Tip #1 - DO NOT OVERCORRECT
Some may disagree, but the primary purpose of spoken language is communication, not grammatical perfection. Even if you just spent two weeks teaching the present progressive tense and it seems like everything they learned goes out the window as soon as they open their mouths - IT'S OK. Focus on trying to understand them, clarifying (in Spanish) when you dont, and modeling correct usage. They will pick up on it eventually without having to lose face in front of their peers from being picked apart.
Tip #2 - SPANISH ONLY
If you allow any English during speaking activities (including by yourself) you are destroying their need to communicate in the target language. Your students will also fall back on English rather than push themselves to communicate more complicated ideas. Instead, encourage the use of hand gestures, facial expressions, and circumlocution techniques to help them stay in the target language and push through their language deficiencies. Check out this blog to see how I keep my students in Spanish Only Mode with the use of rocks.
Tip #3 - START WITH STRUCTURE
Part of the reason that speaking in another language is so complicated is that before you can say something, you have to figure out what you want to say. The first thing your students think of to say is going to come from their English brain and likely will not be something they can communicate in Spanish. So, they need to think of something else. This can cause a lot anxiety. Remove that anxiety by starting with a structure that takes away that anxiety and lets students focus on the mechanics of speaking first (you can focus on the content later). To do this, I have sets of flashcards - one set has verbs, the other nouns. I pass out a card to each student, and that becomes their content. For example, today we were practicing talking about what different people were doing (Present Progressive Tense). Each student had a card with a verb. I ask prompting questions - "¿Qué está haciendo Rachel? - and the students are able to look at the card Rachel is holding and respond. I can move the students through many different subjects, types of gerunds, and ideas much more easily when their minds are not wandering to what they should say.
Tip #4 - USE PICTURES
You have heard the saying "A picture says a thousand words". When you are ready to remove the structure and probe for more authentic responses, give students a picture or video. We watched the video for "Bailando" by Enrique Iglesias and I paused the video at various points and asked students to tell me what the people were doing. They were amazed at how much they could narrate.
Tip #5 - HAVE FUN
I remember doing a group storytelling speaking activity with my students. I had given them a single picture and, through our conversation in Spanish, they were able to turn a simple picture into quite a complicated and ridiculous series of events. After 45 minutes of nothing but Spanish, their response was, "can we play this game again?" - Hell yeah we can!
What tips do you have for successful speaking activities? Share in the comment section below!