workshops, people often ask whether we are a stand-alone language software like Duolingo or Rosetta[…]

Back-to-School Activities for the World Languages Classroom

Last Updated on 2018-08-28Do you want to spice up a little your old “what did you do this summer?” activity for the first day of class? Or do you prefer to avoid it altogether? Here are some ideas that I am going to use in my classes. What happened in the world this summer? Headlines[…]

Learner Autonomy Can Lessen Language Anxiety

Last Updated on 2017-07-17We have advocated before for establishing a classroom environment that fosters learner autonomy as a more effective way to promote language learning. One reason why autonomous learning is good for language development is that it helps reduce the anxiety related to foreign language learning. What are autonomous learning and foreign language anxiety?[…]

How to prepare for the AP Language and Culture spoken responses and the IB Individual Oral exam with Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-07-11Both AP and IB language exams are attractive assessment options for high school students to demonstrate that they are ready for college-level work. Universities use these standardized tests to help their admissions and placement decisions, and many even award credit based on a particular score in those exams. In the case of[…]

Students speak more when using Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-07-11Students speak more when using Extempore A little over a year ago, I blogged about the results of a survey on the role of Extempore in boosting confidence to speak among advanced learners of Spanish. Three quarters of the students reported feeling more confident to speak in the target language after a[…]

Speaking-to-Learn: How speaking promotes acquisition

Last Updated on 2017-07-11I’ve been wanting to write about the crucial role of spoken output in language learning for a while. While exposure to the target language – especially in the form of comprehensible oral input – is definitely the sine qua non of language acquisition, I would argue that output is as indispensable as[…]

Whole Class Speaking Activities: Dos and Don’ts

Last Updated on 2018-08-28Have you witnessed a time when ALL your students were actively participating in the target language in a whole class discussion? Unless you teach highly motivated graduate students in small classes, I’m afraid the experience of a successful whole class discussion is not very frequent. And by successful I mean that the[…]

What Motivated Extempore?

If you have attended a demo on how to use Extempore for speaking practice in your foreign language classroom, you have probably met one of the three co-founders who are teachers (and who currently keep teaching because they love it!). You may be wondering what led us to conceive of, design, and embark in the[…]

But my students can’t assess their own progress!

Last Updated on 2017-07-11It turns out they can, and rather accurately. Paula Winke (2014), from the University of Michigan, studied how a group of learners’ self-ratings of their oral performances in Chinese compared to the ratings provided by two Chinese language experts. She found that learners’ self-assessments largely coincided (roughly 90% of agreement) with those[…]

Unique Scavenger Hunts for Your Classes

Last Updated on 2017-07-11Do you need a couple of fun activity ideas to fight end-of-the-year boredom? Do you love scavenger hunts for language learning? If you answered yes to both questions, this post is for you. Scavenger Hunt Idea # 1 Have students record short videos about a personal experience (for example, your best summer[…]

It’s More Than Speaking Practice

Besides extra speaking practice for your students and a simpler way to assess spontaneous speech, recordings completed with Extempore provide data for teachers to inform various aspects of their teaching. Here are some ideas. Use recordings as data for formative assessment. Even if you use Extempore just for extra speaking practice and not for assessing[…]

Promoting Extempore Among Your Faculty

Instructional Technologists, Department Chairs, or Language Program Coordinators are often tasked with promoting innovative teaching solutions to more effectively meet the program’s learning objectives. However influential these administrative roles may be, their success in leading and implementing curricular innovation at the program level is contingent upon motivating individual faculty to support any initiatives. Here is[…]

Growing oral proficiency: Five ways to help students move from intermediate to advanced level

Last Updated on 2017-11-27If you teach advanced courses, you experience this phenomenon: students who can write fairly complex texts, but who still speak (if they don’t avoid speaking tasks altogether) only in the present or past tenses, with very simple sentences, and offering very few details. This may be the result of the excessive –[…]

Building conversation skills through listening?

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Yes, being a good listener is part of being a good conversational partner, even in your native language. When thinking of how to help our students to gradually build their conversation skills, we tend to focus on aspects of the classroom tasks that we design for this purpose. Those elements include the[…]

How communicatively adequate are my students?

