So, I thought, can the same concept work for keeping students in the target language during speaking activities? I decided to experiment...
I bought a pack of post-it flags, typically used to mark pages in a book or notebook. We had a simple speaking activity planned where students had to circulate the room asking each other yes or no questions in Spanish to practice the tener expressions (¿Tienes hambre?, ¿Tienes miedo de payasos?, ¿Tienes sed?, etc). Obviously, it is impossible for me to hear all 30 kids and make sure they are speaking Spanish at every moment. I circulated around the room as well with my post-it flags, and each time I heard English, I stuck a flag on the back of the person who I heard it from.
At first, the kids wondered what in the world I was doing, but they caught on pretty quick.
The next day, I took my flags out again. This time, I barely had to use any at all.
I also like that the flags are easy to quantify. If I need to give a speaking grade, I can easily do it by number of flags (0 flags - A, 1 flag - B, 2 flags - C, etc). While this wouldn't necessarily be indicative of the quality of the speaking, I believe that working through your frustrations by staying in the target language is a skill to be rewarded. I can assess quality of speaking on a more individual basis.
What do you think? Have you tried something like this with your students? What methods do you use to encourage students to stay in the target language?