SPN 106-02: Introduction to the Spanish Language II
Susan K. Mooney
9:00 - 11:00 AM
106: Ways to prepare for the oral final
First of all: Don't chew gum or suck on candies (or snack) in class nor when practising alone or with a tutor or classmates (¡nor in the examen oral final!)!
There are many ways to prepare for your oral final; try several of the following suggestions for practice.
The worst thing you can do is not practise or silently practise alone only. The second worst thing you can do is panic and try to memorize everything that you could possibly say about anything related to the course. Both approaches are unrealistic and ineffective and create unnecessary stress.
Be methodical, regular, patient, varied, and flexible as you create an oral study and practice routine. Use the following suggestions to create your own routine; a varied routine is preferred to a rigid or limited one. Try to practise alone and with partners. Plan how you will use your study time and stick with the plan; when practising together keep focused on the plan and make sure each person gets to practise equally.
Avoid over-stressing areas you already know very well, while neglecting weaker areas. For example, if you are fine with the present and imperfect tenses, but the future and preterit are difficult, divide your time accordingly.
Use the checklist of language studied this semester; and add to it the categories of vocabulary (vocabulary from chapters as well as from the compositions and project).
This checklist can be used together with topics, themes and situations when you practise orally.
1. The best way to prepare is to be practising speaking Spanish every day for relatively brief sessions of 10-30 minutes. If you have more time, it is best to divide up the oral practice so that you have breaks in between, either reading and studying Spanish or some other subject. You will maximize your practice sessions if you make them brief and frequent as opposed to long but rare. Two or three short sessions sprinkled through the day would be ideal; one daily session is also good. Each day, select different topics; then review and revise later. One long day spent cramming and trying to cover all the vocabulary and possibilities will be counterproductive and stress inducing.
2. Practise with classmates or with Spanish Lab tutors. Take your oral assignments and textbook with you and make sure to do all 3 activities. For repeat visits, select new scenarios from the tarea option list. You can practise by using scenarios used in class as well.
3. Practising alone or with classmates: write out several scenarios, including exam scenarios (from each of the 3 etapas described), on pieces of paper or index cards and draw lots. Take turns playing the examiner and the examinee. Draw a lot and, before starting, both examiner and examinee should take one minute to write a few questions or key words. Then, time for 3-5 minutes and see how much can be covered on the topic of the lot drawn. Repeat.
This activity can be extended to groups of 3 people or more. While drawing lots, take turns interviewing working in a circle, (A interviews B, then B interviews C, then C interviews A, etc); the students who listen can write down ideas for possible questions and answers, and can write down useful vocabulary and correct errors heard in the dialogue. When one interview is over, the group can briefly discuss the results (what was good, what was bad, how to improve) and then move on.
4. Practising alone or in a group: first create index cards: write the topic on the front of the card (use topics from the 3 "etapas" of the examen oral); on the back, write a series of questions connected to the topic. Think of past, present, conditional, and future tense possibilities and subjunctive mode.
When asking a question with a context, start with the context before presenting the question: for example, "Cuando tenías tus últimas vacaciones, ¿comías mucho?"
5. Stage a mini-mock or group-mock interview. This can be done with a tutor or with classmates. Pretend that you are going through the "etapas" of the actual examen oral; use a clock so that you don't go past 15 minutes.
6. Review your vocabulary and grammar from the semester. Most vocabulary is already conveniently grouped into categories, making it easier to study. Review written exams, the 2 oral homework assignments with the Spanish lab, the last 2 compositions, and your proyecto notes. Do not memorize a set speech about your project or compositions. Instead, become comfortable using the vocabulary and grammar orally.
7. Start early with practising; use oral sessions in class to expand your skills. After a practice session or class, you may think of good things you could have said. Don't lose this excellent product of your thought! Write down these comments and ideas and try to use them next time. Everything that you think of and do in Spanish can be recycled and revamped for use later on. Likewise when walking or exercising or relaxing, occasionally take a few moments to think in Spanish. Try to form your thoughts in Spanish in your mind.
8. Solitary practice: try speaking for 1-3 minutes on a topic (prepare your topics on lots or index cards – make these mini-topics or generalized questions based on the examen's etapas).
9. Practise reading Spanish from your textbook aloud, loud and clear, trying to articulate well and exaggerating at times the volume or pronunciation. Similarly, practise repeating difficult words over and over again aloud, or words with sounds that give you problems. Sit up straight or stand up to practise speaking; stretch and loosen your mouth, lips, and jaws before practising.
