Classroom management considerations to help teachers with close control practice activities: keeping L1 under control. Part 1

Classroom management considerations to help teachers with close control practice activities: keeping L1 under control. Part 1

It is commonly held that a TEFL teacher keeping L1 (the TEFL student’s mother tongue) to a minimum in the language classroom is very desirable. The reasoning for this is simple. The more they are speaking in English (and not L1), then the more they are practising, so the more efficiently will they learn.

But how do we achieve this? As most teachers know, the tendency for students to fall back into their comfort zone, and speak in L1, is strong. So we need to motivate and raise awareness to the issue. Here are some ideas (see following articles too) for you to use:

‘Hot potato’ was first used and developed at the TEFL centre and is an extremely effective method. Take any object, a potato for example (a potato earns the teacher brownie points for eccentric effect!). If a student speaks in L1, he/she is presented with the potato and their name is written up on the whiteboard, with a dash next to it and it is explained that the dash is equivalent to 30 seconds (or the amount of time you wish). Explain also that that student will have to stay these same 30 seconds after the class, helping the teacher tidy up. When the next student speaks in L1, wipe of the first student’s name, replace it with the name of the latest offender, present them with the potato and add another dash. The first student is now ‘off the hook’ and the new student has inherited the ‘punishment of the first student!

The method is really effective, and has the following advantages:

  • The teacher doesn’t have to police the students; they are listening out for L1, especially if they have the potato.
  • The stakes get higher the more L1 is spoken, so students become increasingly aware of not speaking in L1.
  • It is very funny (unless you end up with the potato at the end of the lesson 1).
  • The teacher is ‘exempt’ form taking on a judgemental role. The ‘punishment’ is not applied by the teacher as such, but rather is applied by students’ peers.
  • The time assigned to speaking in L1 and the consequence of being in possession of the potato at the end of the class are easily adjustable to adapt it appropriately to the profilr of group (we would treat adoloscents and adults differently!)


Posted on August 9th, 2017


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