One of my biggest goals (and biggest challenges) as a teacher is getting students to participate consistently and confidently in Spanish during class. Over the past seven years, I have found a few strategies that absolutely do not work for me. For example, cold-calling doesn’t always support positive student-teacher relationships — my number 1 goal — and I never could get the popsicle stick routine to feel quite right for my classroom. Over the past few years I have explicitly focused on improving my students’ participation. Below is a quick summary of the strategies and lessons that have helped to increase student participation in the target language inside my own classroom.
Another practice that has proven valuable to me is giving my students ownership over their participation grade. With this participation rubric (which we do 8 times per year!) they grade themselves and set goals for the remainder of the term or for the new quarter. I change the questions at the bottom depending on what term we are in. I may say things like, “What was your biggest strength this quarter?” or “What will you do to improve your Spanish speaking during quarter 2?”
Lastly, I have found that a balance between variety and structure helps to make my classroom an active and engaged environment. Variety is important so that students do not get bored (because if they’re bored they won’t be motivated to engage…) and structure is important so that my expectations are clear and supports are provided where needed. The following activities are my own that I have developed over the past few years. If you are signed up for my email list, you have already received a few of these freebies right in your inbox … along with various other surprises 🙂
I hope some of these activities will work well in your classroom. Be sure to check my editable resource category if you’re interested in creating your own versions.
My Favorite Speaking Activities
This is one of my newest and most popular speaking activities, and it always gets my students using the target language and laughing along the way. You may have seen some entertaining videos floating around Instagram! This activity is sure to motivate your students to use the target language. When I use this activity, my classroom is filled with laughter (and Spanish!) And the eye-catching graphic design is always a hit with my high schoolers.
To play: Students sit in pairs, and spread out around the room. One student wears headphones (yes you read that right) and turns their music up so that they can’t hear their partner whispering to them from across the desk. The second student selects a card from the pile and quietly reads the sentence aloud. The student with the headphones must try to guess what their partner is saying.
Download it for free here! This game set is for the present tense of -AR verbs, but I have other game sets available here. I also have an editable version right here.
This is a classroom spin on speed-dating. I used to do speed-dating style activities often, but without much structure they were difficult and a bit hectic. A coworker and I decided to develop Citas Cortas so that our students would have a better idea of our expectations, and also have an opportunity to self-reflect afterwards.
When the timer is up, *one* student gets up and moves to the next desk in a clockwise pattern. The student who remains seated will do so for the duration of the activity. For my stronger classes, if I am feeling brave I let them choose where they move from round to round. This is with the understanding that they will always move to a *new* partner.
After we have completed the activity (sometimes 5 rounds, sometimes 8-10 rounds!) I give students a few moments to fill out the reflection on the back. I do not always collect their reflection, but instead ask students to pay attention to their answers. Which questions did you find yourself avoiding? Why? Which verbs or vocabulary words were most difficult for you? Why do you think that is?
If you’d like a more detailed tutorial and a sample of this speaking activity, read this post.
Alternatively you can see the bundle (which includes all current versions, templates, and WILL include any future sets I create right here)
Who doesn’t love adorable llamas!? This is another one of my favorite speaking activities. My students love choosing their own Llama game pieces, and in this speaking activity my game boards provide options for differentiation! This activity is best for groups of 2 or 3 students, but there are game pieces for up to 5 players.
Students roll a die to move around the game board, claiming spaces only by speaking the conjugation or creating a sentence (you decide!) based on each prompt. They move from the ENTRADA on the bottom left to the SALIDA in the center. My students always ask if we can play a second round. Many of my game sets include differentiated boards that highlight irregular verbs, as well as answer keys for extra support.
This game set is for preterite -AR verbs, but I have other game sets available here.
This speaking activity for pairs or small groups comes with an optional written extension activity as well! Students can play in pairs or small groups. I typically only utilize this as a speaking activity, but I provide the written option in case you find students need extra practice and structured review.
They choose a card from the pile, and ask their classmate the question printed on the card. You decide whether they are required to write their peer’s answers; otherwise, this can be used strictly as a speaking activity!
This is one of the first speaking activities I ever created. My Tiburones activity is best in groups of 4-5 students rather than pairs, which makes it great for larger classes!
There is a little bit of prep involved in this activity, so I keep my game sets preserved in ziplock bags from year to year to save myself some time. You could also save time by asking your students to help you cut the strips, if they are old enough and able to do so.
Students sit in groups and take turns in a clockwise pattern. During his or her turn, each student pulls a game strip from the envelope. (I make “envelopes” for the game strips by stapling Astrobright paper into a pouch with a large opening at the top. I then fold the strips just in half, and place them in the pouch.) If the strip pulled has a subject and verb, the student must conjugate the verb in the designated tense in order to keep the paper. If the strip has Tiburones, that student must return ALL of their strips (except for the shark) to the envelope. The Tiburón strip then remains out for the rest of the game. There are 3 in each game set.
My game sets support students by marking the irregulars in the designated tense. You can differentiate further for your classes by requiring students to create a full sentence rather than a simple verb conjugation. You could also very easily add a written requirement. I hope this gets your students speaking!
All of my Tiburones sets can be found here.
If you are looking to enhance your students’ speaking comfort in class this year, I hope you will take a look at this mega bundle of speaking activities. This bundle includes ALL of my Llama Mía, Citas Cortas, AND Cacto Conversación sets at a significant discount. My goal is to save you time and increase the amount of Spanish you hear in your classroom 🙂 Enjoy and good luck!
As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you’re looking for any ideas or tips. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find me on Facebook and Instagram @theengagedspanishclassroom