motivating students to speak in 2nd language

Discussion in 'ESL/ELL' started by mikemack42, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. mikemack42

    mikemack42 Companion

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    Aug 9, 2012

    I teach middle school at a billingual school in Bogotá, Colombia, and I'd like to know if you have any effective techniques for getting ESL kids to speak only in English in class, or if you think that's even a worthy goal. The students are 100% Colombian, so their 1st language is Spanish, but they have English immersion from the time they're in nursery school, so their English is pretty strong by the time they're in middle school. I teach them English Language Arts, not ESL, so they are expected to discuss English literature, non-fiction and media in class.

    I try to get them to speak only English in class, even when they're talking to their friends, but have failed so far. I present, and periodically reinforce, reasons they should speak English, and ask them for their own reasons. We have a Use of English rubric which gives them good grades for speaking English a lot in class, and bad grades for speaking a lot of Spanish. This has only been minimally effective: they speak English when I'm close enough to hear them, but when I'm on the other side of the room it's back to Spanish. They do speak only in English when they're doing a whole-class discussion.

    So any advice?
     
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  3. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    Aug 9, 2012

    Our English teacher also requires that students only speak English inside the classroom. She constantly deducts points when she hears kids speaking Spanish. She also contacts parents (who are very involved in our school) and lets them know that they have to speak English and that they're losing points by not doing it. If the kids are working on an assignment and not speaking English, she deducts from the assignment grade as well as the overall speaking grade for the trimester.

    That's all you can do really. If they decide that talking in Spanish is more important than their grade, then let their grade reflect that.
     
  4. mikemack42

    mikemack42 Companion

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    Aug 9, 2012

    Thanks Lucy, but I think if the refusal to speak English when I'm not within earshot is so widespread then there must be something else I should do. It's not only in my class; it's in English classes in general. Our goal is for them to improve their English by speaking it all the time, not to give them a low grade for not using it, and we're failing in that goal. Are there any other ways I could encourage them to use English?
     
  5. trulyunic

    trulyunic Rookie

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    Aug 10, 2012

    Maybe have an incentive and make it whole class based. For example, maybe they could earn points when they are on task in the TL and also loose points on the board as a whole when there is too much English.

    The incentive could be any timeframe best for U and ur students: 5 min for _____at end of class, _____ once a week if u have either reached the desired number of points or I have also seen it where the students had to have at least 5 points every day (for ur predetermined amt of classes) in order to receive their incentive.

    This gives the students accountability and also other students will prob help keep some from speaking English if certain students keep speaking too much English and mess up their chance at the incentive.
    When u tell the class of this new way make sure u tell them u are just the scorekeeper- they earn or loose the points
    I will be using a form of this for my Spanish class
     
  6. mikemack42

    mikemack42 Companion

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    Aug 10, 2012

    Thanks Truly, maybe I'll try that.
     
  7. pengyou

    pengyou Rookie

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    Jan 30, 2013

    First of all, you have to realize that you are not teaching ESL but EFL, English as a Foreign Language. ESL is taught in the U.S. or U.K., etc. some places where English is the majority language and where motivation for studying abounds. What's the point of the difference? There is no practical reason for your students to speak English - other than grade related reasons. I teach English in China - similar situation as you. Some of the things I do... make them repeat each other - if I ask a student a question and she answers, I will ask the student next to her "what did she say?" This not only forces all of the students to listen - I don't always ask the student nearby but could be across the room - but I have found that they all prepare an answer for the question that they know will come, which means that they are thinking in English, a precursor for speaking. I have at least 2 exercises in every class that are student lead. They can be as simple as asking a student to ask the class review questions that I would normally ask, to asking a student to prepare a weather report for the upcoming weekend, report on the menu for the food in the cafeteria that day, or a longer, more formal report. The students are expected to not only ask questions of their classmates but also to keep them in line, i.e. make them speak only English. They are usually more successful than I am at this task. I am sure there are other ideas...but the one that I have to keep asking myself is, do the students really know how to speak English to do this task/discuss this question? There is a difference between familiararity and mastery of skills in L2. Most of the time I find myself developing familiararity to pass the test but don't give them enough structured and semistructured practice to help them develop masetry, which gives them confidence, which, in turn will make them want to speak English.
     
  8. mikemack42

    mikemack42 Companion

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    Jan 30, 2013

    Thanks Pengyou. Maybe I'll try making a Powerpoint slide for every lesson (I show students goals and homework on a Powerpoint every day) with structures I expect to hear from them. I also asked for their suggestions, and they said that during an independent activity, they would be allowed to speak Spanish during a portion of it, but only English during the rest (so if they have 15 minutes to work on their own, they could speak in Spanish for seven minutes, and English the other eight). It's got some results, but as you said, it's an uphill climb.
     
  9. englishteach2

    englishteach2 Rookie

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    Jul 27, 2013

    I teach in the US, but my students are exclusively from other countries.

    This is what I have done in the first few weeks:

    I copy a dollar bill ( lots of templates on the internet) and put my picture on it.

    When a student answers a question, I give them a "dollar".
    If a student speaks in their own language, they have to pay me a "dollar."

    At the end of the week, we do an accounting of who has the most "money."

    I have had students do various things with the "money"-- they can trade for points, we have a little market where kids bring things to buy and sell ( helps with understanding money and also conversation)

    It is a short term thing that works for me. Kids love having this fake money with my picture on it.
     
  10. AliLand

    AliLand Rookie

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    Feb 5, 2014

    I work in a Greek language school. Although the kids are told to use only English while in my class, the truth is most students just want the qualification and don't worry too much about the skill.
    A few years ago, my boss and I tried an experiment. At pre lower level (when they have a good grasp of the basics and some vocab, but before they start working for exams) I get them for an hour a week, to do what ever I like with. We had agreed that should it seem like a waste of time, I could reinforce reading, speaking and listening skills from their main classes.
    I'm now in to the forth year, and its been a huge success. I don't give grades or homework, there is almost no correction in class (I do mention grammar problems to their other teachers) we have debates, role plays, discussions and occasionally just chats. There is no penalty for lack of participation. I make sure the themes are exciting, and let them help choose. I start the 'lesson' with topic vocab and stimulating ideas and allow them to express themselves without pressure.
    Without fail, every child is fully participating within the first few months. They are all so intent on sharing ideas they hardly notice just how much they improve.
    The results are not easily definable in terms of tests, I think the main thing they learn is confidence in communication. The knock on effect the following year is huge, these kids can manage to organise thoughts in English, so writing skills are much improved. What is more important for life (if not always for paying parents) is how happy they are over summer that they chat freely with tourists of their age.
    The work I put in to keeping topics exciting enough for them to opt in pays off for me too, they are much easier to guide through exams (and no one every fails speaking!)
     
  11. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Feb 5, 2014

    I would never, never, never deduct points if I hear students speaking their native language instead of English. Absolutely not.
     
  12. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Feb 26, 2014

    In an advanced foreign language class you wouldn't? These kids have had the language for years. Heck, we lost points for using English in Spanish 3 when I was in high school. We could write in English if we were stumped, but not speak.
     
  13. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Feb 26, 2014

    I wouldn't mind deducting points for speaking English in an advanced foreign language class. (Notice I said language besides English in my previous post.)

    But I wouldn't deduct points for students in an ELL program (especially elementary) for speaking their language. It seems like a good way for them to lose pride in their language and stop speaking it.
     
  14. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Feb 26, 2014

    The OP was talking about a foreign language class.
     
  15. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Feb 26, 2014

    Whoops! I'm so sorry, I must have misread. I may have been referring to englishteach2's post.
     

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