Get Your Students Speaking Spanish

July 10, 2018 World Language Cafe by Sherry Sebesta

5 Ways to Get Students Speaking Spanish

What is the single most important thing that you can do to help your students communicate more effectively in Spanish this year?? Get students speaking Spanish more in class!

Believe me, I know how hard this is!  If you’re a language teacher, chances are, one of these situations has happened to you.

  1. Students start a partner activity and you’re working with one pair, but hear the other pairs speaking mostly in English.
  2. Students whisper to each other in English while you’re teaching.
  3. As soon as your students finish a structured activity, they immediately revert back to English.
As language teachers, this is probably one of our biggest frustrations, right?
Never fear, here are 5 tried and true strategies to help combat the English invasion in your classroom.
1.  The One Word Method

Write one word on the board in Spanish (try to make it a really long word to start).  Personally, I like to use the Spanish speaking countries and capitals, so I start with Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  Each time a student speaks English in class, erase a letter.  If the class has any letters left at the end of the period, give them some small reward (an extra point on a quiz, a night without homework, etc.).

If they have lost all their letters, they don’t get the reward.  As they get better, use shorter and shorter words and eventually, wean them off of the system altogether.

Variation:  If you aren’t speaking all in the target language, write the word for yourself on the board.  Each time you speak in English they get to remove a letter.  (Sometimes, we’re part of the problem, too).

2.  The Class Competition Method

Tell students that you will be having a competition between all of your classes.  Each time someone speaks English, write a mark next to their class on the board.  The class that has the least checks at the end of the week (or end of the day), gets a small reward.

3.  Speaking Beans

Each student takes 3 dried beans when they enter class.  They keep the beans on their desks.  If you hear them speaking English, don’t say anything, just take away a bean.  If they’re doing a great job speaking Spanish and staying on task, add a bean to their pile.

At the end of class, all the students put their beans into a community glass jar.  The jar is labeled with certain rewards at certain levels.  Once their beans reach that level, the class gets that reward.  They like seeing how the other classes are doing and competing with them.

Variation:  Give 2 beans and students must earn 3 more beans before they leave class by participating 3 times.  If you notice that certain students don’t have beans, ask them questions and do your best to get them to participate.
Tip:  You don’t have to do this every day, but may wish to do it several times a week.


4.  The Name Card Method

I use this one with some of my most reluctant learners.  Cut out small squares of colored paper.  Use a different color paper for each different class for easier sorting.  Give each student 3 small squares.  They write their names on each of the squares.

Each time they answer a question or participate in class, they pass a square up to you or you walk by their desk and take it.  They have to hand in all 3 squares by the end of the day.  If they do, they get a plus next to their name on a chart in front of the class.  If they don’t, they get a minus.  At any given point, they can make up for a minus by participating 3 extra times (more than their original 3 cards).  These pluses and minuses determine their participation grade for the quarter.

Tip:  After you’ve given students many chances to volunteer to participate, call on the kids who aren’t raising their hands, too.  As long as they are making an attempt to answer the question, take one of their cards.
Tip:  Pick a student each week to sort the cards at the end of class (that way, you won’t have to).  Ask for volunteers and tell them that sorting counts as 1 of their participation cards each day.

5.  The Clothespin Method

Students each get one clothespin to wear during class.  Whenever a classmate speaks English, and another student catches them, they take their clothespin.  Anyone who still has a clothespin at the end of class gets to enter his/her name in a raffle for a prize at the end of the week.  This will definitely get students speaking Spanish because no one wants to get caught with the clothespin.

Variation:  Award a point on a weekly quiz to everyone who has a tally of at least 5 clothespins at the end of the week.  Keep a clipboard with student names.  Write down how many clothespins each student has as they leave (or have a student helper do this – a different person each day).  The person with the most clothespins gets an additional point or additional raffle entries.

Want more ideas like this?
Check out this post with 20 tips for getting your students to speak Spanish in class.
Here are a few ideas for individual and class rewards.  Grab the full printable list in my Free Resource Library.
Individual Reward Ideas
Extra Point on a Quiz
Free Homework Pass
Switch Seats with Anyone Coupon
Late Assignment Pass (Only 1 Day)
Ask the Teacher for an Answer on a Test
Class Reward Ideas
Choose Your Own Seats for the Week
Free Homework Pass
Night without Homework
Listen to Music While We Work
Class Walk (Go for a stroll outside on a nice day, but still speak in Spanish)
If you’re looking for more prize ideas, check out:
Hope you found these tips to get students speaking Spanish helpful. Would love to hear your ideas for getting students to speak in class! Please share in the comments section.

World Language Cafe by Sherry Sebesta

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  • Sra. D November 28, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Gracias…truly appreciate the ideas.

  • Unknown March 14, 2018 at 6:24 am

    Wow, great post.

  • Steven G. Kingsley July 22, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Useful information.

  • Steven G. Kingsley July 22, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    To learn a foreign language you have to work hard. This is actually very good tips to speaking in Spanish language. Here you can get more details about nursing resume writing services. This tips should helpful for students.

  • Unknown December 4, 2019 at 2:14 am

    It is will really helpful a lot to me. Thank you so much.

  • Unknown March 20, 2020 at 4:20 pm

    Hi! Does anyone have any ideas on how to incorporate this now that we are doing online teaching?

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