How to Choose Effective Practice Activities for World Language

This is the seventh in a series of eight posts about How to Write Effective World Language Lesson Plans.  In this post, we will be discussing how to choose effective practice activities, the, “guided practice” portion of the EDI lesson plan.

The Next Step

We’ve done the song and dance, explained, modeled, demonstrated.  We provided the best comprehensible input to give our students tons of repetition in context.  We’ve checked for understanding and 80% of our students got it.  Now, we want to give them sufficient practice for them to master the learning target.

How do we do that?

Let’s make this difficult and say the learning target is a grammar concept, and even more difficult by crafting a learning target for level one:

Students will write briefly about familiar topics using a series of simple sentences.  Students will write complete sentences correctly describing the images and conjugating and spelling the verbs.

Before choosing or creating an activity, I pass all ideas through the following filters:

Will this activity…

  • Guide students to master the learning target?
  • Allow me to conduct the class in the target language?
  • Engage the students?
  • Engage ALL students?
  • Be meaningful communication or language in context?
  • Allow me to continue to give comprehensible input?
  • Involve many senses, use the whole body, or be hands-on?

How to Choose Effective Practice Activities: Focusing on the Learning Target

In order to reflect the target, students must write complete sentences.  They must describe images.  Therefore, I can project images of activities that the students can describe using complete sentences.

How to Choose Effective Practice Activities: Conducting the class in the target language, providing meaningful communication and comprehensible input

Even when studying grammar (Yes, I believe in engaging the conscious mind in addition to activating subconscious acquisition) we should be focused on meaningful communication and, at the very least, on complete sentences or language in context.

How about an activity with subject and infinitive in which students conjugate verbs?


Students are not communicating or using complete sentences.

How about a puzzle in which students write verb conjugations?


Not meaningful communication.

How about a game in which students spell the conjugation of the verb, going around the room with each student saying one letter of the verb?

WAIT!  What learning target is that even addressing?  Sure, it’s fun and students love it, but… fun is only part of the criteria and not even the necessary part.

How about an activity in which students write a sentence using a given subject pronoun and an image?

Yes! Students can write a sentence about what that person is doing based on the image and, because there are visuals, the teacher does not need to use English. (Or L1)

Confession time: Do I ever use a complete-the-sentence activity that isn’t authentic communication?  Um… sometimes, but my goal is meaningful messages and communicative activities.

How to Choose Effective Practice Activities: Engaging the Students

So, it is true that the fun factor makes it easier and more enjoyable to learn and, therefore, more probable that learning will take place.  My constant challenge is to make the learning tasks interesting.  Here are some ways I could do that with this learning target:

  • Use student photos as some of the images
  • Use funny or ridiculous images
  • Turn the practice into a competition or game (My Go-to is dividing the class in two, giving numbers to each side, then calling a number. Also, girls against boys, freshman against sophomores.) Other games I use are Tres en raya  / Tic Tac Toe, or baseball, Kahoot, Quizlet Live)
  • Use more senses (like the Ball Game) or any game that gets students out of their seats
  • Use hands-on activities (Like Interactive Notebook Activities, foldables, or libritos)

Engaging ALL students

If the activity doesn’t involve all the students, don’t use it.  For example, two students go to the board and write the answers. What are the other students doing while they are writing?  You might as well give them permission to start talking or checking their cell phones.

When my students play the board game, (two students listen, then run to the board to touch the appropriate word), the rest of the class is shouting, “arriba, abajo, en medio, a la derecha, a la izquierda”.  Everyone is involved.

Click on the link, Lesson plan on Regular ER Verbs if you would like my Free Spanish One lesson plan on Regular Verbs.

Or, if you would rather not spend hours creating your own lesson plans, CLICK HERE for Spanish One Lesson Plans and Curriculum for an Entire Year. Everything is done for you!  Go home early!

Next time you are crafting your practice activities, keep these ideas in mind.  Now you know how to Choose Effective Practice Activities for your World Language class.

Next time we will talk about how to choose or create closure activities and I will give you a free Lesson Plan Check List to simplify the lesson planning process.  Stay tuned!

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