Tips to get them talking



I bid a fond farewell to the purple room, the best classroom I’ve ever had in the best school I’ve ever taught.  I’ll miss them both!

Though school ended about 3 weeks ago, today is actually my first “vacation” day.  We had a family vacation trip, said goodbye to our Ukrainican exchange student, hosted my niece and nephew for a week of “Camp Wear ’em Out” and I went to AP training for a week. Whew!  I need a vacation from vacation.

At AP training I picked up several useful tools, and I want to share a few here today combined with some that I’ve used in class this year.  I realized that in order to be successful on the AP exam, I need to get students talking more and more often, though not necessarily on structured topics. Since AP is the top level course at my new school and we are redesigning courses to improve vertical alignment, I’ve got curriculum design on my mind!  The activities below could be used in pre-AP classes too.


Activities to promote circumlocution

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Based on feedback I received from students last year, I realized that I needed to put more game-oriented activities back into our classes.  Hedbanz, Twenty, Catchphrase, and Hoopla are some games that promote circumlocution, though we don’t necessarily play them as written.

Catchphrase, Twenty, and Hoopla can all be played as the same game, very similar to Catchphrase: how many words can you get your team to say in the designated time period?  If you haven’t seen Catchphrase played, here’s a clip from the Tonight Show that will give you the idea.   I like the way they play the game on the show because the cards can be in the TL and the game with buzzer can be used as a timer.  The games can also be good sponge/filler activities, or even stations.  Hoopla is available here, Catchphrase here, and Twenty was found at Five Below for about $2.

Hedbanz is also a circumlocution and question formation game, but thanks to an idea from Karen Goering at ACTFL in the fall, it can be adapted to other topics as well.  She used it with her students to talk about El Internado, replacing the cards in the game with images and characters from the show.  This could work for stories too!


activities to promote story telling

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My kids at home have liked story cubes (available here), so I stole them for class 🙂  The Story Book game is also from Five Below, and again, both can be played in a similar fashion.  Roll the dice/draw a few cards and create an impromptu story based on what you see.  In hunting down the links for this post, I see another game that looks promising along the same lines. I think I’m going to go through the card sets for Story book and Twenty and replace the English captions with Spanish before we use them in class.

With these additions, I hope to inject an extra dose of language-based fun into classes in the coming year!  What have you done to promote fun and spontaneous language use in your classes?

Catchphrase and Hoopla photo credit:

4 thoughts on “Tips to get them talking

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