Class Management System to Keep Students in the Target Language

The age-old dilemma of the foreign language teacher…how to get students to stay in the target language and avoid speaking the native language in class? (Particularly when they are “helping” by translating for their classmates).  Here is a class management system that I use.

Helps Students Stay in the Target (Foreign, World) Language. (French, Spanish) wlteacher.wordpress.comI choose a student’s name at the beginning of the class and put the slip of paper in the élève mystère (mystery student) spot with the name hidden.  Students know that I am paying close attention to that student and if he/she goes the entire class without speaking the native language he/she “wins” something for the entire class.  This depends on the age of the students.  I get creative with youtube videos, stickers or a fun game, all in the target language of course.

The happy and sad faces are used to keep the entire class accountable as well.  Each time I hear a student say something in the native language I put a mark under the sad face, when there are 5 minutes of only hearing target language I put a mark under the happy face.  At the end of the class if there are more sad than happy we skip the mystery student.  If there are more happy than sad we look at the mystery student.  If the the student did well, I announce who it was and the class does a big Thank You.  If the mystery student did not do so well, I don’t reveal who it was (that would be uncomfortable).  We can always try tomorrow.

Students often think (and hope) that they are the mystery student. Once they get the hang of it I move up to an entire week rather than just one class because the native language goes away fairly quickly.

9 responses to “Class Management System to Keep Students in the Target Language

  1. What age students are you working with and how many lessons a weeks do you have them each for? Great idea.

    • I began using this as just a classroom behavior system with 1st-3rd graders. When they really took to it I decided to switch to making it about target language use. Once my older (6th-8th graders) saw it they wanted to try too. So, I teach grades 1-8 and I use it with the whole range. I’m sure it would work well with high school students as well.

      Thanks for checking in.

      • I am also a primary teacher! As many, many bloggers are high school oriented, I was curious to discover what year levels this would work with! How many lessons a week do you work with each class? Here, in the primary setting, language teachers only see each class 1 or 2 times a week for 50 mins each time. How does that compare?

  2. Hello,

    I teach grades 1-8. I use this system primarily with grades 1-4 on a class by class basis. More weekly for the higher grades. My 1st-4th grade classes meet twice a week. It is part of the routine for them and they enjoy it. If I forget to choose the mystery student at the beginning of the class there is always a student who reminds me.


  3. This is fantastic! I used it today for the first time and I think it is really going to help increase the use of the TL in my room! Thank you!!

  4. Sally

    Question for you…If in a 5-minute span of time you hear a student speak English and you mark a point under the sad face, do you then start the timer all over again? My student teacher and I are going to implement this, but we’re trying to work out the details. Thanks!

    • Hello,

      Essentially, yes, but this is not always the easiest thing to keep track of when there is so much going on in the class. It remains approximate. Stick to the timing early on, then once students understand and respond to the system you can lengthen the time. I don’t post or use an actual clock. I keep track of it loosely on my own.


  5. Diane

    I am trying this with my 8th grade classes and so far the students are VERY engaged in this idea! Such a positive change in atmosphere in a very short time!

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