We have all had issues with students reverting to their native language the foreign language classroom. Here are some questions and suggestion to consider as you create these speaking activities that will help to keep students speaking in the target language.
Is the activity at the right level for the students?
The activity or prompt should be at the appropriate proficiency level. It is helpful to review necessary vocabulary and phrases in advance. If the language required to perform the activity is too high student will undoubtedly revert to their native language. If the task is too easy they may get bored and also stop using the target language.
Are all the students actively involved and is the activity stimulating and of interest to the group and individual students?
If students do not have something to say or do, or don’t feel the need to speak, they will revert to their native language and discuss something that is more of interest to them. Provide prompts and tasks that are of interest to students.
Is the timing of the activity hindering the execution?
The timing of a speaking activity in a class can be crucial. Often when put in a group students quickly continue conversations that began before class. This is why it is best to wait until a few minutes into class time to begin a group speaking activity. Use the first part of class time to refocus attention with another sort of activity or review.
Are students using the target language even when they know the teacher is not listening?
It is imperative that the teacher walk around the classroom monitoring participation and target language use and giving support and help to students as they need it. But, students are very good at knowing when they can get away with not speaking the target language because the teacher is working with another group. For this reason, it important to put a time limit and a product on the task so that group needs to stay focused.