A week or so ago I had the good fortune to run across this post by Amy Lenard (@alenord) about conversation circles. I’d been trying to come up with good ways to get my students talking in a natural way. We’ve been studying food so I choose food/restaurants as our topic. I introduced the main idea of what we’d be doing and gave students 5 minutes to write 3 questions in Spanish. I made sure to emphasize that they should not be close ended questions. We wanted to facilitate conversation. I have 14 students so it was easy to do as a big group. I handed out expectations in English and a list of helpful phrases to guide them.
At first I had a few shy ones that were a bit overwhelmed and/or lost. If had one student ask, “What if we have no clue what anyone is saying?”. I told her that if that was the case, she should listen and focus on picking out words she knew and that if she didn’t understand people’s answers she could take charge and ask one of her questions! After about 15 minutes this student became comfortable and jumped in forming great answers.
As we went, I wrote helpful words on the board such as “healthy” and “fast food” that students could refer to. I am fortunate to have an incredible group of students this year in Spanish 3 and everyone participated. For those who struggled, I pointed them to the guiding phrases to start and expand upon their simple answers and they did!
We got in a pretty heated discussion after the question, “What is your opinion on onions”. Who would have guessed? I was afraid there might be a lot of silence and we might run out of topics or original answers but that was not the case! I kept track of how many times the students spoke and gave them a grade for participating. I’m not a big fan of participation grades but felt it fit here. Student held each other to a pretty high standard and no one tried to pull one word answers or repeat exact answers someone else had said. I was so impressed with the prior knowledge students used and how they built upon the starting phrases.
I’m hoping to do this on a weekly or biweekly basis. We have a movie unit coming up next so I think that will be a great topic!
Thank you Amy Lenord for sharing what you’ve learned in your first few goes of this activity! What do you do to get students talking?
Until Next Time,