Language Educators

Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

  • 1.  Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-29-2018 23:38
    Several of my colleagues have particularly large class sizes this year and are seeking advice on facilitating conversation in the target language.

    Martha Horohoe
    Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart

  • 2.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-30-2018 08:57
    Here's an idea:

    Perhaps very short yet spontaneous unique conversations ... no time to waste awaiting volunteers, everyone must participate on cue ... form two long lines along the two sides of the room.  Students advance toward front until two students are facing each other.  The student on the left starts a conversation, the partner responds; the conversation is limited to three or five sentences, and then both go to the ends of the opposite line and the line advances (opposite lines so they can practice both starting and responding).  Very important: students must not ask questions and must not use "but."  Asking a question places limitations on the partner, and "but" denies the partner's contribution.  Instead, each response must BUILD on the previous, for example,

    "The roses are beautiful in spring."
    "I agree.  I want to buy some for my mother."
    "You love your mother very much."

    The teacher can provide a lexical theme or not.

    Bob Chase
    Tunxis Community College

  • 3.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-31-2018 08:06
    I am not exactly sure what you mean by "facilitating conversations" (e.g., doing communicative tasks in class? holding conversation groups outside of class? management techniques or activity ideas?). Perhaps this upcoming free webinar can help: "Let's Chat!: A Model for Proficiency-Based Conversation Labs and Task-based, OER Activities"

    Florencia Henshaw
    Director of Advanced Spanish
    University of Illinois

  • 4.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-30-2018 09:30
    Make groups of four-five and have them vote for the best ... (something: a movie, a sport team...) One every group has selected their favorite one, a student (or yourself) tally the results on the board. The most voted item will be the whole class's favorite one.

    Also try to implement the Jig-Saw activity: Jigsaw
    Hope this helps. Good luck!

    Manuela GB

    Manuela Gonzalez-Bueno
    Associate Professor
    Foreign Language Education
    School of Education
    University of Kansas

  • 5.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-30-2018 12:16
    Have you thought about using Flipgrid?  It is FREE and a great way for students to practice their speaking.

    Heide DeMorris
    North Salem Middle High School

  • 6.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 09-02-2018 15:33
    Hi colleagues,

    I already tried flipgrid. Thank you for the resource.

    [Jeannette] [Hernández-Cordero]

  • 7.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-31-2018 08:18
    I feel like no one has asked the key questions here: what level (or better, how much language has been acquired already) and what is the goal of having students "comverse"?

    We want to maximize comprehended input during class. Pairwork between non-fluent students probably isn't the best source of high quality, accurate, interesting input. And if the students are already fluent on the language being requested, I wonder if that class time couldn't/perhaps shouldn't  be used differently.

    Terry Waltz, Ph.D.
    SquidForBrains Educational Publishing
    Language through Comprehensible Input

  • 8.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 09-01-2018 11:23
    Indeed! We should not be forcing ANY conversational output from our students. If we provide slow, comprehensible input, our students will naturally begin speaking as they are ready, just as they did for L1. The process is necessarily faster because we have reading at our disposal, which greatly facilitates acquisition. This can even be done at higher levels. I'd refer you all to the work of Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic, who have also published on how to do comprehensible input with upper levels in their CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) work.

    Laurie Forsman
    Browns River Middle School

  • 9.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 08-31-2018 12:18
    Edited by Crystal Marull 08-31-2018 12:20


    I just wanted to chime in here and share my experience. As the Coordinator for the Online Spanish Language Program at the University of Florida, I was charged with creating a communicative-based online course for over 160 students. The challenge of providing such a large number of students, let alone online students, with opportunities to improve their oral proficiency was huge. That's when I decided, to implement telecollaborative language coaching sessions as part of the course requirement. Although there are several companies that offer this, through careful evaluation and piloting, I found LinguaMeeting to be by far the best one out there. Although not free, it is very economical, at about $5 per session per student. For such a low fee the benefits of having the logistic support, professional service, and excellently-trained and dynamic coaches, make any free option look like a waste of time and energy. I couldn't be more pleased with the results. I am entering my second year using LinguaMeeting and the student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. So many students comment on how through the coaching sessions they are actually learning a skill they can use, they feel like they are connecting with the target culture, and they are extremely engaged and motivating. The coaches are awesome and exceed my expectations. They are so creative on how they facilitate the conversations with the students, from use of screen share, virtual backgrounds, google earth pro, and other collaborative and media-rich prompts, the conversation flows and the time flies by (all hosted by zoom). Students, although nervous initially, come to love these sessions and consider them the highlight of the course. I have been so inspired by the conversations, that I have begun to take topics they discuss or elements that they share and incorporate them into other types of communicative activities that scaffold the learning process and give students the opportunity to revisit the content and dig deeper. I'd be more than happy to share more about my personal experience with LinguaMeeting and how I have been able to integrate into my courses to transform an online course from anonymous and impersonal to relationship-based and community supported. I've even had a student tell me that she learned more Spanish through this style of course then she did of Italian on an exchange program she went on!

