Promoting Real Modern Language Speaking in Your Class- 30+ Activities

If our real purpose is in the modern language classroom is student communication skills and specifically, student speaking, what do we do to improve that speaking skill?  When our language students say grammar drills or do oral vocabulary exercises,they are not communicating as defined by ACTFL Proficiency Levels. Have you ever heard a native speaker walk up to another speaker and say a verb conjugation?  Have you ever heard an adult native speaker walk up to another speaker and rattle off a list of nouns? Research shows that speaking is the least developed skill in the modern language classroom and, paradoxically, an extremely critical skill for being in a target language country.

Our students need to progress from orally identifying vocabulary to responding to and creating sentences as they climb the ACTFL Proficiency Levels. They need to interact in the modern language.

There is a wide range of speaking activities that can help the students increase in their speaking  and particularly spontaneous speaking.  Most encounters in authentic language are spontaneous ones.  Students can develop their speaking skill through learning how to substitute words in standard sentences, learning how to ask and answer questions,  answering questions, talking about specific topics, and role playing real situations.

I have created the following activities to develop speaking in the classroom. There are numerous speaking activities for any modern language  and many for Spanish. You can decide on how you want to develop their speaking skill, select any activity, print it out, copy it for the students, and use it immediately in the classroom (95% require no other  preparation). Each activity engages the whole class, small group or partners at the same time so that all students maximize their speaking.  These activities are found at


My ebook, 90 Mobile Learning Modern Language Activities, is available at

I have developed 27 Spanish activities  and 5 Modern Language Visual activities for students to begin to express themselves in the modern language and to move toward spontaneous speaking Teacherspayteachers:

My three formative assessment books, Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students and Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, are available at

Modern Language Speaking Minimum: 20 sentences daily per student

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:

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