Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Motivate Target Language Speaking

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Have you ever been to a baby shower where they hand you a clothespin or two and forbid you to say the word "baby"? If you do, another party guest can take your pin. The one with the most pins at the end of the party wins a prize. I have been to tons of baby showers and even some wedding showers that have played this game...

So today I was teaching Spanish to a small group of kids who were speaking WAY TOO MUCH English during the lesson, and the idea hit! Why not do the same thing with my students? So I pulled out some clothespins and gave each student about three of them and told them the rules. I was thrilled at how well this worked! My students immediately started to strive to speak Spanish. When they couldn't communicate in the target language they acted out to the best of their ability what they were trying to say. It was stretching for them and satisfying for me to watch them go through the process, or shall we say...the struggle.

Here are a few tips to implement this idea:

  • Limit the game through groups. If you teach a whole classroom, you might want to break the kids down into groups. They may only take from those in their group. Those they sit closest to would be the ideal candidates.

  • Define the time. How long will you maintain the game? With bigger groups, you may want to start small when it comes to length of time...maybe have them complete one or two activities while maintaining communication in the target language.

  • Be creative with the item you use. It doesn't have to be clothespins. At my daughter-in-law's bridal shower this past summer we played the game with gaudy plastic rings. You just need an item that they can attach to themselves so they don't lose it unless they start speaking in English.  Binder clips would work. These smiley face clips would be cute. There are also decorated clothespins like these that might be fun.

  • I give my students the option to use English once during the session if they have a question about what they should be doing in the lesson. They must request from me in the target language the ability to speak in English. They are allowed one question, and that's it, which makes them really think through how to avoid English until they absolutely need it. Many students will opt to not even request a question in English. 

Have fun! By limiting English you will find that your students will become more animated with their gestures and more creative in their communication. Another side benefit? Your classroom will become a bit quieter since they can't speak in their native tongue!😊


  1. What prizes do you offer your students??

  2. I have updated the post with prize ideas! :-)

    1. Thank you so much for the quick reply!!!! I am excited to put this into practice tomorrow!!! ^_^