Simulated Conversations [Plus Tips for WIDA Access and AP Exams]

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Sunday night is homework night, right? Not for you.

You’ve used recording devices to answer a prompt. You’ve started using Extempore to gather students’ opinions on a video, or poem, or story. What you probably have not thought of is how you can get your students to practice an entire conversation from home while you sit back, relax, and watch Sunday night football.

What is a simulated conversation?

In a simulated conversation, students respond to various questions or comments on a single prompt. This combines the benefits of conversation (spontaneous speech and extended duration) and the benefits of recording (less anxiety about mispronouncing or not being understood). It essentially allows them to practice speaking in real-time – like training wheels for the real world.  

How do my students benefit?

The simulated conversation is one of the quickest and most efficient ways for language students to build confidence and fluency. Foreign language students often complain that they struggle when visiting a country in which the target language is spoken. Students who have practiced simulated conversations perform better in an authentic setting because they have experience speaking a. for a longer duration and b. in a more realistic, back-and-forth environment.

Extempore Rooms for Scaffolding Activities

In addition to uploading a recording for your students to interact with and respond to, Extempore Rooms allows your students to simulate an organic spoken conversation with each other. This new feature permits you to group 2 to 7 students per “room” for an asynchronous conversation while retaining that element of spontaneity. Further, as the teacher, you can also participate in the room: either by moving the conversation forward as if you were a student, or by providing feedback for your students to implement as they continue to converse.

Using Extempore for Standardized Test Prep

For students taking standardized tests with a simulated conversation component, such as WIDA’s ACCESS exam for ELL (see our blog post on the Can Do Descriptors) students or the AP Foreign Language exams, practicing the simulated conversation on Extempore quickly gets them comfortable with the format for the speaking portion of the exam. It calms their nerves so they can be more focused on test day.

Practice for WIDA’s ACCESS Exam

ELL students benefit strongly from simulated conversation practice as they prepare to take the WIDA ACCESS exam. Since the test’s speaking portion has gone online, practicing on Extempore is especially useful at preparing students for the exam. Use Extempore’s rubric feature to get students acquainted with the exam’s criteria and scoring practices ahead of time.

Simulated Conversation for AP Foreign Language Exams

To practice the simulated conversation in preparation for the AP exam, go on the College Board webpage for the target language. Take a look at practice exam transcriptions, listen to the recording, and download content directly from their website. Make the simulated conversation practice realistic for your students by using Extempore’s timers to limit their number of attempts and time to record.

Tips for a Successful Simulated Conversation

  1. Use timers

Limit the “time to review” and “time to respond” on Extempore to match the actual exam’s parameters.

  1. One Shot

As students get comfortable with the simulated conversation format, choose the “no re-recording” feature on our platform to simulate a real-life test-taking experience.

  1. Slow down

Remind your students to slow down and focus on being deliberate, both in their pronunciation and in their thoughts. After all, there are many opportunities to practice with Extempore.

  1. Do more reps

Practice a simulated conversation at the start of the semester so students can get a baseline. Once a week for a month leading up to the exam, give your students a simulated conversation. This way, they can make adjustments based on your feedback (and look back at old feedback saved on our platform).

  1. Double the duration

To make the actual exam seem like a breeze, give your students a longer simulated conversation to build up their “conversation endurance” by increasing the “time to respond”.

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