10. Do your laboratorio exercises of Puntos de partida in the AV lab of ARH where you can speak loudly while practising; don't whisper or mumble your responses; sit up and speak out clearly, imitating the speaker's voice when possible.
11. Return to practise chapters of the lab that you have already done; this is an excellent way to consolidate vocabulary while enhancing your pronunciation and flow (fluidez, soltura).
12. Remember to practise all of your verb tenses and be able to move from one tense to another. Practise contrast: preterit and imperfect; subjunctive present or future indicative (or infinitive). Practise remaining with either "usted" or "tú" according to the situation (i.e., not mixing tú/usted).
13. Notes on the 3 etapas:
Etapa 1: interview using course assignments as departure point: one or two topics may be chosen by the professor (3 topics possible: your last two compositions and your project).
• Prepare for this "etapa" by preparing interview-style questions about this topic and its creation and products.
• create questions using the past, present, conditional, future tenses and the subjunctive mode
• questions that connect the student to the topic
• consider questions exploring how the topic relates to other topics the student could discuss
Etapa 2: dramatization: use the dramatic scenarios assigned for the 2 oral tarea visits to the Spanish lab for practice
• when practising, develop ways to expand on comments or pose questions; when answering questions, avoid limiting yourself to an abrupt response of "sí", "no", "nada", "no sé".
• when asking or answering questions, think of specific as well as general categories
• use the partner's comments as a cue
example: "Tengo que ir al médico porque estoy enferma."
- there are many cued possibilities for this statement : "¡Qué pena!; ¿puedo ir contigo?" o "Qué tienes?" o "¿Quién es tu medico? … ¿Verdad? Es mi médico también" o "¿Quieres que te compre algún jarabe o aspirinas?" o "Yo también he estado enfermo toda la semana." etc, etc.
• design similar scenarios related to vocabulary studied in the chapter (ideally combine two or more situations: e.g. daily stress and banking; illness and career; affective life and holidays; computers and health/fitness; environment, technical equipment, and professions; art and culture and affective life). As you can see, by the end of the semester there are many good combinations possible for interesting, informative conversations.
Etapa 3: personal interview. You cannot foresee what this interview may cover as it will be original every time and depend on what the student said and did not say in the first 2 etapas.
nevertheless, there are a few ways to prepare:
• create interview questions (or use existing ones) based on the grammar and vocabulary in the textbook. "Conversación" sections of the textbook and parts of the Laboratorio exercises are fine practice – you can practise these alone or with a partner.
• if alone, read the question aloud, then look up and close the book and answer freely. If the question is specific, provide specific information; if the question is general, provide an example or an explanation in order to be more expressive and forthcoming.
• using the grammar and vocabulary checklist, work you way through the list so that you feel comfortable answering questions
• you may like to create your own interview questions which call for use of the grammar and vocabulary.
• create index cards with interview questions as well
Expressive and communicative qualities esteemed:
• student provides interesting or informative commentary or responses that show comprehension of the question or comment
• student is expressive and poised, seeks to communicate
• student's questions are pertinent and well phrased
• student responds in ways that make sense with what has just been said; speech is logical and connected as opposed to disparate and confused
• when asked something in a particular tense (preterit, present, etc), the student easily responds using the same verb tense; if the student is asked to expand on an answer, the student can continue using the correct verb tense
• the student repeats vocabulary when it is logical to repeat; but when describing or discussing a topic, student can show breadth and detail in vocabulary and ability to use pronouns or establish antecedents
• student can skillfully use haber, ser, estar, and tener but is not limited to these; s/he can also use other verbs to form expressive sentences and demonstrate vocabulary
• student uses verbs in combinations (conjugated verb + infinitive or past or present participle) and can form 2-clause sentences, with and without the subjunctive.
• with relatively little or no prompting (depending on the context), student can expand on a topic or question if encouraged
In addition to the qualities listed on the Examen oral final, here are some general traits to avoid:
• student speaks English, or uses false cognates or Anglicisms
• student is frequently silent or takes a long time to recover
• student repeats the same information, vocabulary, or ideas excessively
• student does not listen, speaks off on a tangent, or tries to dominate the examen (all signs of not being able to communicate interactively, cooperatively and productively)
• student asks for translations in English
• student is rude, or lacks control or reason in speech
• student is excessively nervous*
* note: of course it is normal to feel nervous is an oral exam situation and feeling some nerves is better than being too lethargic or laid back for such an interview; "excessively nervous" means a state in which the student cannot communicate adequately. While this course emphasizes communication throughout the semester, now students would be wise to prepare frequently in short, organized sessions, including some mock exam situations, so that they avoid becoming excessively nervous.
Become familiar with the examination format (document "106 oral final").