Reaching ACTFL’s 90% recommendation

Spanish timing

…ACTFL therefore recommends that language educators and their students use the target language as exclusively as possible (90% plus) at all levels of instruction during instructional time and, when feasible, beyond the classroom.

Interesting FACTS

1. ACTFL’s Use of the Target Language in the Classroom (90% plus at all levels of instruction during instructional time), was approved by the board of directors on Saturday, May 22, 2010.

2. Blaine Ray had written “the class must be conducted at least 90 percent of the time in the target language. Students must by some means be prevented from speaking another language except in specified circumstances in which they ask for permission” in Fluency Through TPR Storytelling, p 20, by the 4th ed., Nov 2004.

See more at: http://www.actfl.org/news/position-statements/use-the-target-language-the-classroom-0#sthash.B0vh6fyh.dpuf

My classroom approach

I used to do so much to try and stay in Spanish with my students.  It was always a struggle…one of my strategies was to flip a sign in class that said “SE HABLA ESPANOL.”  The sign meant Spanish only and no English. That sign became kind of a punishment for the students and they often would complain about it.

YIKES…I was making the very thing I was promoting something negative.

How can I fulfill this recommendation in a positive way that would inspire acquisition?

This year I started using classroom jobs. You can read a post about JOBS on this blog if you are interested.  I wanted to follow up on one the most important jobs I use everyday.  In the photo you can see a “megaphone” and 3 balls along with score sheets.  Not in the photo would be 1-2 cell phones/stopwatches (my students use their cell phones to time).

The megaphone was purchased at a Marshalls ($12) of all places and is used by the student that is the ENGLISH POLICE.  This student sounds the siren or uses the microphone when students are off track and using English in class.  I often look for the bossy and competitive types for this job.

The “nerf” type of balls are for throwing at the teacher.  They go to the ENGLISH ABUSERS.  They keep the teacher in the TL.  If I can’t answer the questions in 15 seconds or less they get to throw a ball at me.  Many students want this job…select English abusers wisely :-)

The score sheets as you can see are just tally marks.  For every 8 minutes of TL usage the class gets a point.  First class to 50 points or 400 minutes of Spanish use wins a “FIESTA.” At 8 minutes the students cheer as if they are at a sporting event as I mark the point. In this system staying in the TL becomes a fun game not a punishment or unlikeable.

This is also a great way to create a system of classroom management.  Some days, classes are off track or may misbehave, when this happens I may tell the TIMER to reset to ZERO.  This creates an environment where students support or manage each other rather than me handling discipline all the time.

The reality is…I probably will never reach 90% with Novice learners during a 180 day school year.  I care about more than just learning a language, checking in with then about LIFE is equally important.  However, I do think I am some where near 75% in the TL…higher than we have ever been.

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  • If you are going to ACTFL this year check out Carrie Toth´s session (or wait until afterwards to see what you can get from the scouring the web). There are few teachers I would trust more than Carrie to be able to bring ACTFL´s recommendations together with a CI classroom:

    Bullseye: Dozens of Ways to Hit the 90% Target!
    Presenter: Carrie Toth
    What is your percentage? Is your classroom reaching the 90% target language goal? In this session, participants will explore a variety of ways that they can boost their use of the TL every day. Through authentic resources, cultural units, and reading strategies, participants will learn how hitting the target is both attainable and enjoyable!
    2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 217 D

    mpeto 3 years ago Reply


    • Mike…I saw her Prezi on that session…great stuff!

      mikecoxon55 3 years ago Reply


  • The jobs and the positive incentives will keep students affective filters low and keep the students bought-in! I am excited to implement this in my classroom!

    Lauren Tauchman 2 years ago Reply


  • Great ideas, Michael! I am firmly against ACTFL or any other person or organization using a number. I like it when you estimate that you use about 75% of the time in the TL with novices. That’s very reasonable, even though I am NOT going to take time to figure out exactly how much time my student teachers (I’m a university supervisor) conduct their classes in the TL. I will simply point out when they could have used the TL, what they could have said or done, and hope that they improve on their next observation.

    Emily Serafa Manschot 10 months ago Reply


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