Keeping students in the Target Language


 How to flip your class into a productively themed-based “chatty classroom.”

 I have had days where after teaching what I thought to be a dynamic-pat-myself on the back lesson, only to realize the student had not uttered a word or communicated substantively with other students. This was my conundrum early in the school year and I sought to solve it with turning every activity into a communicative focused one. I thought this was going to be a challenge in my novice-level class, but it turned out to be a lot of fun, a lot o noise and a lot of learning.

I know for many it can be a challenge to speak the duration of class due to the limited language ability of of super green- novice speakers.  However, despite the challenges I committed myself  to providing a whole language experience to all my students regardless of level. The goal early this year, I wanted to test the “stay 100% in the target language in Spanish I.”

In order to accomplish this goal, I had to relax some of my rules (respira y cuenta hasta 10).   I allowed my lower levels to Speak “Spanglish” in the beginning due to their limited scope and depth of the language. My new model has adjusted to this reality of baby’s first words and thusly I charged them with  “say what you can in Spanish” and we’ll work with the rest. One of my students put this into practice right away.   After my little spiel about staying in the TL he continued his conversation about basketball describing  one of the players for the previous night’s game he said “Él es un point guard.” Well, it made me think that Spanishglish  is also a strategies for circumlocution- when used correctly of course.

I divided my 90 minute block period into, what I have call language carousel. This has enabled me to have interaction with every students in the class, perform quick dipstick assessments and get production skill data in a manner of seconds.  If you have 45 minute block periods, you will have to adjust this plan, but this is what I am working on now. Here is a sample layout of my language carrousel.

Unit: Vamos a la escuela- Speaking carrousel

-up/ Calentamiento

– View a picture and write 5 verbs associated with the picture (well, writing is a catalyst for speaking)

– Interview students about what they see (extemporaneous speech) and students interview each other. Here, I taught using TPR some sentence stems that they used with their vocabulary. Such as “Yo veo” pointing to my eye.  This was a great opportunity for them to use definite and indefinite articles as well. They also had to say what they did not see, which helped to expand their vocabulary, while having fun.

–  After the warm up, I was introducing the first episode of Eres Tú María.  I love this series because each episode builds progressively on the vocabulary. I believe this is connected with a textbook, but the videos are in Youtube. Click here for the series.

-Introduce pre-viewing activity for video with vocabulary words. 

– Show students a screenshot of the video/ have them make predictions going beyond the visual stimuli and the vocabulary words. Students can also use basic questioning techniques to ask other students questions. This is always a winner. 

–  Students interview other students about predictions

– Show video once- interview students about what they say (present tense) to make connections

– Show video a second time/ interview students asking them visual interpretations questions about the video.

– Students get into groups to discuss comprehension question. I have some questions that are not on the sheet that are reserved for my student interview.

Please note that each speaking task is with a different student and that during this time, I have a clipboard with my attendance chart. At the bottom of my attendance chart I have an novice-mid quick rubric to assessing students as they speak (picture forthcoming). This has helped me formatively assess my students, tweak my lessons daily and formulate better summative assessments more commiserate with their growth and stretch goal.  Not to mention many of my students will have an opportunity to speak thus building the confidence that is a necessary precursor to

The only drawback I have encountered with the method is that after the third student, the other students get a bit restless. I am going to try incorporating this while other students are working and not oblige them to listen to the conversation. I will keep you posted!!

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