la luz

No, this is not a post about a song by Juanes.

“La luz” is an integral part of my classes, and I don’t think I’ve ever officially described it. It looks like this:


It’s nothing more than a cheap battery closet light that turns on when pressed.  It hangs in my classroom, and I use it from time to time.   The rule is simple.  When the light is on, no English is permitted – only Spanish.  Speaking English when the light is glowing results in a loss of participation points and a good scolding from the teacher.

When the light is off, we still use the target language almost exclusively, but a slip into English is not penalized.  The light gives us a visible sign to know that we’ve entered a new dimension in which such a slip is a sin.

I know other teachers who raise flags, flip a poster or a use a different gimmick to identify a No-English period.  Awesome.  There are many ways to do it.

Keys to success with your No-English device:

1. Make a spectacle of it: Be silly. Pretend the device has magical powers.  I often start by saying, “Respeta la luz.  La luz te ve.  La luz sabe todo.”  (Respect the light.  The light sees you.  The light knows everything.)  Make a big deal out of No-English time.

2. Respect it yourself: Model perfect obedience to the device.  If the light is on and I am speaking and I need to drop in a quick definition in English, I run over and turn it off.  I quickly define the word and then turn on the light again.  If you start disregarding the device, it loses its power.

3. Be consistent with the penalty/reward: I use to keep track of participation points.  I quickly subtract a point when English is used.  I also like the idea of a reward for nobody using English.  Whatever system you use, be consistent.

4. Do not put students in difficult situations: Use it for retells or talking about the weekend.  Students should be well-prepared to complete the task.  It might be scary at first, but using the device should actually build confidence.  Wow, I can avoid English altogether.  Start with simple tasks and then do more and more.

5. Do not use it every minute of every class of every day: My class always happens in Spanish.  I am doing most of the talking (providing input).  I use the Target Language at or above 90% and students do as well, even when the light is off.  Pressing the light means that now we must all be at 100%.  If you try to institute a 100% TL rule for every minute, it will probably break down and your system will be lost.  Find a gimmick to designate certain times as No-English.  I often comment to my students when they begin to panic about the light, “Relax.  This is only slightly different than what we always do.

This entry was posted in Classroom activities, Communicative Activities, Speaking. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to la luz

  1. Pingback: Target Language Lights! | Junior High CI with Profe Tauchman

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