I hear from language teachers over and over again how difficult it is to keep students talking in the target language. I agree this can sometimes be difficult but with a few tweaks in your day and how you present material, I think you will be surprised with what your students can do.
I am a huge believer in teaching language in the target language. I try to communicate in ASL 80% – 90 % of my class time. At first this was a challenge, but now it is just how the class goes. If you start this practice early, students will be accustomed to learning in the target language. If you want to increase student’s receptive and expressive communication skills, try these minor changes.
Model the language – Set the tone at the start of the class. Expect students to enter the class using sign with their voices off. Communicate your greetings and lessons in the target language. Don’t slip out of the language because they do. This can be exhausting but remember communication starts with you.
Key phrases – Give them the skills they need to ask for clarification starting from day one. Students will need communicative phrases for asking for help, to slow down, to repeat a word or a phrase. This essential vocabulary should be taught on the first couple of days of class to support the learning environment. This easy step will encourage students to get using the language everyday and stay in the target language.
Use visuals – Use pictures and images for everything you teach. Put visual stimuli all around the room. When you teach vocabulary, show pictures. When you ask a question, use a visual prompt to help the student understand. You can use the graphic to the right to show students how to stay in the target language and what you expect of them.
Gesture and act it out – Let’s face it, we are performers in the classroom. You have a captive audience every day even if you want it or not. Let loose, have fun, be goofy and perform. Students will appreciate the relaxed atmosphere and see learning a language can be fun.
Set high expectations – Expect students to use the language. When we don’t think they can do it they won’t believe in themselves. Give students encouragement and praise (in the target language of course).
Show students that mistakes are acceptable. Remember changes don’t happen overnight. Make small adjustments to your daily routines and add a bit more time in the target language each day. You’ve got this.