Fluency in Spanish (or ANY Language) through Games and Movement
Spanish fluency (or fluency in any language) is not as difficult to achieve as some might believe.
I have achieved fluency in Spanish and French. I am a B-1 level speaker of Italian. I still speak some Japanese and Korean after leaving Asia in 2006. I tell you this because certain things just work. There is no special talent I possess.
Early on, I learned that it is just as important to have fun with languages as it was to be passionate. If something is boring and tedious, you will quit and give up.
While I knew that in order to achieve fluency in Spanish I could find plenty of activities for an engaged learner, I would have to work a little harder to make them fun for less interested learners.
Here are some of my go-to activities to help any learner achieve fluency in Spanish (or any other language).
I LOVE this game. Here is how it goes:
- Have SOMETHING to represent each word in your vocabulary set. It can be a toy, the actual thing or a card with the picture on it.
- Have the students sit in a circle.
- Pass out the “words” that they are learning. Say them as you do. You can also make it TPR-like and have them pick up what you say from the center.
- Start the music. Have them go in a certain direction. You can teach your TL words for to the right and left, etc. here.
- Turn on some music from the TL. They pass the words.
- You say the TL word for “stop” when you stop the music. You ask everyone what they have. They will learn the vocabulary quickly and have lots of fun doing so.
Give students small white boards (or scratch paper, butcher paper- whatever) and something to draw with (the more colorful the better). Have them take turns drawing pictures from your vocabulary set and saying what they are. Students can even play in small groups. My students love this as it is fun and lets everyone talk and listen to lots of TL!
Do you want some fun ways to break the monotony in a class, get students talking and moving? Here are a few activities to jazz up any speaking activities that you might have-even text activities. These can be applied to almost any communicative task, at any level. Achieve fluency in Spanish or any language in a fraction of the time.
Two Lines. Basically, if I have a speaking activity from my text or one that I’ve created, I really like to divide the students into two lines, facing each other. Whatever the task is, after you’ve explained it, students practice or do the task with the person across from them. When you say change, you take one line and ask the person at the end to move all the way to the front, then everybody moves down so that everyone is talking to somebody different. You repeat this. It is a fantastic way to do a pair activity, and it gets them talking to many different people. You’ll hear them master what you have had them practice by the time they’ve gotten partially through the line. They’ll also feel very comfortable speaking. You can walk through the lines, dipping in and out of conversations. By the end, you will be very impressed with how comfortable your students are with speaking. It also provides some movement, it gets people working with different people and talking–essential to achieve fluency in Spanish or any language.
Bells. I have some little hotel-type bells, but it doesn’t matter what kind of noise or bell you use. You can be as high tech or as low tech as you wish. Basically, you ask people to talk. You’re going to divide your class up (in groups of three, pairs, fours- whatever configuration you choose) doing whatever activity you want them to do. Anything that involves speaking- asking and answering questions, interviews, something from your text- it doesn’t matter, they do it. When the bell rings, they’re going to disperse and go talk to different people. Again, it gets people up and out of their seats, gets them moving around, gets them active, working and enjoying it at the same time. You’ll see lots of smiles on their faces while they don’t even realize that they are on the fast track
Question and Answer. An obvious one that I love is particularly well-suited for the novice level. Any task that I have them do-particularly with verbs because those are so tricky and you need so much practice with- give them a verb set or a verb theme or a communicative set, and they create a couple of questions. You can do this as a whole class (which is really fun because even in the beginning you can stay in the target language). You might have a quiz where you’re asking and answering questions. One student will start, for example ‘¿Dónde almuerzas?’ (Where do you eat lunch?). Another student might answer, (Almuerzo en la Cafeteria.). Then that student has to move on and talk to somebody else. It’s very fun and it’s very rewarding. They’ll see how quickly they learn. It’s very rewarding and gets them communicating.
Team Question and Answer. Similar to Q & A as described above, but they get to put their brains together and do this in teams. I find groups of three work well (you can group them up differently, of course), and dividing them up so that they’re all working with different people each time. This way, they all get to bring their own unique strengths to these groups. When you get people working together on a regular basis it really helps to make for a much more cooperative, friendly atmosphere in their classroom.
Two Circles. This is really similar to Two Lines. Basically, you’ve got two circles (an inner circle and an outer circle). Give them a task (i.e. questions or answers or a speaking task in your text). They face each other (one circle of people on the inside and one circle of people on the outside). They start, speak to the person across from them, and change at your signal. This is also really fun because you get to put whatever in your target language (i.e. turn to the left, turn to the right, inner circle move, outer circle move, etc.) in there. By the time everyone has talked, the two circles have moved around, they’ve probably come close to mastering the content, they feel confident and they’ve worked with lots of people. You can dip in and out of the conversations and get lots of information, correcting students and noting what to work on as you’re moving around.
How do you say…? This is a really fun one. Basically, any vocabulary set that you have, it’s How do you say…? (or Comment dites-vous au français? or ¿Cómo se dice…en español?) It’s esentially vocab recall, but if you combine it with any of these other fun activities, it provides movement and lots of speaking practice with different people in your class.
Just Talk. This one is exactly what it sounds like- just talking. I really like to do this one in all of my classes. If you teach beginning level, it might be a couple months into the course before you’re really able to do this. You want shorter periods of time of any activity the lower the level. You can pick three minutes, two minutes, four minutes, a minute-it doesn’t matter. You can do this as an individual activity, or you can do this as a group activity. I use them as both. Basically you’re going to give them a topic and you’re going to tell them just to talk. It’s important that they say the day and the date. Some ways that you might want to time the activity could be your phone, online stop watch (onlinestopwatch.com) or big sand timers.
You give them the theme (i.e. family, school, etc.). Ideally, you would record this. You may not want to do this at first because it can be really intimidating, but the amount of progress you see and they’ll see is amazing. Do this once a week, or once every two weeks, over a period of six months and your students and you will be astounded at how much more fluent they become. Again, keep the topics easy and the time short in lower levels and move up into longer amounts of time with more complicated topics for more advanced students. Watch them achieve fluency.
Post its. I love to use Post-its for a variety of reasons for all of my classes, my own learning and organizing my writing. One particular speaking activity for language learners is to take any topic you’re doing (whether studying languages on your own or teaching languages in a class) and get Post-it notes of all different sizes and colors. You write down, or you have students write down, different things to talk about. For example, tell us how many rooms are in your house. Tell us all the things in your bedroom. Tell us what sports you like. Name one environmental problem that you know about in your community. Basically, you’ll hand out Post-it notes, and people will write down things to talk about. It could be everybody writing down one thing on two different Post-it notes, or one thing on three different Post-it notes. Vary this based on level of people and task and the number of participants. You collect them all and stick them all on a board. Pick them off randomly. You might have everyone sit in a circle and pick them off randomly. You might pick them off and hand them to a pair in the circle. The person (or people) with the Post-it talks about the topic on their note. You could even divide the board some way. If you have it on paper, you can cut it in half and hand it out to different groups. Hand out the tasks in way that works for your class. Everybody picks up the Post-it notes and talks. This is a great way to build confidence and achieve fluency in Spanish, or whatever your target language may be.
There are so many fun ways to get us talking, speaking and achieving fluency in new foreign languages. How do you do it?
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