How to keep learners speaking in English

classroom management
How to keep learners speaking in English in class
This video was inspired by a Facebook thread and has lots of ideas for keeping learners speaking in English and not their mother tongue.


Hello, and welcome again. This is another training video from and I'm Jo Gakonga. This one's called 'keeping them speaking in English'.

So hopefully what you want to do in your class is to get them doing plenty of talking. But one of the problems can be, what happens when they don't? And recently on Facebook, Damian Williams started a thread that made me think, and got a lot of ideas from a lot of people. So what he asked was, what techniques, methods, activities, tips, tricks, etc do you use to limit the amount of unnecessary L1 your learners use in class? (so L1 means their mother tongue). That's a really good question. Obviously, this is what you want to happen in the class. And this (L1) is sometimes what does happen, especially obviously, in monolingual classes where everyone speaks the same first language.

Now, something to start off which I thought was an interesting thing that Gabriella Froh said, she said that she's finding this interesting because she thought there's a problem that may be it gives the idea that L1's wrong. Now, here are some other L1s for you, I leave you to guess what they are. And the question is, is it okay to use L1 in class? And the answer is, of course, yes, of course it is. If you can, then why not? You know, it can make things much more efficient, much more effective, it can really lower affective filters for learners. I think, clearly, there's an issue about how much you use and how much they use, you want to try and maximize the amount of comprehensible input that they get. But if it's easier just to translate a quick word, rather than spending 10 minutes trying to explain it in English, then why not? Of course, that's easier. It also depends a lot of course, on level... lower level learners are going to need more support in L1, and they're going to need to be allowed to use L1 more. I think once you get to kind of intermediate level and above, there's not so much reason for learners to have to use L1. And I think it's a good idea to really encourage them to use English as much as they possibly can.

So if this is what's happening in your class, and you're feeling like, no it's time to stop, the question might be what can you do? So here are some of the ideas that came up on this thread. I've credited them where they're not mine, most of them aren't mine.

So this is the first thing you can do, is just try and convince them to use English. Explain to them why it's a good idea to do this, that clearly they'll learn more if they speak more. So that's obviously a really good idea.

Something else someone suggested was that you could get them to do something physical and possibly embarrassing if they speak L1, maybe jump up and down, do press ups, something of that nature.

Another thing again, Gabriella suggested, was that it's important that your learners know how to avoid it. So asking, they know how to ask for the words that they need in English. So that's something to think about.

Pretend not to understand. Tatiana suggested that even though she and her class speak the same language, she pretends that she doesn't.

And another thing from Gabriella was that she gives her learners, especially younger learners, a card idea, so she gives them three cards at the beginning of each lesson, they've got three chances to use L1, three chances to ask something or whatever in L1. When they use up, the card gets taken away, so they've only got those three chances. I think that's quite a nice idea to give them a limited amount of stuff.

And finally, Herbert suggested that if all else fails, whip 'em. I think this was probably a bit tongue in cheek.

I think there were three ideas that I really liked, that were kind of happy ideas, but worked on the idea of very positive things and enjoyable things. And so those are the ones that I really liked. And those the ones I want to tell you about now.

This is one that I've used quite often and very successfully is that at the beginning of the class, you split the class into two teams, just down the middle is fine and easy. Call them two teams, I've got orange and pineapple here, but you could give them names of animals or whatever else. And give them some points to start with. When you hear anybody in either team use L1, you just rub a point of the board. So what this means is that it's not themselves, they're letting down, they're letting down their team. And peer pressure can be a really helpful thing, I think a very powerful thing. So I found that that works a lot better if you penalize a team. And you know, it makes it a lot of fun, I think, you know, you can clearly ensure that the atmosphere here is one of the jokey fun kind of thing. And they do like it. So I think this is a really nice idea. It's worked well for me in the past.

Something else I thought this was a brilliant idea, from Sahar, was that anybody who speaks L1 in class gets a red card. So then when another learner speaks L1, they get the red card from the first learner. So it gets passed around the class. And the one at the end gets the extra homework or something else small to do, that's, yeah, you know not so nice. I think this is great, because, as was said here, it doesn't have to be about the teacher then, it's the learners who are going to police each other. And they'll be delighted to get rid of the card if somebody else is speaking L1. So I think this is something that could be a lot of fun, and could be could really work very, very well.

Finally, the idea that I liked very much that came from Marina, well, I guess came from Herbert Proctor via Marina, and if you look on YouTube, there's a video about it here, was this idea of again seeing how long learners could speak English only for. So Herbert suggests that you put on the board or something, a sign like this and ask them what it is. And they'll say yes, it's to do with I love English. Okay. So this is on your wall. And then you also put on the wall, something that says like 'our world record for speaking English'. And when you put the little heart up on the board, you say, right, at that point, I want you only to speak English, let's see how long we can do it for. And perhaps at first, it's only two minutes or something. But as you try to gradually get them to do a little bit more and a little bit more, they'll also enjoy trying to break the class record. And again, this is something about the whole class being involved, and not penalizing an individual. So I really like this idea. I think, especially for younger learners, this would work really well.

So I hope that that's given you a few ideas, and thank you so much to all the people who contributed them because most of them aren't mine. It's a great thing Facebook and social media I think can be a real power for good. So well done Damien for putting up that question first of all.

Bye bye

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