Speaking is necessary, but it’s HARD. I know, trust me! We know speaking activities are an essential part of Spanish language learning, because they help students to develop their communication skills in a real-world context. BUT – and this is a big “but” – there are several challenges that we as teachers face when it comes time to do speaking activities in Spanish class.
One big challenge is creating an environment where students feel confident to speak in Spanish. This can be tricky when they’re shy, lack confidence, or want everything to be perfect.
Another challenge is just getting students motivated to participate. Students may become disengaged if they feel that the activities are too difficult or not relevant to their interests and needs.
One last challenge is it can be hard to provide effective feedback to students during speaking activities. We have to balance providing corrective feedback without discouraging students or interrupting their fluency. Curious about error correction? Read more about that over here.
Despite all these challenges, speaking activities are crucial. They provide opportunities for practice in a meaningful way, support students’ pronunciation, and help promote fluency and acquisition.
Make it Personal
Let’s be honest, kids love talking about themselves. Am I right?
PQA, or “Personalized Questions and Answers” and is a teaching technique used in language classrooms. It involves the teacher asking students personalized questions about their lives and interests, and then encouraging them to respond in the target language.
The big goal of PQA is to provide students with opportunities to use the language in a meaningful and relevant way. By asking questions that are related to their personal experiences, interests, and opinions, students are more likely to engage with the language and retain the information they have learned.
PQA can be used at any level of language instruction, from beginners to advanced learners. It is often used in communicative language teaching, where the emphasis is on developing students’ ability to use the language in real-life situations.
PQA also helps to create a positive and supportive learning environment. By showing interest in their students’ lives and experiences, teachers can build rapport and establish a connection with their students, making them more comfortable and motivated to participate in class.
With an info-gap activity, a pair of students has different information. They have to interact with one another in order to find the missing information in order to solve a problem or complete a task.
Here are some examples of how information gap activities can be used in a Spanish class as speaking activities:
Find the Differences
Give each student a picture that is slightly different from their partner’s picture. Each student must describe their picture to their partner, who must listen and identify the differences.
Give each student a set of instructions in a jumbled order. They must then work with their partner to put the instructions in the correct order.
As a former theater kid, this one is my favorite. Assign each student a different role in a scenario, such as a doctor’s office, restaurant, hotel, store, etc. They must then use Spanish to interact with their partner to complete the scenario. If you want to really engage your students, offer prizes for the most creative scene, best use of vocabulary, etc.
Give each student different information about a problem, such as a missing object, a broken item or a lost ticket. They must then work together to solve the problem in Spanish.
Information gap activities are effective in Spanish class as they encourage communication in a real-life context, allowing students to practice their speaking and listening skills. They also promote collaboration and critical thinking, as students work together to complete a task or solve a problem.
Numbered Jenga Blocks
I bought a set of numbered* Jenga blocks, but you can also grab a Sharpie and number your own Jenga blocks to use for any speaking activity.
To use them in class, keep a list of numbered questions or conversation starters. Then, in pairs or groups, students take turns pulling a block and either answering the corresponding question or using the conversation starter to begin a conversation in the target language. This fun and engaging activity can help students improve their speaking skills while practicing vocabulary, grammar, and conversation in a low-pressure setting.
*Some teachers write the questions directly on the Jenga blocks or print, cut, and tape. I don’t have the budget for multiple Jenga sets, or the time for all that cutting and taping. I prefer to just number the blocks and have a numbered list of questions.
Don’t have time to write 60 questions? Me neither. Have students write 5-10 questions connected to the topic, then compile a list based on the questions they wrote! You might have some repeats, but that’s okay, it just means they get extra practice!
Find Someone Who…
A “Find Someone Who” activity is a speaking task that can be used in Spanish class to help students practice speaking and listening skills, as well as vocabulary and grammar. This activity involves creating a worksheet with a list of statements or questions, such as “Find someone who has traveled to Spain” or “Find someone who can speak three languages.”
Here are some ideas you can transfer to any unit:
- Create a list of statements or questions related to the topic you’re studying in class. For example, if you’re studying food vocabulary, you could create statements like “Find someone who likes to cook” or “Find someone who has tried paella.”
- Distribute the worksheet to the students and ask them to mingle and talk to their classmates to find someone who fits each statement or question. (Low tech or short on copies? List the questions on the board and have students create their own 5×5 bingo board. This takes about 10 minutes.)
- Once a student finds someone who fits the statement or question, they write that person’s name in the blank provided on the worksheet.
- The first student to complete the worksheet and find someone who fits each statement or question wins.
A “find someone who” activity is a great way to get students up and moving, while also giving them an opportunity to practice their speaking and listening skills. This activity can also be easily adapted to different levels of language proficiency and can be used to practice a variety of vocabulary and grammar topics. Additionally, this activity can help build a sense of community within the class as students get to know each other better through conversation.
I love this activity after a break, because all students want to do is talk about their vacation anyway. Grab this resource to keep on hand and use after any vacation break.