Chatterbox unit starter

This 4-week unit starter, not a full unit, is based on a school program of 60 minutes per week.

It can be easily adapted to meet the needs of your students and local context. Include the Chatterbox unit starter in a task-based language learning unit of work as an activity to practise language for an upcoming task. It can also be used as an end-of-semester revision activity.

Students create a chatterbox paper toy that will allow them to communicate with increasing fluency when asking and responding to greetings, counting and stating favourite colours. This unit incorporates a range of communicative activities and formative and summative assessment strategies.

Watch 'Making a chatterbox (5:24)

Chatterboxes are engaging, encouraging students to repeat the language many times.


How to make a chatterbox

Chatterboxes are an excellent tool to use in the language classroom. They allow students to play in the target language using structured dialogue. They are highly engaging, so students will repeat the language many times, building confidence and fluency. They can be used to rehearse language for an upcoming task or as a way to assess student learning.

It is important to encourage students to interact in the target language using full sentences.

Making a chatterbox

  1. Fold a square piece of paper diagonally in half

  2. Fold it in half again

  3. Then fold it two more times

  4. Fold back each of the flaps to the opposite corner

  5. Completely unfold the paper.

  6. Fold the four corners evenly into the middle.

  7. Flip over the paper and, again, fold the four corners evenly into the middle.

  8. Fold the paper in half so you have four squares on the outside.

Fit your thumb and index finger into the slits.

What should my students include in a chatterbox?

The design of the chatterbox allows for three levels of language practice; the outside panels, the inside panels and the underside panels. These levels might be unrelated or connected by a theme or concept such as ‘eating at a restaurant’ or ‘going on holiday’. At each of these 3 levels, students can have 4 or 8 examples, allowing for a maximum of 24 words or phrases to be embedded. We will look at a chatterbox example written in English based on the concept of ‘eating at a restaurant’.

On the outside panels, students will write words and draws pictures of food they might eat at a restaurant. We have chosen: pasta, rice, meat, fish, potatoes, vegetables, ice cream and cake.

In the target language, the student holding the chatterbox will ask, ‘what would you like to eat?’. The responding student will select one of the foods offered on the chatterbox. The student with the chatterbox will then spell the chosen food, moving the chatterbox in and out with each letter.

On the inside panels, it is common to include numbers to practise counting. Our example focuses on the numbers from 11 to 20. The student holding the chatterbox will ask ‘How many people are in your party?’ The responding student will choose one of the numbers on the chatterbox. As before, the student with the chatterbox will then count out the selected number, moving the chatterbox in and out with each count.

The student holding the chatterbox asks the responding student to pick another number.

On the underside layer, students will practise dialogue they might use in a restaurant. Examples might include; (open 12 and 19)

What would you like for dessert?

Excuse me, where is the toilet?

What would you like for the main course?

Would you like something to drink?

Excuse me, could I have the bill, please?

Do you have any dietary requirements?

Can I make a reservation, please?

Would you like to see the menu?

You can find some ideas on assessment using a chatterbox by looking in the unit starter ‘Using a chatterbox’ Stage 1. If you would like additional information, please contact the Languages K-6 curriculum support team on the details below.


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Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Languages K-10 Syllabus © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2019


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