Let’s Talk. En Español?!!

When I ask my students about their goal in Spanish class the answer is usually the same. They all want to be able to speak in the language. Yet, having students communicate effectively in Spanish is the number one challenge I have as a teacher. Regardless of the age group, students tend to experience an incredible amount of stress when asked to participate in a conversational task. Some refuse to do it while some wait to be the last one to be called on the list. Others just giggle nervously through the whole conversation. But one thing is for sure; improving their proficiency through regular conversational tasks is the most rewarding experience for everyone.

Since I usually teach the beginner levels of Spanish, I have developed a system of using focus questions in Spanish for each lesson, that can be used as conversation starters. These questions grow in complexity as the class progresses and are practiced regularly. At first, the students memorize the questions and possible answers. Then, I ask them to “mix and match” with vocabulary words so that they can create their own message. Eventually students have a repertoire of phrases and questions that help them in feeling successful in Spanish, in and outside the classroom.

Below are some of the activities that help me in assisting students practice their conversational skills. Having a routine is key in making students feel comfortable. The more familiar they are with the activities the more relaxed they will be during the activities.


Ball Toss
I recommend using a plush ball. Throw the ball to a student and ask a question. Once the student answers, he/she throws it back to you. Continue until all the students have participated. A modification could be to have students ask you or a classmate a question.


Craft Sticks
Write the questions and phrases on the sticks as students learn them and place them in a cup or Ziploc bag. Once you have five or more, ask students to pick a craft stick randomly and answer the question or respond to the phrase.



Rueda de Casino I started doing this exercise inspired by the dance. If you have ever seen a “Rueda de Casino”  you get the idea. Dancers start with a partner and then switch. In this activity, students stand in a circle facing a classmate who is their beginning partner. They start by greeting each other and have a conversation based on what they have learned. Once finished, they both move forward and switch places. At this point they are facing a new student with whom they start a conversation. Once they meet with their original partner they can sit down.


T.A.L.K. TALK’s are meant to be conversations between students that can be assessed quickly. It can be part of any lesson in which a couple of questions are introduced. Students can turn to the nearest classmate and have the conversation. During this task the four areas being assessed are: exchange of specific information, accuracy, comprehension and knowledge of cultural etiquette.


Speed Convo This activity can be done in different ways. The idea is the same. Students are given certain amount of minutes to talk to a classmate. Then, at the sound of the timer they switch. In my adult classes of Spanish, I align the desks in a way that students face each other. I give them about two minutes (depending on the amount of information I know they can exchange) before asking them to switch. They do this without their notes and I don’t ask them to write down any information about their classmates. At the elementary level I like to give students a sheet with guide questions and they have to write the answers provided by their classmates. I also give them more time and they only talk to two classmates. The reason why I do this is because they feel successful when they have time to ask all of the questions rather than being rushed to start a new conversation.


One-On-One Conversation The opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with each student is invaluable! It is not always easy to accomplish but it is the chance to know how well your students can communicate, and provide feedback that will help them improve. Did I say provide feedback? YES! Without feedback the purpose is defeated. Giving students personalized commentary about their performance and what they need to work on is what makes the positive difference. I like to have these conversations once per semester with elementary students and once per exam with adult learners. When working with high school and middle school students I used to do them at the end of each marking period.

Click on the following link for some sample rubrics for the tasks described above http://www.erickacollado.com/interpersonal.html

Can’t find one that suits the level that you teach? FLENJ has rubric templates for all the proficiency levels that can be easily modified at the following link: http://flenj.org/CAPS/rubrics.shtml

¡Hasta pronto!


Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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