As a Spanish and ESL teacher, I am constantly looking for English and Spanish conversation practice for my students. Language classrooms need to be buzzing with students actively speaking the target language in pairs and small groups. While students use the language in interactive classroom activities, teachers should monitor students, and model level-appropriate language and strategies to talk around vocab they don’t know yet (without translating). We can increase communicative competence by giving lots of opportunities for speaking in small groups, that use grammar and vocab at the students’ levels. Make a point to have daily, guided conversations in your class to increase use of the target language in your classrooms!
Yes, I do teach lessons on grammar. But this cannot be the only focus- I try to create opportunities for my students must have as much Spanish conversation practice as possible with real-life simulations, role plays, and partner activities.
ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) continually revises and improves on the National Standards for Learning Languages. They have identified the 5 “C”s of language education:
- Interpersonal Communication (between at least two people)
- Interpretive Communication (intake: understanding written or spoken text)
- Presentational Communication (output: presenting information in spoken or written form)
- Culture (especially understanding practices and varying perspectives)
- Connections- Interdisciplinary
- Comparison (self-reflecting on our culture and others; our language and target language)
- Communities (“taking action” on becoming an active language speaker outside in the community)
I love using the student profile sheets in this Beginning of the Year packet as interview prompts for students to have Spanish conversation practice, and to get to know each other better.
When you have students work in pairs, the are speaking 50% of the time. When you do a class activity, they might only speaking 1/30th of the time, giving each student a chance to answer. I vary the speaking opportunities in order to give students much more Spanish conversation practice!
Also included in this packet:
1) Choose your Spanish name: 300+ names (girls/boys) for kids to choose from
2) Student Information Sheet (in English, and in Spanish)
3) Student Profile (in English, and also in Spanish)
4) Language Study Tips (in English; in poster sized and regular sized paper)
5) List of Common Classroom Phrases (Spanish-English list, and also a Spanish-only list)
6) ¿Qué debe decir? An exercise of situations in English that require a response. The answer key notes that there are multiple possible answers. For example: You walk into history class and find out you have a pop-quiz, so the teacher asks you to take out a piece of paper. What could he say?
7) Los Hispanos en los EEUU (web quest). Using recommended web sites, students answer questions on population in states and cities about Spanish-speakers in the US.
8) Los Hispanos en el mundo (web quest). Using recommended web sites, students answer questions about countries around the world where Spanish-speakers live. This activity increases awareness about the importance of learning Spanish.
These fabulous Task Cards of Role Plays for Spanish conversation practice are perfect to use within the lower levels. Because they are in English, they include role plays that teachers can use to increase oral communication in ANY language. Students sit with partners, decide which role they will take, and then have a discussion in the target language according to the task card.
Be certain that students understand that this is a two-way conversation, and that no one should dominate the conversation. You might want to review interrogative expressions, or even write them on the board before they begin. Insist that the students do the role play in the target language only. It is expected that students will make errors, but the important thing is that they keep speaking for as long as you are requiring them to sustain the conversation.
Gradually, students will be able to sustain this activity for longer and longer. After completing one task (timing it for 2-5 minutes), you could have the students change partners and rotate task cards. I like to do two or three situations each session. Task cards are numbered so students can record which role plays they’ve competed, and 16 task cards are included.
Conversation starters are a great way to practice authentic communication in partners or small groups, using grammar and vocabulary at the students’ levels.
These 48 conversation starters are written for Beginner to Intermediate Spanish speakers, using simple questions that most beginners and intermediates should know (all present tense, ideal for Spanish 1 and 2!).
Teachers may print, cut apart, and laminate these conversation starters, creating a valuable resource that can be used again and again in a variety of activities. Each conversation prompt is numbered, and corresponds to a teacher’s list of starters to help teachers plan lessons and assist students.
I used to start off every Friday with a session of conversation starters, and the students thought it was all fun and no learning:). I loved hearing the class buzzing with Spanish conversation practice as their confidence speaking the language soared!
The second pack of Spanish Language Conversation Starters is aimed at Intermediate to Advanced Speakers. This packet contains a variety of tenses (ideal for Spanish 3!) and discusses a variety of topics.
All of these conversations starters can be used in different ways:
* bilingual Spanish-English classrooms
* elementary, middle, or high school Spanish language classes
* as ice-breakers in any setting with intermediate- to advanced-level Spanish speakers
* beginning of the year, review and getting-to-know-you
* mid-year conversation practice
I love to laminate them so that I can use them again and again!
My Spanish Language Conversation Starters for Advanced Speakers are super fun “Would You Rather….?” questions for students to not only engage in Spanish language practice, but also to use some critical thinking. Students find these questions interesting and funny, and my kids really do maintain the target language during the activity.
One way I set up these conversation activities is to make a fishbowl: have one smaller circle of students inside of larger circle of the same number of students. The two circles face each other and begin with one card. When you ring the bell (after timing a couple of minutes), the outer circles moves two seats to the left, changing partners. I usually do 4-5 each session, but you could easily sustain the activity to include more questions.
Global Friendship Scavenger Hunt in Spanish: “Find Someone Who…” with an international twist! This fun Spanish icebreaker is perfect at the beginning of the year, to help students get to know each other. A “human scavenger hunt” helps students- and their teacher- learn more about each other from a different perspective (but is also great for oral conversation throughout the year).
The handout we’ve created includes 20 questions that students use as prompts for speaking with their peers. Each student receives a copy of the handout, and walks around the room searching for students who can sign their name in one of the boxes. Examples include: “Has a passport,” “Can name 2 countries in Central America,” and “Has volunteered.”
Have you ever….? Scavenger Hunt in Spanish for Conversation Practice is perfect at the beginning of the year, to help students get to know each other, or at any time as an oral communication activity. A “human scavenger hunt” helps students- and their teacher- learn more about each other from a different perspective, while practicing specific grammar (in this case, present perfect).
The handout we’ve created includes 20 questions that students use as prompts for speaking with their peers. Each student receives a copy of the handout, and walks around the room searching for students who can sign their name in one of the boxes.
Students will try to find one student to sign each of the boxes, asking questions of their classmates: “¿Has __________ (cantar) en frente de otras personas?”
(Have you ever _____ (to sing) in front of other people? or “¿Has ___________ (ver) montañas? (Have you ever _____ (to see) mountains?)
Great times to use this friendship activity: at the beginning of the year, to help to get each other better, any day in Spanish, as a conversation starter, as an icebreaker at the beginning of Spanish class, in an extra-curricular, such as Spanish Club, or for orientation for study abroad students or before a class trip.
Scattergories for Vocabulary and Conversation Practice because who doesn’t love to play games? My students’ favorite Spanish game is “Basta,” also known as “Scattergories.” It is the perfect game to play in Spanish class when you have 5 minutes, or more time for additional rounds! I like to use it at the beginning of the year or as a review game.
This game has 48 different categories, which are grouped into 8 separate lists of 6. Teachers choose a letter, and students work in groups to come up with words that start with the chosen letter. Detailed instructions with various way to play are included. I also included the most common initial letters of Spanish words, to ease play for kids!