Published 9th April 2019

target language

By their very nature, English as a Foreign Language teachers are passionate about teaching and learning. We will slave away for hours planning awesome lessons, sourcing amazing materials and then executing kick-ass lessons for our students. We do all of this with the intention that our students will take what they have learnt in class and apply it to their lives outside the classroom. But sometimes it can be an uphill battle just to get them to use the target language in the classroom!

It is a heartbreaking truth that no matter how carefully you set up an activity, our students can find ways of completing the activity without making use of any of the language we are trying to teach. In other words, they achieve the goals of the activity without achieving the goals of the lesson.

If our students are not practising the language in the classroom, there is not much chance they will take that language away with them and use it outside the classroom. All of our hard work is for nothing if we cannot get our students to utilise the tools we are giving them.

How can we encourage our students to use the target language?

The answer to this frustrating problem?

Slips of paper.

Yes, you heard right. Tiny little slips of paper are all you need to get your students to use the language you are teaching them.

Here’s how.

Write the target language on slips of paper. For example, if your target language is phrases of opinion, you can write Why don’t you, You could/should, Have you tried, If I were you on small slips of paper, each phrase on one slip of paper.

At the beginning of the production activity, put the students in groups. For each group make a pile of slips of paper and put it into the middle of the group. Each student takes one slip of paper. Then the activity can start.

The students must use the phrase that is on their slip of paper. They must use it accurately, appropriately and naturally. Once they have used the language on their slip of paper, they must take another one and do the same. At the end of the activity, the student with the most pieces of paper wins.

It may seem like a very simple activity, and that’s because it is. But just by doing this, you are reminding your students that there is new language to use and gently persuading them to use it. You are also giving them the perfect opportunities to use the language in appropriate situations.

Hopefully after a while your students will understand the aim of the activity and learn to use the language without the need for pieces of paper.