Tuesday, March 2, 2010

English Only, Please!

Purpose: Encouraging learners to speak English at all times can be challenging. Here are some ways to encourage the use of English during class.

1. Ask students to raise their hands to show who in the class speaks Somali, Hmong, Oromo, Spanish, etc. Help students understand that talking to each other in English helps them understand people they will encounter outside the classroom, too.

2. Make a STOP sign with the words “Speak English” on it. Hold it up at the beginning of an activity or during class when you hear a lot of other languages being spoken. The sign speaks for itself! Learners may start using the sign to remind each other, too.

3. Insist that, when doing pair work, students work with a partner who speaks a different first language.

4. When learners come into class, give them each three buttons, coins, or pieces of paper (something that won’t roll off or blow off the table!). Explain or demonstrate that every time you hear them speak a language other than English, you will take one of their buttons. For the first few times, you can give a warning before you take a button, but make sure to follow through. This is not meant to be punitive. It is simply a visual reminder. Learners will soon start to monitor themselves and each other.

Note: For higher levels, try enforcing the English-only rule for half of the class at first. For lower levels, try it for 15-20 minutes.

5. Help the class generate a list of sentences they can use when they don’t understand each other: I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Can you repeat, please? Could you please speak more slowly? Encourage students to practice these in class and when working in pairs and small groups.

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