    So anyway, that's my 2 cents. You can contact me for more info at or you can find more info about linguameeting at or emailing the director at



    Crystal Marull
    University of Florida
    Coordinator Online Spanish Program

  • 10.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 09-02-2018 14:47
    I have some thoughts on Language Acquisition, one problem is I don't know if some of them are actually original or if I am quoting someone famous.  Since the late 1980's,  I have written a LOT of ideas about teaching in context.  I call the approach "Building Artificial Realities."  I used to publish and sell some of my lesson ideas, but I got too old and too techno-challenged.  BUT there is a website where I post some of my teaching ideas.  THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO PURCHASE anything to get to my "B-A-R" descriptions.  You are welcome to read the ideas, develop your own Artificial Realities.  This will just save me the work of copying all of the information. First go to TeachersPayTeachers.  Then do a search for Pam Kaatz Color Connection.  I mentioned my being techno-challenged.  It will be obvious because I do NOT know how to organize my lessons in order.  Like Spanish together, English together, French, etc.  So once the list is up, first scroll down to INTERNATIONAL FORUM.  When it opens, there is be a LONG description of B-A-R.  Then open PLACES IN THE CITY.   DO NOT do a seach for INTERNAITONAL FORUM, for example, until you are in MY file because every lesson with the word FORUM will come up.  Same with PLACES.  So stay in my list when you do the search.  I mention this next experience in the B-A-R descriptions, but I would like to share it with you in case you don't go to the site..  A student told me one day, "You are so SNEAKY.  By the time we have to learn something, we already know it."  That made my day!  No, that made my whole 30 years of teaching worthwhile!  You may know my El "Rock" de las Capitales, which several people have put on youtube, but they don't have the original visual lessons.  BUT I do not object or have the postings removed because I want our students to learn them
    You might have also heard of my Spanish Verb Wall.  I have to share this story.  A student who had just finished Spanish 2 and was in the first few days of Spanish 3 told me he needed to "fill" an empty period during the day, didn't need the credit, so he signed up for French 1. Based on a long-time joke between the French teacher and me, I told him, "Yo quiero que le digas a la maestra de france's que el france's es nada ma's que el espa~nol mal pronunciado."  He came in the next morning.  Went into a "trance" and told me, "Yo le dije (lo) que usted me dijo que le dijera. Esta' furiosa.  JA JA"  Then a few days later he came in looking confused... "She told us to memorize 'Je suis, tu est, il/ella es, nous sommes, vous estes, ils/elles sont'  Why?"  He just had is FIRST experience of trying to communicate with memorized conjugation.  He had never been taught that way in Spanish class.  He knew how to use the forms, but not in a list.

    Pamela Kaatz

  • 11.  RE: Facilitating conversation in target language with a large class

    Posted 09-03-2018 07:00

    I agree with all mentioned points. I am the Spanish online developer for the University of Memphis in TN, and we started using Linguameeting (En vivo chats) a year ago. The support and benefits provided by En vivo are tremendous. I highly recommend their services.
    This year, we are improving the use of their platform. We selected a six group section, and we created a En vivo 3 part approach for each chat session. The three part process is divided as follows: 1. En vivo preparation, where students answer a series of questions and upload the answers to the Dropbox (to make sure they are prepared for the chat); 2. En vivo chat session, where students use the preparation questions as part of the chat; and  3. En vivo follow-up session, where the students post inside the discussion board answers to pre-selected question about their coach.

    The only difficult part, was to stablished the dates according to each Module/Chapter. Each chat session, must be completed in a period of one or two weeks, and the students must reserve each chat session during that period. As we continue using this new approach we will be able to learn and make adjustments to this new approach.

    All the best for you Crystal. You have great ideas for teaching online.

    Dora Berry

    [Adoracion] [Berry] [Ed.D.]
    [][Instructional Designer and Instructor]