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: using the present perfect to narrate recent events.

The lesson in which I integrated Extempore was based on the song “Un buen día” by Spanish band Los Planetas. I know, if you’re not a Spanish teacher you may be thinking this post won’t be useful to you, but keep reading and maybe you’ll get a couple of ideas that you can apply in your target language. Also, I should say I used this lesson with advanced grammar college students (like a 5th or 6th semester class), so you may want to adapt it if you teach lower levels.

Beginning of the lesson

I started with a comprehensible input activity in which I described what a “good” day for me is. As I projected images related to what I was talking about, I repeated a present perfect structure in sentences like “Para ser un buen día, debo haber dormido bien” (‘For it to be a good day, I must have slept well’), “Para ser un buen día, debo haber hecho ejercicio” (‘For it to be a good day, I must have exercised’), “Para ser un buen día, debo haber pasado tiempo con la familia” (For it to be a good day, I must have spent time with my family’), etc. Right after this, students spent about 3 minutes writing down individually what must have happened for it to be a good day for them. Then, they shared their sentences in groups of three to find something in common and finally every group shared their findings with the whole class.

Buen dia

Middle of the lesson

The second step was a song-based listening comprehension activity. In preparation, I showed them some pictures of the band, talked about them, and taught some of the vocabulary and cultural content that I thought would be challenging for them (lots of references to soccer and Spain’s youth culture in this song!)

We listened to the song three times while completing a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet with the lyrics and watching the video prepared by Luis Yanguas Santos and shared together with other great lesson ideas in the Revista de Didáctica MarcoELE.

Right after the listening comprehension students discussed, first in small groups of three and then as a class, what they thought of the song and whether they would consider that a good day or not. Since they were advanced college students, I also encouraged them to compare the activities presented in the song with what they usually do for fun.

Discussing

End of the lesson

The lesson finished with a structured output exercise and a short Extempore-based speaking assessment. In the structured output activity, students first wrote down individually 5 or 6 sentences describing what they had done that week. They then circulated around the classroom finding people who had done the same things. For the assessment, they got their cell phones, opened the Extempore task that I had already prepared, and recorded two minutes narrating what they had done that week. They also had to tell me what they had found out about their classmates’ week when circulating around the classroom (to use the plural verb form).

When providing feedback for this assessment I only focused on students’ success using the present perfect. I did not grade or comment on anything else, since my goal was just for them to use the present perfect to narrate recent events.

Assessing my students’ achievement of the lesson goal with Extempore allowed me to listen to every one of them, provide individualized feedback and keep a record of their progress. I would not have been able to do this by just listening to them as they talked to others around the classroom.