You created an awesome speaking activity for your Spanish class. You’ve explained the directions. You’ve asked students to get started and……..
Crickets. No one talks! What went wrong?
Being Comfortable Speaking Spanish Means Setting The Stage
One big reason why students may not feel comfortable speaking Spanish in class is because we haven’t set the stage properly.
Have You Created a Good Classroom Climate?
Students who don’t know each other well or who might be sitting near a person who they are not comfortable with may negatively affect a student’s willingness to speak Spanish in class. It’s important to start the school year with community building activities.
Another way I create a classroom climate that encourages taking risks is by asking for volunteers. When students volunteer an answer, I reward them! I tell them to pick a prize from the prize box for being brave. And Wow! The hands shoot right up! I talk frequently about how important it is to try, to take risks, and that it’s ok to make a mistake. Then I reward that behavior in currency that works for my high school students; praise and prizes! (HERE is another blog post that talks more about prize boxes.)
Do Students Have the Scaffolds They Need To Feel Comfortable Speaking?
There are lots of ways to provide supports to students to ensure their success! Here is a short list of resources or scaffolds you might provide your students to make sure they feel confident to try speaking Spanish!
- Ask them to have their vocab list out
- Allow them to have grammar notes out
- Provide a list of high frequency words that might come up in the activity
- Use a chat mat (Super Señora sells these on TpT!)
- Provide the correct answers for students to check in
- Model some examples with an outgoing student
Make Speaking Spanish a Regular Expectation
My students especially hate doing recorded speaking activities. I have fielded more than a few requests to “do this at home” or “can I do this in the hallway”? First, I acknowledge that yes, speaking Spanish is risky and makes students feel vulnerable. Yes, it can cause a great deal of anxiety.
This year, I had a conversation with my students. I let them know that I fully understood their feelings. I also let them know that in a World Language Classroom, speaking is an IMPERATIVE skill. It is required that I assess it, and therefore I will provide many opportunities for practice and feedback. Explain that we have to do hard things and that you believe in them.
And then I provide practice. Over and over again. In lots of ways. Almost every day! And guess what happened?
Over time, I had more students trying. I had less meltdowns. There were no more tears! No one asked to go to the hallway. And speaking, especially when recording, became normalized. It is now a regular, normal thing that we all do during class.
So my take-away is….. be patient and keep at it! Regular practice creates more comfort and normalcy!
Create Another Source of Noise
This idea comes from a good friend @esteemlearning. She told me that she plays music in the background while students are speaking. This means that there will never be an awkward moment where there is NO noise at all, because students don’t want everyone else to hear them. This is a really great technique for a testing situation when students are recording. Some start later than others, some talk longer than others. With music playing in the background, there is never an awkward silence! *And if you’ve ever had that student who tried to submit a recorded speaking test from home instead of from school….. you know right away because the background music is missing!