Communicative adequacy refers to a persons’ ability to successfully communicate in a real-life situation. Within the context of foreign language education, communicative adequacy is the primary goal of instruction: we want our students to express themselves, in speaking or writing, in a way that native speakers of the target language will understand. Communicative success in[…]

The role of vocabulary in building fluency: Making students aware

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Do you remember those days when you were a beginning language learner and you became easily frustrated during speaking activities? Remember the feeling of hopelessness when you got stuck searching for words to express your thoughts? You had something great to say, but you may have remained silent more than you should[…]

What’s For Dinner?: Paired Dialogue Task Ideas

Last Updated on 2017-11-27A few months ago, we posted about the benefits of student-centered paired speaking activities on Extempore. There are a ton of reasons to promote these sorts of activities in your classroom, but the most convincing one of all, I think, is that they give the teacher a snapshot of his/her students’ authentic spoken abilities at[…]

Dear Abby, How Can I Practice the Imperative?

Last Updated on 2017-11-27First things first. Your students probably have never heard of the Dear Abby advice column. Maybe you haven’t either. But that’s OK; it still provides a good context for your students to practice using the imperative mood in the language that they’re studying and it can be accomplished very easily on Extempore. I’m actually[…]

10 Reasons to Learn Another Language

Last Updated on 2017-02-05Sure, you’ve probably heard someone say–and maybe you’ve even said it yourself–that everyone speaks English, so what’s the point in putting a ton of effort into learning a new language? We at Extempore certainly don’t subscribe to that notion. In fact, we think learning a new language is one of the most[…]

The Challenges of Assessing Cultural Competency in the World Languages

Last Updated on 2017-01-16We all know the importance of the 4 big skills in a world language class: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Encouraging the development of each one in our students brings with it a unique set of challenges, approaches, and assessment methods. (And, given our classroom time constraints, we probably also know how hard[…]

Extempore, Backwards Design, and Exit Outcomes for Students

Last Updated on 2017-01-07If you’re an educator these days, you’ve likely come across backwards design. As the name indicates, it’s a method of curricular design in which the instructor starts by establishing desired results for a particular chapter, unit, course, or sequence.  Then he or she works backwards to identify evidence of learning and put into place various instructional practices (i.e.[…]

Using Extempore for PTE Speaking Practice

Last Updated on 2017-11-27We’ve shown numerous times on our blog that Extempore is the perfect educational tool for speaking practice, especially in the world language classroom. It’s useful for anything from interactive classroom activities to extra speaking practice at home. However, because of Extempore’s unique features, which I’ll talk about below, it can also be particularly handy for someone[…]

The Problems with World Language Presentations and How to Fix Them-Part 2

Last Updated on 2016-12-04Hopefully you read our post last time about the problems that many students encounter with giving presentations in a world language classroom. I wrote a little bit about how a “speed-dating” or “marketplace” format can actually put students at ease and promote a fun, more vibrant, and more engaged classroom atmosphere on[…]

The Problems with World Language Presentations and How to Fix Them–Part 1

Last Updated on 2016-11-27You’ve probably had to walk the plank before. Uh oh. Presentation time. You know, where it’s your turn to trudge up to the front of the class and start speaking in front of everyone. Maybe you’ve been assigned to talk about a national dish, or a traditional dance, or a famous artist. It’s bad[…]

Dear Diary: the Preterite and the Imperfect on Extempore

Last Updated on 2016-11-13If you teach Spanish (or French, for that matter), you know how mighty the battle can be for students to learn and use correctly the two verb forms used to talk about actions in the past. Yep, I’m taking about the preterite and the imperfect. Just mentioning those two words often sends[…]

Spice up the Classroom with a Cooking Competition on Extempore!

Last Updated on 2016-10-16These days you can’t turn on the TV without seeing a cooking show. Some of them are the competition type with the red-faced celebrity chef screaming at the contestants. Other cooking shows are more of the travel type where a host visits a particular restaurant to publicize the hard work of regular[…]

The Best of the Best: A Speaking Activity on Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27When I was growing up, my hometown newspaper ran an informal column in which the readers themselves could write in highlighting a product or item that they used at home that had proved beneficial to their lives somehow and that everyone else should check out: powerful vacuum cleaners, super-duper TV remote controls,[…]

Speaking Self-Reflection: It’s Not Just For Writing Anymore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27If you’re a teacher, you probably already know that one of the big pushes in education in recent years has been to incorporate self-reflection into the classroom, both for students as well as for teachers themselves. On the student end of things, self-reflection has been shown to promote responsibility and total engagement in active learning, among other benefits.[…]

