Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

“Say and Pay” – A Strategy Encouraging New Structure Use in Communicating


I am constantly trying to push my students – and to see them push themselves – to work to incorporate our ‘new learning’ into their conversations. No matter how comprehensible your input is, no matter howDSC_0045 perfectly your task may sync up with the input, no matter how supported your output goals are there is still an issue for many students: How do you get them to remember to, to want to, to try to use the ‘new stuff’ in their oral interactions?  Although we may like to think that our teaching ‘style’ and choices will naturally lead to new output sometimes it doesn’t. So I needed a way to encourage kids to see/find a way to make their learning part of their speaking. In prepping for an oral evaluation I stumbled on what I call “Say and Pay”.

The concept is easy enough to put into use. First our class brainstormed the types of things that we might want to see used in our oral task – what ‘old and new’ items fit with what we are doing. Then I took my bag of 100yen coins (tokens or pieces of paper would work as well) and gave each pair 12 or so. Prior to our first conversation round I looked at our class-generated list and picked off 4 items that I wanted them to try to work into their conversation. They each took 4 coins and I told them that when they chose to use that specific item – they were to put their coin on the table. And then they started talking. At the end of the round (3-4 minutes) I asked the class “Who has used at least 1/2 their coins?”.  Everyone put their hand up – and that’s as far as I went in seeking a public response. Then it was off to the next partner – this time with 5 items on our list. And so on. Although we kept rotating partners, I didn’t go beyond a total of 6 items – instead changing up the ‘what’ we were looking for instead of ‘how many’. It was easy to see – as I circulated – who was not using their coins – and an opportunity for me to provide some specific encouragement/support.

As one student told me – “I love to talk with my partner but this helped me remember to try to ‘level up’ what I was saying.”

It’s targeted – yes. It’s specific – yes. And for many of my students it helped them to try to work the ‘new stuff’ in. I’ll use it again.


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