In this lesson, we look at how the Français interactif program gives students word-level practice before requiring them to negotiate meaning of richly contextualized samples of vocabulary. Following the basic premise of the lexical approach, the initial encounter with a vocabulary item should establish its most basic meaning.
Vocabulary Preparation Exercise
The Préparation du vocabulaire, a “first pass” at the chapter vocabulary, presents different learning strategies. It is primarily a decontextualized treatment, as it requires learners to study and manipulate words in isolation. However, as they move through the steps of the Préparation du vocabulaire, they end with Chassez l’intrus (“find the one that doesn’t belong”), an activity that requires them to make connections across words, thereby contextualizing the individual lexical items.
Take a look at the sample vocabulary preparation exercise from Chapter 2 of Français interactif.
Do you find it easy to make associations, recognize cognates, and form word families?
The final activity of the Préparation du vocabulaire, the Chassez l’intrus exercises, can be based on semantic, grammatical, and gender/number differences.
Students choose from four words, of which one does not share a related meaning:
• un frère, une sœur, un oncle, un ami (“a brother, a sister, an uncle, a friend”)
• In this example, un ami would not be a family member, so would be “the intruder” based on meaning.
Students also exemplify differences using grammatical characteristics:
• écouter, regarder, finir, jouer (“to listen, to watch, to finish, to play”)
• In this case, finir would be the only -ir verb, and hence “the intruder.”
Students can also use gender or number as a way of making a distinction:
• une sœur, un frère, une mère, une tante (“a sister, a brother, a mother, an aunt”)
• Un frère would be singled out here, as it is the only masculine word.
Look through a first-year textbook of the language you teach or will be teaching, and come up with a Chassez l’intrus for each of the categories above. How can you work with your students to come up with simple explanations in the target language? Can you think of some stock expressions or phrases with which you might be able to equip them to create brief but effective explanations?
Vocabulary Preparation in the Classroom
As the first step in a Français interactif chapter, students work on the Préparation du vocabulaire at home. They then bring it to class to go over in pairs or small groups and recap as a whole class.
Students in a classroom going over Préparation du vocabulaire.
How could this teacher have made this activity less teacher-centered and more learner-centered?
Progression to Contextualized Exercises
After students have worked at home and in class on the Préparation du vocabulaire exercises, they progress to exercises in the textbook and the videos online in which the vocabulary items appear in a richer context. The presentation of contextualized vocabulary begins with sentence-level usage of the lexical items which gradually leads into discourse-level usage. These exercises also follow the sequence of input to output. An example of this progression of exercises in the book would include Chapter 2, Exercises 8, 10, 26, and Dictogloss 2. The vocabulary in these exercises deals primarily with pastimes. Let’s look at each of these to understand how the lexical items are gradually contextualized:
Exercise 8: Signature Exercise.. In this exercise, the vocabulary appears in rather simple sentences, framed by the topic, Tes passe-temps (“your pastimes”). This would be an example of an exercise in the beginning of the progression.
Exercise 10: France Télévisions This is an example of an exercise in the middle of the progression, in which the lexical items are imbedded within a richer context. This is an authentic document in which students must rely more heavily on context and knowledge of cognates, a strategy with which they are already familiar.
Exercise 26: Tu es plutôt sérieux/sérieuse ou frivole? This exercise assumes that students have had ample exposure to the lexical items so that they know and understand their meaning. This is a production exercise in which the students have to use their vocabulary knowledge to draw conclusions about their classmates, based on their findings as a result of using of the language.
Dictogloss 2. In a dictogloss, students listen to a dictation read by the teacher. They must then reproduce what they have heard on paper, and finally, compare their results with those of several classmates. The students work together to reconstruct the dictation read by the teacher, and engage in metatalk to accomplish the task.
The result of the progression witnessed in these exercises is an increasingly heavy cognitive load.
Authentic Language Samples
In addition to the textbook exercises, each of the thirteen chapters of Français interactif contains a progression of videos that controls the level and kind of contextualization.
• Introduction videos: These videos capture a student from UT in France who talks about the chapter’s theme, frequently code switching between English and in French. Although several vocabulary items from the upcoming chapter might be mentioned, the goal of this video is to introduce the theme of the chapter.
• Vocabulary presentation videos (vocabulaire en context): These videos present the vocabulary items of each chapter within an authentic cultural context. The goal of these videos is to simultaneously present students with a vocabulary item and its corresponding visual image. These videos are not accompanied by text, but contain simplified speech in order to make them highly accessible to the learner. The language in these videos are either isolated word lists or isolated sentences accompanied by http://teachenglish.co/images or actions.
The goal of the vocabulary presentation videos is to have the learners associate the new word(s) directly with a meaning rather than a translation. Watch the following vocabulary presentation video from Chapter 2, and see whether you can isolate a vocabulary word by using the contextualizing http://teachenglish.co/images.
Vocabulary presentation video.
How effective do you find this kind of vocabulary presentation? What kind of exercises would help focus students’ attention on the word/image connection?
Effectiveness of vocabulary videos.
• Interview videos: Next in the progression are unscripted video interviews that include both native and non-native speakers discussing the themes of each chapter. The interviewee responds to questions that require him or her to use the vocabulary and grammar featured throughout the chapter. These videos are accompanied by transcriptions in French, and translations in English. Because these interviews are unscripted, the language is more complex.
• Culture videos: The culture videos share characteristics of both vocabulary presentation videos and interview videos in that they are unscripted and authentic. The goal of these videos is not vocabulary learning per se, but rather to learn more about the cultural context of the chapter theme. Therefore, these videos go well beyond the vocabulary lists at the beginning of the progression and are meant for receptive vocabulary learning only.
[Module Instructor Nancy Guilloteau . ] 2010. [Vocabulary]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.