Staying in Spanish Consistently in Your Class—Part 2

If you are worried about keeping your class entirely in Spanish, just remember: You are teaching Spanish! One of the most effective ways to do this is simply to provide a model of using Spanish for everything you do in your class. Again we refer to Helena Curtain’s article “Teaching in the Target Language,” for these very useful tips:

Make the language comprehensible.

  • Use simple, direct language and choose vocabulary and structures that incorporate a large amount of material that is familiar to the learners.
  • Break down directions and new information into small, incremental steps.
  • Use concrete materials, visuals, gestures, facial expressions, and movement.
  • Model every step of the process or the directions being presented.

Monitor and assess target language use.

  • Keep track of student language use.
  • Make sure that oral language use is part of student assessment.
  • Make target language use a part of the classroom management system and an integral part of the classroom culture. Possibly use a reinforcement system to reward students for a short period of time to get them in the habit of using the language.

Check for comprehension.

  • Students can use signals to indicate their response to a comprehension check. They can hold their thumbs up or down for “yes” and “no,” and wiggle their thumbs for “I’m not sure.”
  • Students can draw pictures to signal their comprehension or write on small whiteboards. They can act out behavior or imitate the performance that the teacher has demonstrated.

Separate English from Spanish—avoid translation as a first resort.

  • If the students know that the teacher is going to use both languages, they will not engage with the target language and will patiently wait for the English.
  • If the teacher plans to repeat or clarify in English, he or she may not expend as much effort to make the target language comprehensible.
  • Sometimes students who have understood directions or new vocabulary may call out the English, either as a way to help their classmates or to show the teacher that they have understood. It is important not to encourage or reinforce this practice, because if it becomes a habit, the language lesson can turn into a translation game.

Separate English from Spanish—use a sign.

  • Using a sign on which one side indicates English and the other side indicates the target language reminds teachers and students to stay in the target language.
  • The sign can help the teacher make a transition to using the target language more frequently by keeping the teacher and the students focused on using the language for longer periods of time each day.
  • Of course, beginning students cannot always conduct themselves entirely in the new language. Teachers can respond in the target language by rephrasing what students said in the target language and then responding in the target language.

Hopefully you will find it useful and easy to employ these strategies just as we do in the Sonrisas Spanish School Curriculum. Read more about staying in Spanish next week in Part 3 of this series.

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