Even as an experienced teacher, sometimes I still struggle with chatty students in Spanish class, so I put together this list of 25 strategies for talkative students.
1. Do a Spanish Activity That Involves Talking
If they’re already talking, why not add more talking? Take 2 minutes to do a partner speaking activity or have them quiz each other on what you’re learning (vocab, verbs).
Looking for a unique way to partner them up? Try this free nationality partners sheet. You’ll vary their partners and teach them the tricky nationality words. I love sneaking in extra learning wherever I can. 🙂
2. Get Your Students Moving
Simón dice, zumba, 2 minutes of Total Physical Response – group style. Anything that gets them out of their seats.
3. Create a Challenge for Your Chatty Students in Spanish Class
Put them in small groups, pairs, or teams and challenge them with any type of World Language activity (writing, listening, dictation). Or challenge them to see which group can be the best listeners. Make a mark on a paper for anyone on the team who is talking inappropriately. The group that wins gets some small reward.
Need reward ideas? Check out my blog post about 50 Rewards for High School Students (or Middle School).
4. Move Chatty Students
Quick and easy – just change the seats of a few key players who are talking too much. Change the seats for a day to send a message or permanently if the talking continues. Might be helpful to let the student know that you will be changing his/her/their desk permanently if the talking continues.
5. Start Writing Names on a Clipboard
Love this idea from my World Language Cafe FB Group teacher friends! Write the name/s of the student/s who are too talkative and walk by their desks and make sure they see that you have written their name on the clipboard. Students do not like seeing their names on “the list”. If you write their name more than once, consider a quick email home to parents.
Isn’t it secretly fun to play mind games like this with your students? Don’t tell them I said that. Shhh . . . it’ll be our little secret.
6. Make Them Speak
Ask the student who is talking to stand up and answer a few questions on the spot. You’ll be surprised how this makes their heart race and gets them to pay attention.
After all, they were seeking attention, right? Now they have the attention of the whole class. 🙂
7. Call and Response
Simple call and response is sometimes enough to regain their attention. Plus, they’re speaking to respond so they stop talking to say the response. Give a random prize every once in a while to a student who is paying attention and answering quickly. Some of my favorites:
– Hola, hola. Coca cola.
– ¿Qué te pasa? Calabaza.
– Nada, nada. Limonada.
Maybe even try throwing in countries and capitals and change it up every few weeks.
– Lima. Perú.
– Tegucigalpa. Honduras.
Or reverse it. Perú. Lima.
Or use structures that you’re learning or that need review.
¿Cuántos años tiene Paco? Paco tiene ochenta y siete años.
8. Stand Near the Chatty Students in Spanish Class
Your mere presence is powerful, so continue teaching, but stand right next to the offending students and maybe even stare right at them as you’re teaching. Again – Spanish teacher Jedi mind tricks. He, he, he!
9. Hand on Head or Shoulder
Now, in many schools, you’re no longer allowed to touch students at all, but gently placing your hand on the head or shoulder of the student who is talking as you continue teaching works. Use this one with maximum discretion!
10. Participate in Their Conversation
Listen to what they’re saying while you’re teaching and then walk over and jump into what they’re talking about, but do it in Spanish and make them answer in Spanish. This will make them a bit uncomfortable – I mean, we’re kind of like their moms or dads, and they really don’t want their parents talking about what they’re talking about. It’s just not cool!
11. Have Students Write
Give them a quick 3 sentence graded dictation, 3 questions to answer, a few vocab words to write down. Optional: Have them pass their writing to the person next to them who will grade it. Notice we’re making them do all the work AND they’re learning at the same time.
12. Call on Random Students
This is one of my favorite techniques of all time. Stop asking for volunteers and start calling on whichever student you’d like at any time. Harvard Business School has used this technique for years to keep students on their toes. And if you just happen to call on the student who is talking and not paying attention, well . . . 🙂
13. Send the Chatty Students in Spanish Class on Errands
This was one of my favorite suggestions from the Spanish Teachers in the US FB group. Buh bye! See you in a few minutes and by the way, thanks for saving me a trip to the office. 😉
14. Raise Your Hand/Touch Your Nose
You know how people play, “Not It” and touch their nose. Tell your students that from time to time, you’ll be doing that in class to see who is paying attention. Subtly put your index finger on your nose while you keep teaching until all the students have their finger on their nose. The last student to do it has to stand up and answer a question.
