Adventures in my classroom – Getting students speaking with assistance from “the secret weapon”!


Strategies to get the most reluctant students speaking is a challenge and is a constant battle not least because overuse of a strategy can become ineffective and students no longer respond positively to it so it is our job to be creative! 

In my current school we offer French and Spanish and we do want to get students speaking using the target language. And lots of them do but there are those that just something extra to feel like they can take the risk and join in the fun. At these times and always for spoken assessment we bring out our “secret weapon“, it melts students resolve and excitement and joy takes over! 

Honestly! The secret weapon seems to flick a switch and reticence to ‘Parle en français’ and ‘hablar en español’ fades in to obscurity. Caution is thrown to the wind and they, the students, are on it, they are well up for it and desperate to please.

The secret weapon seems to have such a huge impact on confidence, motivation, engagement and students suddenly seem to just want to go for it. And it works in every class regardless of ‘ability’, weather type and time of day every time we have employed it. 

Students suddenly lose inhibitions and want to show us what they know can do, the quality of spoken French or Spanish dramatically increases because we have them hooked, recordings made on MP3 or videoed are evidence of their superb effort, to their creativity, understanding, effort and engagement. It is truly brilliant to see how the teacher just stands back enabling the groups to get on with the task(s) set and have fun. Brilliant! 

The quality and range of language spoken improves, accent improves and students dig deep to perform and rise to the challenge of assessment. For some it is dramatic or others small gains but gains nonetheless. What is this wondrous secret weapon? It’s simply and magically a dressing up box

The dressing up box is truly a collection of wondrous items including: 

  • a selection of fantastic hats; berets, flat caps, trilbys, sombreros, 
  • glasses oversized and googly
  • pirate attire (plastic swords, eye patches, plastic hooks and belts)
  • wigs and hair pieces; the more outrageous the better, very curly, mullet style and rainbow are probably the best!
  • paper money & plastic coins
  • head scarves

In addition to the shared ‘boîte de magique’ we do allow students to bring in props and we do get ‘onesies’ but not always. 

Where to get these items of joy and wonder? Toy shops, charity shops, tourist shops, Swedish shops – the large blue and yellow one and the very new one that has appeared on a high street near you! (Mine is Cardiff or Cheltenham) What seems unwearable and ever so slightly bonkers to you and I, seems to be what students will go for! However a little word of warning just please make sure there are plenty of items to go around as one item each doesn’t always cut it!  

Plus it’s always good fun to get involved yourselves for comedy value of course. 









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