“Small changes can make huge destination differences” Steven Covey
In this post I would like to reflect on how I encourage spontaneous speaking skills in my classroom. I believe in order to achieve this “holy grail” for most foreign language teachers, the steps to achieving this must be broken into minute detail. Therefore, I won’t be writing about the type of language I employ nor the activities I use which promote this. I intend to blog about this in the near future. In my view, it is important to create an ambience for spontaneous speaking to take place. With this in mind, when I start a new class, I ask them to choose a new French/Spanish name. I supply them with a list of possible names with its etymology. However, students are free to choose their own too. Allowing pupils to have ownership over their name means they are more willing to buy into other speaking activities in the future. Also, it is a fun way for students to practise using “Comment tu t’appelles/ elle/il s’appelle?/¿Cómo se llama/ te llamas?” because they don’t know what others in the classroom have chosen. To be honest, in the past I felt a bit stupid making students ask each other’s names when they already knew the answer. This also has the added bonus that you can practise these structures for some time while maintaining interest of the class. It usually takes a class at least a month to know each other’s French/Spanish names. With my classes, I also enjoy analysing the phonics of the language through their names too. Now, for the most important bit. You never again address students with their real first names. No matter what the situation, for example, if you bump into a pupil at the local supermarket, at parents’ evenings (I have yet to meet a parent who has shown any concern in me using the French/Spanish names), in the canteen, when you have to reprimand them, and even when they are no longer taught by you . You always address them with their chosen foreign name. The reaction from others is often quite amusing, it goes something like this “Why did he just call you Gabriella?” and the student will generally reply with pride “it’s my French name”. They buy into the idea that they actually have a French/Spanish name and subconsciously develop a French/Spanish persona which makes spontaneous speaking easier to achieve in the classroom. In the last two years, I only had four or five students who have requested that I revert back to their given name which, of course, I fully respected. So, my top tip for creating a spontaneous speaking classroom – allow all students to choose a foreign name which is indicative of the language which you are teaching and consistently use it no matter what the occasion!