Do It All On One Screen with Extempore

If you’ve been exploring our website and reading our blog, hopefully you’ve noticed how useful, convenient, and efficient Extempore is for both students and teachers. There’s a reason for that–the founders of Extempore are full-time classroom teachers, so we’re always thinking of practical ways to make our app the best that it can be for everyone. We recognize from[…]

Let’s Go to the Mall Today: Paired Dialogue Task Ideas

Last Updated on 2017-11-27A few weeks ago, we posted about student-centered paired activities meant to develop speaking skills in the classroom. We mentioned how beneficial these role play or dialogue tasks can be: they foster autonomy, responsibility, creativity, peer-teaching, fun, and authentic language output. Today I wanted to give a quick example of one that I’ll certainly[…]

6 Tips for Improving Pronunciation with Extempore

Imperfect or non-native-like pronunciation can often be a huge roadblock towards effective communication in a world language classroom. Many learners are highly aware of their accent and feel embarrassed by it even if they are otherwise motivated students. This pronunciation anxiety frequently leads them to reject opportunities to communicate in meaningful ways.  It’s really a shame because very few[…]

20 Fun How-To Tasks to Get Your Students Talking

Last Updated on 2017-12-09Although students and teachers occupy the same space throughout much of the day, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone to hear that the two groups often have different experiences at school or even in the classroom itself. During free periods, at lunch, or after school ends, students are carrying out tasks or[…]

Paired role plays with Extempore: Student-centered in-class practice

If you read our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot here about using Extempore for regular speaking practice at home as a way to reinforce skills learned in the classroom, to build fluency, and to develop confidence. Although those are undeniable benefits of our app, students and teachers can also use Extempore[…]

Ditch the Language Lab: Go Anywhere (and Everywhere) with Extempore

Last Updated on 2016-07-22We live in a mobile world. We take our devices everywhere we go and do countless daily tasks on them. And increasingly, mobile technology is becoming part of daily life in education as well. So, why, when it comes to language learning, are so many of our lessons still so “non-mobile”? The language lab,[…]

Assigning Speaking Practice over the Summer with Extempore

Last Updated on 2018-12-12If there’s anything that teachers and students can agree on, it’s that summer vacation is…what’s the word? Amazing? Phenomenal? Ecstatic? But, as we all know, there’s a price to pay.  Our language students–at any level–get more than a little rusty. Those preterit and imperfect endings get mixed up, commands get forgotten altogether. All those[…]

6 Image-based Extempore Tasks to Get Your Students Talking

Last Updated on 2017-11-27We’ve all heard the cliché: a picture is worth a thousand words. But with Extempore, the expression might actually have some literal truth to it! That’s because our app allows teachers and students to use images to kickstart a discussion in the target language. Obviously, an audio prompt from a teacher most closely mimics[…]

Extempore to Present at 98th Annual AATSP Conference

Last Updated on 2016-07-02For all of you Spanish and Portuguese teachers out there, we wanted to let you know that we’ll be presenting Extempore at the upcoming 98th Annual AATSP (American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese) Conference in Miami, Florida (July 8 – 11, 2016). Two of Extempore’s founders, Susana Pérez Castillejo, Ph.D.[…]

What Makes a Day a Good Day? The Present Perfect in Spoken Practice

We have written extensively about why assessing students’ oral skills regularly makes sense (see for example our posts from Jan 3, 2016 or May 24, 2016). Let me share now one way in which I have used Extempore in the classroom to formatively assess my students’ speaking skills with a particular learning goal in mind:[…]

Three Activities to Use Extempore as a Conversation Builder

Last Updated on 2018-08-28The last week of classes one of my students said that he was going to tell his AP Spanish teacher from high school about Extempore. I asked why and he explained that she had students record themselves talking about different topics in preparation for the AP Exam. He said that submitting recordings[…]

Breaking Down the Affective Filter and Building Confidence with Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27I see it every year (and sometimes, sadly, every day). The stammering, the shaking hands, the downcast eyes, the fear. For some students, the world language classroom is a place of total anxiety and dread–a place that, if possible, they’d flee from as fast as possible. And no amount of kind, encouraging[…]

