5 Ways to Get Students Speaking Spanish
Believe me, I know how hard this is! If you’re a language teacher, chances are, one of these situations has happened to you.
- Students start a partner activity and you’re working with one pair, but hear the other pairs speaking mostly in English.
- Students whisper to each other in English while you’re teaching.
- As soon as your students finish a structured activity, they immediately revert back to English.
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.