Here’s an idea that’s just quirky enough to work. I wanted to do a quick retell/speaking practice, and I wanted all students to speak. I passed out little paper cutouts of the outline of a man and told students he was their new best friend. He would never laugh at their attempts to speak Spanish. He would never judge or interrupt. He would be a great listener. I set a timer for two minutes and allowed students to decorate their new friends. Some were changed to women, pirates, Hunger Games characters, and some ended up shirtless. I was glad I set a timer because several students could have spent hours on decorating.
I then instructed them to retell a recent story to their friend. Again, I set the timer for two minutes. I walked around and listened as students spoke. The result was very little class time used for every student to retell the story. Several times, I had to remind students that speaking to a paper cutout man is typical behavior for a Spanish class – not at all weird. Despite some giggles and eye rolls at first, I do believe that students were far less inhibited and able to speak more than if we would have done the activity in partners. I could have had them complete the activity without the paper friend, but it added enough intrigue to get them rolling. I find myself often using tangible objects to increase focus in class.
We will speak with our friends in the future, especially when there are only a few minutes left in class, and I want a quick speaking practice. I could hang them all over the classroom and have students get up and spread out in order to speak with their new best friends.