A Carrot and a Carrot

Like many world language teachers, one of my biggest struggles is hitting that magical 90% TL goal. You can see some of my other thoughts and strategies on this issue in these three posts. This year, I find myself in a new school with an entirely new set of students. That means that all the groundwork I laid last year, and all the work I (and my students) did to build an understanding of proficiency in my classroom, get students used to a high-TL environment, and show students authentic resources and build confidence is totally gone. I have a year of experience with this CI, lots-of-TL thing, but my students are back at square one. Not only that, but they don’t know me at all. So I’m trying to get to know them, get them to trust me as a teacher and an authority figure and get them on my side with speaking as much Spanish as possible in class.

Unsurprisingly, it has been just as exhausting this year as it was last year. First, I implemented a system in which students receive raffle tickets for class participation, and lose them (to me or other students) for speaking English. That motivates some students, but the biggest downfall is that most of the kids in class don’t call each other out. If their friend speaks English, they let it slide. I do have a few kids who are into it and love telling their classmates to “Págame!” but for the most part this was not proving to be as effective as I had hoped it would be, especially with my Spanish 2 students (Spanish 1 students are allowed to speak English without losing tickets until Christmas break).

My first carrot was sort of working. It is definitely motivating some of my quieter students to speak up and earn a ticket when we’re doing whole-class activities or discussions, but it’s not deterring English the way I want it to.

I don’t want to tie participation grades to speaking (or not speaking) English. That’s a whole headache of record-keeping that I’m not up to at this point, and I don’t want to punish students for being at the novice level. They’re quiet. They’re nervous. They don’t know how to say what they want to say. However, I still want them to push themselves, to try to express themselves in Spanish, and, most importantly, to begin to rely less on English. Besides, I’ve never been a fan of participation grades. I don’t want to use that as a stick to prod Spanish out of my students.

So this week I decided to add another carrot to my plan. We’re still using the tickets. The kids like it. They remind me when they don’t get their “freebie” for being on time to class. We’re still using the págame system, and students can still pay to speak English. However, I made a deal with all of my Spanish 1 and 2 classes that, for every 8 minutes they go without English, they get a point. When they get to 50, we’ll watch one class period of Finding Nemo in Spanish 1, and the first part of the first episode of El Internado in Spanish 2. If they speak English, the timer gets reset and we start again.

This, they are into. They so badly want to earn a “fun day” and since, when someone does speak English the timer just gets reset keeps us in “Spanish mode” for the great majority of the period. It has a few other perks, too. My goal is 90% TL, right? That means that we have 10% that we can give to English. If kids are confused or there’s something really important that they need to understand, we can go over it at the end of one of our 8 minutes. I can quickly review instructions or take questions for thirty seconds after the timer goes off, and then we’re back to Spanish. So yes, we’re still relying on English a bit, but hey, it’s only been two days!

So far, I have given the task of timing to a different student each day (I brought in an egg timer), and they seem to love this responsibility. They groan as a class when someone speaks English, and they cheer when the timer rings (in some classes only I cheer, but we’ll get there).

We’re still using the boletos, and now if someone gets caught speaking English, you’d better believe their classmates are making them pay up! There’s a lot of peer pressure not to speak English, and I love it! I just hope that the rest of the year goes as well as these first couple of days!

What do you do to encourage more and more TL use? What has worked best for you?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. getspanished says:

    My system is very similar. I borrowed it one from a co-worker and I like it. The class can earn up to 10 points each class day by not speaking English (without permission – they can ask in Spanish for permission to speak English for clarification). Each time I hear English, I deduct from the ten. We keep a running score that I only update at the beginning of class, based on what they earned last class. When a class hits 50, I bring in a treat. Nothing big – cookies or chips.

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