Don't misunderstand here, my students have been communicating with each other A LOT this year and we stay in the target language most of the time. What is different here is that I wanted to give our conversations and target language intensity a super-charged boost. I wanted more than for them to read the curriculum stories and report back to me. I wanted personalization of the topic. So, if in the story Isabel was complaining about her family and their lack of money, I had my students prepare their complaints about their family and/or their family situation (I let them decide what they are comfortable with) because believe it or not, students LOVE to complain! OR, if Isabel discusses getting her driver's permit, the topic for the day was about permits and when my students will receive them, what is necessary to receive one, etc. As you can imagine, these are topics that are very relevant to students and make our final school days a bit more bearable because they want to talk!
Here's how I did it:
First, I explained the rules to my students
Señora Lenord's Class Discussion Rules:
2. No English. Not even in side comments to classmates or there is a 5 point penalty.
3. One word or phrase answers don't count.
4. Asking "How do you say?" doesn't count.
5. Speaking more than the 3 time can earn you bonus points.
6. You must raise your hand and wait your turn to ensure that Sra. Lenord can accurately mark your points.
Second, (but the first activity of the day) they have to read what Isabel has to say in her journal and discover the topic.
Third, we use the Circle of Questions strategy to stay in the target language, but ensure that the students comprehend what they have read and understand any new vocabulary that might have come up in the reading. I explain new vocabulary via circumlocution. (This strategy will be explained at the bottom of this post).
Next, I provide them a pre-speaking organizer or other task to give them time to gather their thoughts or necessary vocabulary to express themselves during the class conversation. This step is vital especially when the topic is new. It is the necessary scaffolding that makes this a success or failure, PLUS it provides students with a resource to use after the discussion for new vocabulary, notes or somewhere to jot down new words they hear me use. You can see/download and example of today's pre-speaking organizer above.
Finally, I start the class discussion by asking questions to the whole class and allowing volunteers to respond. I mark their participation on the Conversation Tracker. During the course of the class discussion, I make comments about their answers, ask follow up questions, model the correct way to say certain things and try to serve as comic relief by saying crazy things to keep their attention and make the conversations fun and interesting. After the discussion is over, I calculate their points and input them into the gradebook for a quick little daily grade! It's great!
Some Unexpected Benefits
Another unexpected benefit is that my students are having to interact with me more often (one-to-one) and they are individually challenged to converse with someone more proficient than they are. This has been a great mental workout for them!
Yet another benefit is that I now can use some really cool and fun Spanish with them and we can develop more flavoring phrases and rejoinders that make the Spanish they use more interesting and natural. All in all, the class discussions have been fun and we are all enjoying the countdown to the end of the year.
Happy Coaching , Friends!