ACTFL’s 90% guideline indicates that teachers and students should speak 90% in the target language each class. However, such a guideline only addresses the language of the communication not the quantity or quality of the communication.
Many modern language departments state that speaking is 20% of the final. So how much of each class should the students speak? Speaking, for me, does not include doing grammar or vocabulary drills.
I propose that each student in a modern language class should speak at least 20 sentences each class. If a beginning student says 10 sentences in a two minute period, each student only needs to speak for a total of four minutes. If students work in pairs, each partner would take four minutes for a total of eight minutes for the two students. 8/40 is 20% of the class. Upper level students can say more sentences in the same time period.
To reach 20 sentences per student, students need to work in pairs. Students can count their partners’ sentences and provide valuable feedback for improvement. If we start small by just having students answer basic written questions (Who? What? Where? When? How?…) about a picture and gradually progress to students spontaneous speaking about any common topic.
How many sentences does each student say each class in your modern language class?
My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (24+) includes Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs), Speaking Mats ( Student can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas in pairs or small group), Modified Speed Dating (Students ask their partners one question from a card-whole class), Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawings from 2-4 people), Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs), and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers: http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle.
At the same site, I have a series of modern language visual stories with no words (the beach, the city, school, etc.) for two students to role play; the restaurant role play involves four students. These can be used in any language since there are just visuals, no words.
My book, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, and my book, Formative Assessment, Responding to Students, are available at http://is.gd/tbook