Hand Signals for Spanish Class

Hand Signals for Spanish Class

Nothing like being in the middle of a fun and engaging lesson when suddenly you have a student interrupting because he or she needs to go to the bathroom, or even worse, you have a student who you thought was raising his/her hand quietly for a while when you realized it was a request to go to the bathroom and the student had been holding it for a long time. Then the feelings of guilt flood in.  Time is precious for teachers, but no one wants to cause a student pain!
I  taught in a Responsive Classroom school, and using signs was part of the classroom management model. So I borrowed some ideas from the Responsible Classroom framework and have added more to fit the needs of my classroom. I also teach my students useful sentences to ask for permission to go to the bathroom or drink water in Spanish. There are times when I see the hand signal for bathroom but still ask them what they need to give them an opportunity to practice the language or I also say you need to go to the bathroom or drink water. Once I started using hand signals with my students, I felt that I was able to teach a class with less interruptions, and it was also helpful for the students who were not yet ready to use the target language. I now introduce hand signals during the first class, and we practice them to make sure that they are clear for everyone. 
Recently I found a set of images that go perfectly with the hand signals I use, and I will be updating my classroom signs this fall. I am sharing them with you. I hope you find this helpful!

Download your cards HERE!
Happy teaching!
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There are different times during our classes when we need to regain our students’ attention. Either because our students are transitioning from different classes or from activities we are doing in our own language classes, or because some of them are being too social, or we simply need to regroup. In any situation, it is always handy to have different strategies to capture our students’ attention. I definitely have a few that I keep in my teacher toolbox in case one doesn’t work. Here are some of the ones I use:

1. Three-Tone Chime: This one is by far my favorite because the soothing sound brings some calm to my classes, and also because it gives me the opportunity to verbally accompany this signal.  When students hear the first chime, it gives them the heads up to stop what they are doing,  with the second chime they are ready to look at me, and with the third chime they are ready for what comes next.

2. Chants or Verbal Attention Getters: The teacher says a phrase and the students respond to it (call and response). I like using visuals that go along with them. I usually print them out and add magnets on the back and place them on the magnetic whiteboard. I also like adding some culture. For example, when I say “Wepa, wepa, wepa”, students respond by “Wepa, wepa, je”. This gives us the opportunity to talk about the word wepa which is used in the Caribbean and some parts of Colombia to express joy and excitement. You can also hear it in some vallenato songs.

3. Quick hand game: I particularly love this one because it gives students the opportunity to start joining in and also gives them time to see that we are getting ready to transition or that I need their attention. The quick hand game in the reel is accompanied by lowering our voices.

Just like any other part of your class routine, attention getters require practice and consistency to make the routines and rituals stick. It’s also important to add some fun elements to them and have more than one at hand!



Welcome to 2020! This year I have decided that I won’t make a list of resolutions for the New Year, only because I find myself writing the same list over and over again each year and not being able to follow through. I also generally add things that should be a habit in my life such as eating healthy, exercising more, reading more books instead of spending so much time on social media and so on! I did decide that I want to learn how to play ukelele and will tell you more about it at the end of 2020. Are you setting any goals for this year?

This holiday season I got to spend a few weeks in Colombia with my parents, and I am now feeling recharged with new ideas to bring to my classroom (even though I miss my parents).

I wrote my lesson plans my last day before going on break because I knew I was going to forget a lot of what I was doing in my classes.

Many children hit a kind of reset button during the break so as a general rule, I find it very helpful to treat the first few days after the holidays as I’d done on the first days of school in August. I think it is a good idea to review your classroom rules and procedures as well as continue building relationships with students and creating community before diving into teaching Spanish. This means that I will spend my first days revising our classroom rules and routines: discussing, modeling, and practicing rules. We practice how to walk in a line, enter the classroom, and find a place on the rug to get ready for class. We model it, talk about it, and keep reinforcing it for the rest of the school year. For me this also means that part of my class will take place in English the first few days back after the break. It will pay off nicely during the rest of the school year!

I use this opportunity to revisit the use of the chime with my students. We review that the chime sound means to stop, look, and listen. I also revisit some of our call & response chants, hand signals, and brain & breathing breaks.

Download these cards to introduce your students to “para, mira y escucha.”


Have an awesome rest of the school year!






Yes! I just started the new school year, and my classroom has been ready for a couple of weeks. After being a traveling teacher for a few years I truly understand the feeling one has when other teachers share pictures of their classroom, but I also remember that I didn’t really have to use any of my time before to set up space. I just had to make sure I had enough tote bags for my class. There are pros and cons to having or not having a classroom, but I consider that a topic for another post.

I am the kind of teacher who likes to make changes every year to my room. I also never finish the school year with the room looking the same because I like to move things around according to my students’ needs. This is how my room looks right now!

I have a deskless classroom. We do a lot of movement activities so this setting is perfect for our needs.

