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Dynamic Activities That Motivate Foreign Language Learners
How often are your Spanish language learners simply just bored with the “usual” classroom activities? Your have mandatory materials which must be covered to satisfy curriculum and other administrative requirements. There is a limited amount of time to do so. You may be faced with limited resources with which to exploit Your Spanish learners’ language acquisition strengths. Often there’s just too much material to be delivered in what seems to be too little time. Both your learners – and you – can eventually “wear out”. Sound familiar? Here are nine suggested venues to almost instantly perk the both of you up and motivate your charges to greater language learning efforts.
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Playing Games in Spanish
Games are simply great motivators. Unfortunately, they’re often far from the norm in too many foreign language teaching and learning scenarios. Whether you opt for a series of board games or Total Physical Response (TPR) based activities, learners immediately perk up when the classroom session calls for frequent or regular games in foreign language learning.
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Using Music for Learning Spanish
If you feel that “sing-a-longs” are the only use of music and songs in the foreign language learning classroom, boy, have I got news for you. Throughout our everyday lives, music is used for a variety of distinct purposes from rallying us to eat faster to slowing us down to shop more or stimulate us to buy certain products or services. We’re calmed by music, persuaded by music, stimulated or relaxed, all by the music or songs we hear. In Cali, Colombia, where I live, Salsa or other forms of local music are played on public busses, taxis, in shopping centers, stores and shops of every description and comes blasting out of people’s homes often until the wee hours, especially on weekends. Throughout the country, informal bands of musicians sing and play Vallenatos anywhere and everywhere, including on street corners, in parks, at traffic lights on public transport vehicles and along stretches of the beach in many coastal cities. Music pervades the air virtually day and night.
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Going Online - in Spanish, Of Course
Want to see a batch of “droned-out” learners stage the “charge of the light brigade”? Then just announce in your classroom, “We’re going to the computer room”. I just bet you’ll see action then. Before sounding the charge though, have a worksheet or list of relevant websites in Spanish handy that you can use to “guide” online language learning activities. Vary your list from inter-active games and puzzles to news, short readings and perhaps the “assignment” to send an e-mail or two – to you, of course.
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Trying TPR and Other Spanish Classroom Dynamics
Right at an opportune time in a class headed for the doldrums; snap them out of their drudgery with a quick, highly active, physical activity like “Simon Says”. Get everybody up and moving and be sure to have a couple of “prizes” or so for the “winners”. Another good one that frequently works for me is “BINGO”. Categories can be mixed from people, places, food, animals, verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc., mixed or whatever Spanish lexis or vocabulary you’d like to reinforce in a fun, dynamic way. Draw a sample 5 by 5 format on the board. Write fifty to seventy-five learner-suggested Spanish-language-related names and Spanish vocabulary on the board. Then have your learners fill in the form on a page of their notebooks. Call out names or vocabulary from the list at random until someone yells, “BINGO” or better yet, “¡Ole!” when they have a row of five. Have some small prizes ready for added incentive and you’re in business.
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Watching Videos and Movies in Spanish
Pick a five-minute or so long emotional scene or clip from a popular movie in Spanish. You can even have your learners suggest and bring in some movies. Between Mexico, Argentina and Spain there are truckloads of Spanish language movies which are easily available as DVDs or online at video-sharing websites. Write up a short listening and discussion-based “worksheet” on the selected movie clip. Introduce your audio-visual activity, hand out or have learners copy it into their notebooks, play the clip and BAM! – an instantly successful Spanish language class session will be in the works. Choose a humorous, dramatic, controversial or tear-jerking scene. Since scenes are short, you can easily repeat one of them two, three or more times even in a limited class session. If you’re astute, you can cull grammatical and phonetic, speech or pronunciation elements out of the clip too.
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Illustrating Using Rhythm, Rhyme, Rap and Poetry
Do you know how rhythm, rhyme, rap and poetry are related? Well, in many more cases than you might currently realize, there can be little or no difference between them. Have your learners set poetry to music or recite poetry or excerpts to a funky beat (their funky, not yours). Start them off with a couple of samples like an excerpt from the Spanish show for children, “Chavo” (pictured) and you’re on your way to an unforgettable Spanish language class session.
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Giving Spanish Learners Greater Autonomy and Control
Have you ever allowed your classes of Spanish language learners to write their own quizzes and exams?
“Oh, they’ll just write the easiest things they can”, you might think.
Don’t you bet on it. Try having one class group write a topic quiz for another class group at the same or a lower Spanish level. Then later, give that quiz to the “target” class. Talk about being amazed at the results, I’m often stunned at how good these are virtually every time I do this. Save these for later too. If it works well once, it’ll likely work well again and again.
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Eliminating Spanish "Tests"
Want to be a “super-hero”? Then just try announcing to your Spanish language learners,“There will be NO tests”. I’ll put money on the table that they’ll cheer you! So then, how can you evaluate them? Use portfolios of work, peer evaluations, topic expository essays, written or spoken presentations, that’s how. Addition language evaluation methods are also quite possible. In any event, the apparent “release” of your Spanish language learners from the dreaded “tests” will certainly be a big hit on your teaching circuit. Give it some creative thought and it’ll benefit you as well.
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Providing Inter-Active Assignments
Your Spanish language learners just love homework, don’t they? (¡Hay por dios, NO profe!) What? “They don’t”, you bark? Okay then, let’s switch a few things around. How about trashing the book report, standard essay and boring answer-the-questions-from-the-book type of homework assignments? Of course you’ll replace them with far more inter-active, dynamic ones such as:
- Enact a dramatic scene from a book, Spanish movie or literary work
- Give an audio-visual summary of a chapter or other work in Spanish
- Prepare graphics, posters visuals or other displays to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a Spanish topic or theme covered in class
- Learn and sing or recite a popular song or literary passage or poem in Spanish (with or without music by artists such as Carlos Vive)
- Do something “creative” with the Spanish language material or aspect to be learned
- Surprise me, “El Maestro”, with your “brilliance” and show me you “know” using any means you wish
So put some of these tips and techniques into use in your Spanish language classes to help motivate your charges to more effective Spanish language learning efforts. Surely, you’ll be glad you did.