WL teachers are always looking for new strategies to keep kids in the target language, especially when you let them loose for communicative activities. My go-to strategy is to make sure that all students have a piece of paper in their hands (even if the activity doesn’t have a form or worksheet, have them hold a small piece of paper). As you move through the room listening to the conversations taking place between partners or groups, hold a hole puncher in your hand. If you hear English OR if students are not following other directions (such as not speaking in complete sentences, swapping papers without speaking, etc.), punch a hole in their paper. I usually assign one of my students to be an undercover “Policía”, and she or he has a second hole puncher as well. At the end of the activity, each hole punch translates to some sort of a grade reduction–usually, I will count the activity as a Citizenship grade, and those students with one or more holes punched drop to Developing or Emerging for participation (within the Citizenship category). Depending on your grading system and how the particular assignment is being evaluated, it could mean the loss of one letter grade, -5 points, the addition of a writing assignment as a consequence, etc.

What strategies do YOU use to keep students in the target language during communicative activities?

21 replies on “Hole Punch

  1. Fun idea! You could do the same even if they did have a worksheet, like an info gap activity. I have given out copies of pesos to the class before and I, la policia, will “fine” them for speaking in English or not working. Problem is, once they lose their peso, they quit, so I started letting them fine eachother for English so they could earn some back. Like anything, this works well with some kids and others careore about catching someone than doing the activity!

    1. I’ve done something similar with clothes pins like the clothes pin game at showers. They police each other and yell “damela” to take someone’s. I reward the winner with a homework pass.

      1. I love it!! And hate it because I’m terrible at that game haha…attention to detail isn’t my strength!! But as long as I’m not playing, I’d be fine. I bet the kids love it!! Do you have any strategies for discouraging students from just policing their classmates and not participating well in the actual activity? Or would doing that lead to them losing a clothespin? I have a bag in my basement from a shower I threw for a friend last year…I’ll have to remember to dig it out for Monday 🙂

      2. Somehow it always works out without having to enforce it. I guess it is because they know the skill will be assessed. Even if they don’t participate completely, they are listening at least. I can’t wait to try the hole punch to mic things up!

  2. Rather than using the hole-punch teaching strategy as something that is punitive, why not use it as a means to reward students going “above and beyond” in their thinking skills and language?

    1. I was thinking along the same lines as Brandon! For those students that are “on-task” working hard, doing “neat” and “accurate” work, etc… give them the punch. (Maybe a STAR or BUTTERFLY punch). I am really going to try this!! Thanks for the paper punch idea!! 🙂

  3. If my paper went home with holes, I would feel humiliated and next day would participate less.

    1. As with anything, you just have to know your students. My kids loved this strategy, especially when a classmate was the “policía”. To them, it was a game. I never punched more than one or two papers per class, and usually I didn’t have to punch any. If you know that your students would be humiliated by it, then definitely don’t do it! I wonder if they would like the positive punch idea?

  4. I love the original hole punch idea. However, I believe in real-world experiences. So, I would provide details and examples of the expectations of the game. Then, if a child receives a hole in their paper for being off-task or whatever, they will be more mindful and work harder not to do it again. In the real world, the majority of employers, in the workplace, will not care about your feelings when you under-perform. So, I don’t think the hole punch idea is punitive.If the entire class is participating and the game is fair; by all means run with it. Maybe there should be a balance and use 2 cards, one red for negative actions and one green for positive actions. This way, the students are afforded an opportunity to redeem themselves. If both cards simultaneously end up with equal amounts of punches that will cancel out a positive reward. Remember, if you get pulled over by the police for speeding, he is not going to say, “Let’s go to a place where your friends won’t see you getting this ticket. I don’t want to embarrass or humiliate you”. He is going to pull you over right there and give you that ticket for ALL to see. Children must learn rewards and consequences from a realistic perspective.

  5. My son has ADHD & OCD & gets off task often. This would drive him crazy & distract him even more causing him to stay off task longer & obsess about the irreversible damage done to his once unmarred paper. It would probably also upset him that someone singled him out. Not a good idea to single out the ones who struggle already & have low self confidence & self esteem. They are singled out socially already. They don’t need a hole in their paper to remind them or their classmates. Maybe think of a positive way to reward their attentiveness rather than the lack thereof.

    1. Thanks for posting this, Farrah! As with any instructional or management practice, it is of the utmost importance that we know our students before implementing and even then are responsive to unforeseen needs. Many teachers have commented that they would prefer to use this as a positive reward (hole punch when students are caught doing the right thing). While I had plenty of diagnosed ADHD students and some undiagnosed, I never taught an OCD student. Thank you for bringing to my attention this important consideration for students with that disorder!

  6. I’m starting the year with a group of chatty and competitive seventh graders that I had last year. Since the Olympics just happened, I took your pesos/clothespin ideas and give each table 4 “medallas de oro” at the start of class. Each table has a country name, so it makes sense to them that they’re competing as teams for the gold medals. If a student says something in English, her tablemates need to shush her before another table hears and calls out “¡[Name], aquí nos comunicamos en español!” and her table has to pass one of their gold medals to that table. At the end of class, we tally. The winners of this round will get to pick a karaoke song from our YouTube playlist for the class to sing. There’s virtually no English from this group after only a couple days of class! I’m accepting ideas for a new Olympic event….

  7. I use Class Dojo in a similar way. Since Dojo allows you to personalize comments, you can create positive comments and negative comments. You can also add points to each comment (either positive OR negative points). I give 1 point for “puntos de conversaciones”. For negative, I use the comments “missed opportunity”, “Spanish heard, but not on-level”. These are meant for record-keeping and future redirection/refocus. They do not lose any points for these. Lastly, later in the year, I add the comment (English used) to the negative section. At first, we do several weeks of “penalty free” comments, meaning that I will mark the comment “English used”, but there are no point deductions. However, in the last part of the year, I do start deducting 1 point each time they speak English. In the end, they are required to reach a certain number of points and the conversation grade is their points divided by the required number of points. It takes some training, but it’s well worth it. It eliminates a lot of the transitional side-talking because students are busy trying to earn conversation points. Another benefit of this type of use of Dojo is that students AND parents can sign up and see their points any time. This is great because parents often talk to their students about this and it helps keep students accountable with parents. I hope this is useful for someone.

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