One of the most common and perhaps stressing questions that parents usually ask is if their student will be FLUENT by the end of the last language level. Many answers cross our minds and we usually end up answering things like: “well, it all depends on how much dedication and work the student is willing to put into it” or “we will be very close to fluency but it´ll be much better for the student to keep studying the language in college”.
The “fluency” question is an uncomfortable question, and while I still try how to answer it as best I can, I prefer to share the type of activities I´m doing in class, to let parents know that I´m actually working with the students to make them feel more and more comfortable with the second language they are learning. After all, fluency in languages derive from confidence.
One activity that I have found extremely helpful for studnets to gain confidence in their speaking abilities is what I call “Speak more or Habla más”.
This is a very simple activity where you just allow time to your students to talk to eachother about any topic they want to talk. Is kind of FVR (free voluntarly reading) but we will define it as FVS (free voluntarily speaking). Most of the times we are so focus on the current unit, current topic and of course, current vocabulary, that we tend to forget our studnets interest and especially those topics they are very knowledge about.
So, for this activity you just ask your students to jot down on a piece of paper, three topics/things that they feel they are really good at. Here is a list of some topics my students shared: rings, shoes, swim, videogames, food, travel, books, clothing, Tik Tok, tennis shoes, Twitter, horror movies, action movies, pizza, dogs, cats, computers, rock music, soccer, etc.
Once they have written their favorite topics you simply instruct them to talk to a partner and say as much as you can in the TL about one of the topics in their list. They will take turns choosing the topic they want their partner to talk about. While I understand that students will not have the ability to describe and talk about their topic with precise vocabulary, they main idea is for them to feel empowered to mantain the conversation for about 3 minutes before switching roles.
The activity is called “Speak more or Habla más” because the idea is to not stop. No matter if they get stuck, I encourage them to use gestures or to circumlocute but never stop talking. While it was a little chaotic, I was able to see excitment and honest desire to try to express their thougths as best as they could in the TL. I will keep allowing time for some FVS (free voluntarily speaking) in the upcoming days.
Here is a video of the activity. Please let me know your kind thoughts and if you have any questions.
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¡Hola! I loved your blog post on FVS, habla más. My question is, what do you do about the students who do not stay in the target language for the full three minutes? I have middle school students and I envision side conversations in English when they think I’m not listening/paying attention. Do you assign points to the activity? Thanks!
Hola Anne. No points. I would suggest simply scaffolding the activity. Start with one minute and walk around trying to see what students are not trying. The fact that they will be able to suggest three of their favorite topics is an incentive to try to communicate. After one minutes makes them switch partners.
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