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Recruit your students to be English Police

2015/11/20

More English in the classroom is great. But a teacher that's chides students to "speak English, please" is annoying for everyone. So instead, utilize young people's love for catching each other slip up, and harness their young nature of establishing a pecking order amongst themselves as a great way for students to encourage each other to speak English. It works beautifully, if you can set it up in a fun and productive way.


"Students remind each other to speak English."


Start by adding extra layer of gamification, by awarding points for doing something. This doesn't always have to be something related to English learning, like answering a question or completing a dialogue either. Of course, those are great, but if you really want to sell the students on caring about their points, it's also a good idea to award points for tossing a ball into a hoop, passing a ball between team mates without it being intercepted, or otherwise scoring a goal. The idea is that students can gain points for doing something, but for every time they speak Japanese, a point is deducted. The result is that Japanese use immediately drops off, it might be that ALL SPEAKING will drop off as well, but from there you can build an expectation of 'No Japanese'. Now it's up to you to find a way to insinuate English use into the activity. If they're a well mannered class, then no ball or faux-sport is necessary, and you can award points to the team of whoever has the right answer or completes a conversation point. Even a rowdier class can understand the 'English Only Rules' and after learning to value the points, can be given more 'educational' activities after you've tapped into their competitive side. Teams will help put on a healthy pressure, and encourages players to police each other and at least not speak Japanese.


Giving points for doing something is great, but the rules must be simple and clear. If you're giving out points willy-nilly, students lose motivation and won't value their worth. They must be clear on how to gain points clearly.

Also, be sure to start the game where everyone has five points or so from the beginning, so they have something to lose right from the start. You don't want to put them into the negatives while they're still adjusting to not speaking Japanese.

Lastly, having a clear start and finish for this English-only 'time' will help students from burning out and to clarify your expectation. Have students huddle-up, or shout out in unison "Let's start speaking English", something to let them know that the game has begun, or likewise ended.


A few final points of polish, the best way to keep track of points is not with numbers on the black board, but with something tangible like marbles, folded paper, or coins. So that every time a student answers the question, completes an activity, or exchanges with another student, they can swap coins and add it to their own team's bucket. This physical connection can add a lot of value, weight, and sense of reward to the game overall. Likewise if someone speaks Japanese, having them remove that point from their teams collection themselves can be the right kind of traumatic experience (for players mature enough to handle it). This is another reason why it might be good not to keep the score as marks on the board. Students might lose motivation if they are clearly losing, and that ambiguity can be useful and allow you to fudge the numbers slightly and give a better sense of competition.



"Taking points away for speaking Japanese."


This gamifying, or rewarding of standard classroom practice, or for not speaking Japanese, should help motivate students. But in case they are really unmotivated, or competition is too stressful for them, than having teams work together to earn enough points to choose a game they want to play, or some other kind of prize should help motivate them. But rather than a bottom-up approach, I've always preferred a top-down, or threatening approach. Where if the class or a team doesn't get enough points, than they will be punished in some hilarious way. Either by doing an embarrassing dance, push-ups in front of the class, or cleaning-up after the game. Something lighthearted but playfully humiliating is best, but of course, it takes a special situation of overall warmth and acceptance to allow for this kind of good natured ribbing.


Taking points for speaking Japanese can be adapted to fit any lesson, game, or activity with a little creativity and routine, and it is guaranteed to encourage students to at least keep quiet, but at best speak more English.

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