If students get bored with this, change it up. Have students raise their hand, touch their ear, stare at a spot on the wall, etc. Or teach them an appropriate hand gesture from a Spanish speaking country.
15. Class Dojo
Class Dojo is a behavioral management system that many teachers use. Give points for on task work, or take away points for disruptive behavior.
16. Silent Start
When students come in, have a bellringer or task for them to start with and hold up a sign that says, “Hoy empezamos en silencio.” The students actually like having a few minutes of quiet in their noisy days and seem to be better behaved and quieter for the rest of class. Read more here.
17. Smart Classroom Management System
Check out Michael Linsin’s classroom management system. Basically, it involves showing students how you expect them to behave, modeling what to do and what not to do, having students practice, and teaching them the consequences for inappropriate behavior. He also has a book called, The Happy Teacher Habits, that looks interesting.
18. Get to Know Your Students + Use Their Names
Students love it when you include their names in your sample sentences. Use their names, the sports/activities/singers they like, what they like to eat, etc.
19. Get Creative or Have Your Students Get Creative
Make up really goofy crazy sentences for your examples – sentences that make your students laugh or at least curious as to why that one kid in class is laughing (the one who understands everything you say).
Ex. “¿Qué le gusta comer la directora de la escuela? A la Sra. Smith, le gusta comer gusanos cubiertos de chocolate, grillos y coles de Bruselas pero no le gusta comer galletas Girl Scout ni torta de cumpleaños.”
Notice the quantity comprehensible input in this sentence. Sure – your students won’t understand everything, but draw a picture of a worm, show them a photo of a cricket (or say it’s an “insecto que salta” and model jumping), and sing, Cumpleaños feliz and draw a cake.
Much more interesting than a boring sentence, right?
If you’re tired or just not feeling creative, have your students take your boring sentence and make it amazing! See which group can come up with the best sentence. Then save those as examples for future classes.
20. Secret Word (Miss Giraffe – next 3 tips)
Have a secret word for the day. Ex. arándanos Whenever you say that word, the first person to raise his/her/their hand and say it back to you gets a small reward (leave class 1 minute early, pick their seat for the next day, etc.). For ideas, check out the rewards list. I love to do this with the most complicated word of the unit, so that students key in on it and learn it well.
21. Timer Trick
Tell students that you’re setting a time for how long you want to talk. If they make it the whole time without any off-task talking (they can answer questions that you ask), then they’ll get a few minutes at the end of class for free talk in the target language.
22. Magic Beans
Have a student helper or helpers pass out a certain amount of pinto beans at the beginning of class (3-5). Each time a student isn’t on task, take away a bean. At the end of class, all the beans go in a jar. When they reach certain levels of the jar, they get different rewards for the class. Variation: Divide the class into teams and have them compete for a prize for their team. And don’t feel like you need to do this every day. Pick 1-2 days a week as Bean Days to keep it fresh.
23. Shorten Your Lessons and Talk Less
You have a few golden minutes the first 10 minutes of class. Teach the most important part of your lesson in that time period because studies show that’s when people pay the most attention. Keep other talking lessons to 10 minutes or less. Intersperse partner activities, writing, games, review, etc.
24. Use Technology
Find a YouTube video, a set of Boom digital flashcards, or an online game/reading can be a great substitute for your teaching.
25. Vary Note-Taking Strategies
Instead of having students take regular notes, pass out notes that are missing key elements that they fill in. Even better, give them colored pencils and consider adding a doodle element to the notes. This can be as simple as a bubble word that they color in or some colorful arrows, etc. Studies show that students learn better when they doodle.
26. Give a Pop Quiz on What You Just Taught
Even if you just do this every once in a while, it can be very effective. Warn students that you will be starting to give random pop quizzes in class, so they should be prepared.
Hope you liked these 25 strategies for chatty students in Spanish class!
Remember that each one will probably work for a few weeks or a month, so it’s important to change it up often to keep the kids on their toes.
Always leave them guessing about what their crazy Spanish teacher will do next. 🙂
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