Well as you know Kara, Megan and I attended the ACTFL conference in Philadelphia, PA 2 weeks ago. WOW! I couldn’t believe how many sessions there were; and how much variety was offered. This was my first ACTFL and I found it very inspiring. You should think about going too…I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

I attended many sessions but the highlight for me was Best of CSCTFL: Whachamacallits and Thingamajigs – Saying What You Mean by Joe Moore, International Cultural Center.

Circumlocution is one of those things that I am constantly trying to teach/practice with my students and I never seem to have much success. So when I saw this session title, I was intrigued and then the first two sentences of the session description, “Circumlocution in beginning classes? Absolutely!”, caught my eye! It had never occurred to me that this skill could be taught in a level 1 class. But as Joe Moore says, “Who has the more limited vocabulary in the target language, beginning or advanced students?”

I can go on and on about how useful and worthwhile this session was for me but instead I will give you some essentials that I learned from Joe Moore.

A) Getting started – introduce the concept of circumlocution in their own language, practice with them and have them identify characteristics that would be helpful. Give them a blank reference sheet with characteristics (category, color, size, etc.) and have them create a reference sheet in the TARGET LANGUAGE ONLY – NO ENGISH!!!


B) Choosing words – use more concrete objects at first, things with color, size and shape, then after some practice you can move on to ideas.

B) Practicing – have them to describe a few terms in writing and have class guess the term, have them practice by speaking (think of the old TV show $20,000 Pyramid), he also suggests a few games “On the Spot” and “Secret Word”.

C) Assessing – you can use circumlocution to assess your students as well. You can do reading (YOU write descriptions of words and have students figure out from explanation), writing (have students write descriptions of words, without giving it away), speaking (select and give students words ahead of time and then have them choose and explain) and listening (YOU read the descriptions to the students and student writes down target word).

Does anyone else out there have strategies to help students with circumlocution? What have been some of your experiences/successes with circumlocution in the classroom? Which levels do you use it with?