The Secret Weapon
Finding strategies to get the most reluctant students speaking in a foreign language (or sometimes in any language) is a constant battle, not least because overuse of any one strategy means it can become ineffective. Therefore, it is our job to be creative and keep trying new ones!
In my current school we offer French and Spanish and we do want to get students speaking using the target language. And lots of them do, but there are those that just need something extra to feel like they can take the risk and join in the fun. At these times - and always for spoken assessments - we bring out our 'secret weapon'.
It's weapon that melts students' reluctance and allows excitement and joy to take over. Honestly! It seems to flick a switch and reticence to ‘Parler en français’ and ‘hablar en español’ fades in to obscurity. Caution is thrown to the wind and they, the students, are on it, they are well up for it and desperate to please. It has such a huge impact on confidence, motivation, engagement and students suddenly seem to just want to 'go for it'.
Students suddenly lose inhibitions and want to show us what they know can do, the quality of spoken French or Spanish dramatically increases because we have them hooked, recordings made on MP3 or videoed are evidence of their superb effort, to their creativity, understanding, effort and engagement. It is truly brilliant to see how the teacher just stands back enabling the groups to get on with the task(s) set and have fun. Brilliant!
The quality and range of language spoken improves, accent improves and students dig deep to perform and rise to the challenge of assessment. For some it is dramatic, for others small gains but gains nonetheless. And it works in every class, regardless of ‘ability’, time of day or even what the weather is doing, every time we have employed it.
What is this wondrous secret weapon? It’s simply and magically a dressing up box. That's it!
The dressing up box is a collection of truly wondrous items including:
- A selection of fantastic hats - berets, flat caps, trilbies, sombreros...
- Glasses, oversized and googly
- Pirate attire (plastic swords, eye patches, plastic hooks and belts...)
- Wigs and hair pieces, the more outrageous the better, very curly, mullet style and rainbow are probably the best!
- Head scarves
- And even paper money & plastic coins
In addition to the shared ‘boîte de magique’ we do allow students to bring in props and we do get ‘onesies’ (but not always).
Where to get these items of joy and wonder? Toy shops, charity shops, tourist shops, Swedish shops – the large blue and yellow one and the very new one that has appeared on a high street near you! (Mine is Cardiff or Cheltenham) What seems unwearable and ever so slightly bonkers to you and I, seems to be what students will go for! However a little word of warning just please make sure there are plenty of items to go around as one item each doesn’t always cut it!
Plus it’s always good fun to get involved yourselves for comedy value of course.