Conversation Starters in Spanish from TakeLessons.com

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Are you a beginning learner of Spanish? Do you just need some help getting started with a conversational partner? Or are you a teacher of beginning Spanish trying to get your students to use the language? Well, we wanted to take a moment to post a quick, handy guide to starting your conversation in[…]

Study Abroad Spoken Journals on Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27A while back, I was rummaging through some personal belongings, and I stumbled across my old study abroad journal that I kept while studying in Madrid. Unsurprisingly, my reactions to its 15-year-old contents ranged from utter horror to belly laughs to nostalgia. The rediscovery of my journal got me thinking. Since my semester[…]

Extempore on Google Chromebooks

Perhaps you’re already using a Google Chromebook. There’s a lot to like about Chromebooks: they’re easy to use, cheap, and very secure. People are catching on to this, too, as they outpaced Macs in sales this year in the U.S. And if you’re a fan of Chromebooks, or if you’re interested in trying one, there’s good news.[…]

Using the Subjunctive to “Solve” Environmental Problems

Several of our blog posts have been bigger picture recommendations for how Extempore can help you more effectively and efficiently assess student learning. Well, this time, let’s try looking at how a classroom activity with a specific learning goal in mind can help improve speaking (and listening) skills. In the second semester of my high school Spanish 2[…]

Feedback for Oral Assessments in the World Languages Classroom

Why are you giving feedback on EVERYTHING? Many of us, especially new teachers, tend to hold the unfounded belief that effective teaching means extensive feedback. Yes, feedback is powerful and beneficial for learning, but not all types of feedback are created equal. In fact, research shows that some forms of feedback have no effect or[…]

Five Tips to Reduce Speaking Anxiety in the World Languages Classroom

Last Updated on 2017-11-27I’ve written before about how speaking anxiety is a common phenomenon in any setting where people engage in public speaking activities, but especially in the foreign language classroom because students feel self-conscious about making errors or not making sense at all. In my previous post I wrote about what we as instructors[…]

Eight Ways to Differentiate your Speaking Activities

Last Updated on 2018-08-28There’s been a lot of talk these days in educational circles about differentiating instruction. In some ways, we world language teachers have been ahead of the curve here, partly because it’s inherent in our classrooms to some degree. In other words, we teach different skills–listening, speaking, reading, and writing–in an assortment of ways, so providing[…]

Grading Oral Assignments in a Large Class (or Why we rely on written work to assess learning in large groups?)

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Why don’t we assess speaking as frequently as we assess writing, or written grammar, or written vocabulary? Because recording students frequently is cumbersome and having all students present in class several times in a semester is not practical, even more so in large groups of 30 or more. Yet most of us[…]

Can-Do Statements to Develop Oral Proficiency

There is much talk lately about NCSSFL-ACTFL’s Can-Do Statements and their role in measuring language proficiency.  For those of you not yet familiar with them, the Can-Do’s are checklists of “I can” statements that describe what an individual should be able to do with the language at each proficiency level (Novice, Intermediate Low, etc.).  The[…]

Using Extempore for Project-Based Learning

Last Updated on 2017-11-27If you’ve been following our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we often emphasize Extempore’s unique ability to elicit spontaneous speech and provide one-to-one, student-to-teacher interaction. In this post, though, I want to highlight how Extempore can also facilitate meaningful peer-to-peer interaction, especially in classroom environments, such as those implementing project-based learning, where these interactions serve as key[…]

Building a Thematic Sequence of Speaking and Listening Practice on Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Recently, my Spanish 2 students and I were exploring a unit based around city life. In it, we learned the names for various places in a city (restaurants, museums, parks, different types of shops, etc.),  practiced asking for and giving directions, and discussed topics such as the cost of living and the benefits and drawbacks[…]

Extempore Boosts Confidence to Speak

Last Updated on 2017-12-08MALL (Mobile-Assisted Language Learning) is effective A recent review of studies testing the effectiveness of mobile devices to promote language development (Sung, Chang & Yang, 2015) shows that this type of technology integration does in fact improve learning with an effect size of .55. A crucial piece in foreign language education is[…]

Extempore: Helping the Over-scheduled Teacher

Perhaps you read our recent post about Extempore being a great example of teaching technology that can help simplify the lives of some of our more over-scheduled students. With Extempore, learners can submit assignments online whenever and wherever their schedule permits, which in turn can reduce anxiety and foster student autonomy. But, of course, any good educational[…]