My kindergarteners and first graders sit on the rug. These carpet Spots Markers*** are great to help my little ones remember their places on the rug. I assign seats to make that transition to my class faster.

I have a closet where I keep many of the materials we use in class. I have a set of clipboards to use when we do writing activities.

I keep the notebooks for each grade in baskets. We only use notebooks in grades 3 to 5.

This year I decided to add these light filters***  to my room because the lights were very bright. I like the ambiance they give to my room.

This map by Spanish Cuentos is a “must-have” in a Spanish classroom. It’s also good to have on hand when we talk about different Spanish speaking countries.

I like keeping my classroom rules at the front so I can refer to them when I need them.


These signs with hand signals avoid a lot of interruptions in my class. Visit this post to read more about how I use them.

I really love this reading corner! The classroom cushions***are made of a fabric that is easy to clean. My students really like using them during our free reading time.

The books in the library are leveled by grade, but if a student feels that he or she can read beyond the suggested level, they will need to conference with me to make sure that the reading is not going to make them feel frustrated. Stop by my Facebook page to get the pictures of the posters I shared there.

These are some lovely friends that accompany my students when they have birthdays or need extra love during class.

I like decorating my room with authentic art and label them with their country of origin. Most of them are from Colombia (I wonder why…).

I use these signs to greet my kinder and first grade students.

This year I changed my sign from “La frase de la semana” to “La frase del ciclo” to “honor” the new 10-day cycle schedule that we have. I figured the frase will need to stay longer on my door for my students to remember it.

We have a new class pet this year. We are still deciding on a name for it. This pet is also a favorite during birthdays. It also has different outfits for special occasions during the school year. My students love it!

I am keeping my calendar area simple. I think I already have so many colors around the room, so it was fair to keep this area simple.

This chime is a lifesaver when my call and response chants don’t work anymore!

This is it! So far my students are loving some of the changes I made to my classroom this year.

Wishing everyone a wonderful school year!

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A Peek Inside My Deskless Classroom

I hope everyone is having a great school year so far! This will be my 4th week with students. We spent the first week and a half making it a safe place for our students, getting to know to know one another and giving them a chance to get to know the space. I teach K-5, and this week was my first full week with my K students. Everything is so new for them that our school principal and their teachers feel that for specialists to start teaching them subject material from day one could be terrifying! I love this new approach of getting to know our students before we dive into our curriculums.

I have been working on classroom routines, classroom rules and encouraging them to use hand signals when we are in class. I have decorated my classroom with some input for them but will be adding more little by little. I feel that it doesn’t make sense for me to fill every space on the walls of my classrooms with signs that they don’t yet understand, and I know I am not in need of them yet.
I have been making some changes around the room according to the needs of my students. I have a deskless classroom. My K-2 students sit on the rug, and grades 3-5 have assigned seats.  Each chair has a pocket where we keep our notebooks and pencils. That saves me time when we do writing activities.

I have a calendar, but I mostly use an online version projected on the board. The online version of the calendar has links to guess the day’s temperature in different Spanish countries.


I have about 115 students, so this poster has been helpful to remember dates. Every month we change it, and the children quickly write their name and date of their birthday.

I have a class list and have assigned a number to each of my students in each grade. I use these popsicle sticks (not a new idea!) to choose participants in the different games we play, since sometimes it is hard to choose. Students also have the choice to say “paso” to indicate “I pass.”

I added a reading corner to my classroom. I haven’t use it yet, but I plan to add copies of the TPRS® stories we do this year. I have some students who are heritage speakers, so I think they could benefit from other stories as well.

I also like comparing the time zones in different countries. I have a clock that shows Colombia, one for Austin and one for Equatorial Guinea. I might change the countries later. 
I have decorated the classroom with some useful language, question boards and signals, and classroom rules. At the top of the board, I keep the flags of the countries of study. We do about 8 per school year with grades 2-5. One more thing is that this year the interactive board comes with a microphone which is great for the little ones. They can hear me better and are more engaged.
I have a projector that I can use to work on rewriting stories together or simply filling out worksheets in class. Best thing to have ever!

Next to the projector, I have a table with different props and with some Yoga cards that I use as brain breaks with my students.

I also have use this fun game called “La caja mágica de pañuelos”  or “Magic Tissue Box.” You can read all about it here!
I also keep a chime handy when the attention getters I use don’t work. Voice saver!

I have decorated the classroom with art from different Spanish speaking countries. I wish I had one to represent each country. So far I have a lot from Colombia, Panamá, La República Dominica, Guatemala, Ecuador, México, and Chile. I write the name of the country under the piece of art so students know where it comes from.

I also have have other small decorations around the room, mostly around my computer. I have a chair next to some furniture that is part of the classroom.
I use this chair for students to sit when we sing the birthday song.

This is a Friday selfie! Feeling ready to go home!

How is your school year going? Do you have a classroom, or are you traveling? I used to be a traveling teacher and wrote a post a while back about how I used to roll! You might find the post helpful!
¡Feliz año escolar!
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