One of the biggest struggles when you have a class of 20-30 students is to engage them in speaking the language. While obviously it would be nice to converse with them one-on-one or pair them up with a native speaker, our best bet is to pair them up with another classmate for partner work. Unfortunately, students sometimes do not remember the point of the exercises: to communicate meaning in the target language.
I often will remind students of the purpose of the activity and remind me that the objective is to not get ALL of the answers as quickly as you can or to just fill in the worksheet. The objective is to practice speaking Spanish. A reminder of this fact every so often seems to be helpful.
One way to try to keep students in the target language is to provide them with possible questions they may need to ask their partner. A lot of students do not know how to verify their answer or their partner’s response. Especially in gap-fill activities, students frequently want to verify what their partner has said. By putting these questions up on the board, it allows students to stay in the target language while being able to complete the activity.
A fun way to get students to stay in the target language is to have students police themselves. Using the concept of the culturally-supported sport of fútbol, students act as the “referee” to their classmates. They can issue a “tarjeta roja” to offending students. You can use this as a gentle reminder, or you can even use it to downgrade student participation grades much like some teachers use a Págame system in their classroom.