How to Use Spanish Consistently in Your Class—Part 1

At Sonrisas Spanish School we believe that Spanish should be used as consistently as possible in your classes. Students will be more motivated to learn Spanish when they see, through your example, that Spanish is fun, useful, and has many purposes.

Speak Spanish a minimum of 90% of the time in your class. This is the recommended usage that ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) suggests, and we believe this is absolutely attainable. In the Sonrisas curricula all of the games, activities, songs, stories, and art projects utilize visuals, props, gestures, body movement, modeling, routine, and repetitive language to make the Spanish you use in class comprehensible to your students. As for when and how to use English in your class, we refer to Helena Curtain’s excellent article, “Teaching in the Target Language,” for the following guidelines:

The use of English should be intentional and be a conscious decision, not just something the teacher slides into without thinking. The following series of questions can be helpful in deciding when and if using English instead of the target language is appropriate.

Shall I use English for a lesson segment?

  • Can I find a way to communicate the new idea in the new language with visuals, gestures?
  • Can I simplify?
  • Can I substitute a different concept?
  • Can I delay this topic until we can deal with it in the target language?
  • Is an English explanation essential to further progress toward my goals for this lesson?

Shall I use English to clarify vocabulary?

  • Have I already tried using visuals, gestures, or other strategies to get the meaning across?
  • Will failing to understand this vocabulary item interfere with the progress of the lesson?

We will have more on staying in Spanish in your class in Part 2.

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