Extempore: Helping the Over-scheduled Student

We at Extempore have taught at several different institutions: middle schools, high schools, private colleges, large state universities, and community colleges. Because of this, we’ve seen nearly every type of student under the sun (and there are many!), but what’s common to all of these learning environments is the sense that many of our students are[…]

Using Extempore as a Window into Culture

Hopefully, if you’ve explored our site or if you’ve read our previous blog posts, you can see pretty clearly how Extempore helps your students hone their skills in and out of the world language classroom. But learning a new language isn’t just about memorizing conjugations and new vocabulary–it’s also about developing target language cultural competency. That’s part of[…]

Five Topics Students Like to Talk about in the Foreign Language Classroom

Last Updated on 2018-02-14If there’s something we all like to talk about, it’s ourselves. Topics related to one’s own life experience are almost certainly guaranteed to spark conversation among students of all ages. Now, not all life experiences are equally suitable as conversation topics. The best are the ones for which everybody has something to[…]

Five Tips to Reduce your Grading Load When Assigning Oral Homework

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Most of us teaching languages in the US are lucky to work in environments that are technologically suitable for assigning oral homework. In 2016, it is hard to find a foreign language instructor who does not teach in a smart classroom with Wi-Fi access. Many schools distribute mobile devices to their students at[…]

Tips to Assign Oral Homework in the Foreign Language Class

Last Updated on 2017-11-27In a previous post on adding speaking opportunities outside the classroom we explained the reasons why assigning oral homework in the foreign language classroom simply makes sense. As self-evident a need as it may seem, however, completing oral assignments regularly outside of the classroom is not something that students may be used[…]

Being a Good Listener with Extempore — Part 2

Last Updated on 2018-12-12In our last post, we talked a bit about assessing listening comprehension through Extempore, specifically for beginner or intermediate language learners. Let’s talk now about our more advanced language learners and how we can assess their progress with listening comprehension. Naturally, what we recommended last time for beginning students works equally well[…]

Being a Good Listener with Extempore — Part 1

Last Updated on 2018-12-12It’s true: when we launched Extempore, the primary goal was to develop an app that would facilitate speaking in the classroom. As any teacher knows, generating authentic (and assessable) speech in the world language classroom can be a difficult thing to do, for a number of reasons (large class sizes, recording equipment,[…]

Benefits of a Flipped Language Classroom

Last Updated on 2019-03-05The Huge Potential of a Flipped Language Classroom Perhaps you’ve seen our list of activity ideas for the Extempore app. One of them brings up the idea of a “flipped” (or inverted) language classroom. Flipping the classroom isn’t really an activity; it’s more of an approach towards presenting–and ultimately putting into practice–the course content. What[…]

Promoting Student Responsibility and Risk-Taking with Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-12-08All world language teachers have surely encountered the student who is content to sit back in class and allow others to speak up first. Maybe he’s naturally soft-spoken or maybe he’s anxious about making a mistake. Whatever the reason, some students take a back seat in class and, in turn, deprive themselves[…]

Speaking Portfolios in the World Languages Classroom

Last Updated on 2017-12-09What Are Speaking Portfolios? If you have landed on this website, it is probably because you have used electronic written portfolios in your classroom and are intrigued by the concept of a speaking portfolio.  Same as in the written version, a speaking portfolio is a collection of a student’s work samples that present concrete evidence of[…]

Authentic Assessment in the World Languages Classroom with Extempore

Last Updated on 2019-02-26On a previous post we stressed the importance of using authentic tasks in the World Languages classroom and we gave some examples of authentic speaking tasks that could be assigned via Extempore. If we decide to use authentic tasks for instruction, then we should also use authentic assessments and evaluate our students with instruments that[…]

Authentic Speaking Tasks for the World Languages Classroom with Extempore

Last Updated on 2017-11-27Authentic tasks in the World Languages classroom are those that resemble a real-life situation, that is, a communicative experience that students could have outside of school. Because of this “real world” condition, authentic tasks in the WL classroom have a purpose that goes beyond language use; in other words, learners aren’t just[…]

How to Get your Shy Students to Talk? Change the Context.

Last Updated on 2017-11-28Any teacher would love to have just the right activity or the perfect strategy to get every single student in the classroom to actively participate in class discussions. Foreign language teachers especially are always searching for the magic trick that will make their students talk non-stop. It’s often the case that regardless of[…]