Having trouble motivating your students to participate in Spanish speaking activities?
One of my most important goals as a teacher is getting students to participate consistently and confidently in Spanish during class. Over the past eight years, I have developed reliable activities that I can depend on. On the other hand, I have discovered a few strategies that do not work for me. For example, cold-calling doesn’t always support positive student teacher relationships that I strive to develop, 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.
After reading this post, you’ll have a handful of new (and low-prep) ideas to try!
Create a classroom environment that promotes Spanish Speaking: 3 Important Steps
#1 Provide Support – from all angles
First, I try to ensure that my students feel comfortable and supported from the very first days of class. Students must know that they will not be judged or made fun of for making mistakes when speaking and taking risks in the target language. There is no laughter or chuckling by other students, and no constant correction coming from myself.
I model the correct language patterns and review rules when I notice common mistakes, but I never interrupt a student to correct his or her errors while speaking. If I corrected every mistake, I would never have volunteers.
My classroom focuses on communication over perfection, and I share this message via my classroom practice and management as well as my Spanish classroom decor.
Students are able to look around the room and find support from various Spanish word walls, and they also have access to appropriate dictionaries for support. We discuss the difference between online dictionaries and translators – and I trust my students to use these as TOOLS to support their language learning.
#2 Foster Student Ownership
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?”
I find that I get VERY honest answers on these rubrics. Sometimes, students are even a bit hard on themselves!
Over the years, I have added proficiency reflections into our process. You can visit this resource to learn more about how they help me reflect on my teaching practice!
My students complete these reflections at each progress report and report card during the year. You can read more about how I use this participation rubric with my Spanish classes.
#3 Provide Balance
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 newsletter, 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 for Spanish class
Spanish speaking activity #1 Sonidos Secretos
This is one of my most requested speaking activities with my students, and it always gets my Spanish classes using the target language and laughing along the way. You may have seen some entertaining videos floating around Instagram – they’re worth a watch 🙂 You can find me on IG @theengagedspanishclassroom, and check out my “in the wild” highlight.
This activity is sure to motivate your students to use the target language without complaint! When I use this activity, my classroom is filled with laughter (and Spanish!) I love that my students are speaking, thinking, and GUESSING in the target language. This forces them to search their brains for words they know in Spanish. Even if they guess incorrectly, they are still using and practicing their language skills.
You can read a more detailed activity tutorial for this Spanish speaking activity, and grab a free Sonidos Secretos resource to try with your students!
Quick overview: 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.
You will love walking around hearing the guesses! This game is always full of fun in any level of Spanish class.
Want to design your own game sets?
I’m ready for that, too! You can find Editable Spanish Speaking Activity Templates for Sonidos Secretos.
Spanish speaking activity # 2 Citas Cortas
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.
To play: Students sit in pairs around the room. I project a 1 minute or 90 second timer on the board, depending on the proficiency level of my class. For lower proficiency levels, I use the longer timer. Students have a checklist of 10 questions, and they are allowed to ask whichever questions they would like during the allotted time. On their sheet, they check of the questions that they ask aloud. After their partner answers, it is then that student’s turn to ask a question from the sheet. Students continue with as many questions as they can before the timer runs out.
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 many classes, I allow students to choose their partners once we are used to the routine and flow of this activity. 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 to read more, I have a more detailed activity tutorial blog post with differentiation strategies for my Citas Cortas speaking activity in Spanish class.
Spanish Speaking activity #3 Llama Mía
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.
The free game set below is for preterite -AR verbs, but I have many other Llama Mía Spanish speaking activity sets ready to go.
Spanish Speaking activity #4 Cacto Conversación
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.
Students 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!
Spanish Speaking activity #5 Tiburones
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 safely.
Students sit in groups and take turns in a clockwise pattern. During their 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!
**TWIST** My students love to play with a rule that if the SAME student pulls ALL THREE TIBURONES strips…. they win! (Because, come on, that’s terrible luck!)
All of my pre-made Tiburones Spanish speaking activity sets have answer keys included.
Interested in a free version of TIBURONES, as well as additional free resources? Sign up for my newsletter below!
SPANISH SPEAKING ACTIVITY BUNDLE
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!
Thank you for reading!
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
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Have fun, profe!