Last year I came across a great tool called “Wheel Decide” which is a wonderful online tool to create wheels to pick games, songs, volunteers, you name it! I was able to create fun games in class such as “El espejo” (see my post from my presentationat TFLA to learn more about this game), but I always wished I could use pictures instead of words in the Wheel Decide tool.
I didn’t give up and finally found a tool that was mentioned in a blog called“The Techie Teacher”written by Julie Smith. In her blog, she has a simple and easy-to-follow tutorial for using this tool. I think that if you want to understand how the tool works, it’s better to head to her blog and read all about it, rather than me writing something that is already well explained.
If you have explored my blog, you have probably already noticed that I have different posts making reference to mental or brain breaks, yoga poses, and breathing exercises. I always felt that it would be fun to add a wheel to help decide on the different mental breaks to do with my students.
I made this “Wheel of Yoga Poses” graphic as a resource to compliment my yoga story. I hope you can use it in your classes and enjoy the poses – from mono, to perro, to rana and beyond. Click HERE to get the link for the Wheel of Yoga Poses.
A few months ago I shared a story I wrote using some yoga poses. Now I am sharing five easy poses to add to your repertoire that will be great to use just as a “brain break” in class. I don’t really do a full yoga session in class, but these are great to get your students moving while also exposing them to more vocabulary. I am always surprised to see how much more they can remember when we take the time for quick brain breaks in class. I also use the cards to play a game in which the children have to do what I say, but not what I do. They love it!
These are the new yoga poses that I am using with my students. I hope you like them! Click HERE to download them all!
How to print? Drag the pictures individually to your computer’s desktop and you will be able to print from there. Thank you to Educlips for illustrating these yoga poses so beautifully!
Yoga is an awesome brain break and energizer tool. I use a few Yoga poses in my classes to get my students moving and they love it. My students learn about 10 names of Yoga poses in Spanish and we use them throughout the school year. I use them as a quick way to make them move. We play “Simón dice” with them. We also play “Haz lo que digo”, for example. I say the name of a pose, but I show a different one, then whoever does the one I am doing is out of the game. They love it! We do it fast too! I like to use cards with the picture of the pose and the picture of what it means.
I lately tried something new! I combined Yoga with storytelling and the students love it. Here is the sample of the story I create to go along with the Yoga cards.
(From a previous post called “My Journey as a Spanish Teacher”)In the first program where I taught FLES, all Spanish teachers were required to stay 100% in the TL. I had success doing all I could to get my point across in my classes. I spent a lot of time looking for visuals, making posters, and using a lot of TPR and gestures! The program was successful, but my students thought that I couldn’t speak English. The children were trying harder to communicate with me in the TL, but there was more to it than that. I had a website, and I also sent newsletters home, but a lot of the parents apparently still thought that I didn’t know English.
One day, I was approached by a parent, and his comment was, “I thought you didn’t know English!” At that moment, I had mixed feelings. Yes, I wanted my students to use Spanish with me at all times, during class, recess time, in the hallway, and so on, but I was also sad because I was also there to “promote bilingualism,” and they thought I only knew Spanish. I was traveling from classroom to classroom, and the homeroom teachers stayed in the classroom during the 20 minutes of Spanish instruction. I recall that I rarely had to work hard on classroom management because the teachers were there to help. I also realized that I didn’t really know anything about my students.
Once I moved to a different school, the policies about teaching 100% in the TL were different. The school already had a Spanish and French teacher for grades 4 through 6, so I was hired to create the other part of the program with the help of my colleagues, and we used a backward mapping process to create our curriculum for grades pre-K to 3. Both the French and Spanish teachers used some English with their students. At first, I stuck with using only Spanish in class, mostly out of habit, and my desire to push students to use the TL. I started noticing that the other language teachers had really strong connections with their students, and their students would actually look for them during recess time. That was when it dawned on me that I had been missing an opportunity to connect with my students and get to know a little bit more about them. So by my second year in the school, I finally became more flexible and started to allow interactions with my students in their L1 during times out of my class.
Children would actually come and sit next to me by the bench on the playground, and we had great conversations, from talking about my family in Colombia to their plans after school! That’s when I realized that it was okay for them to use their L1 to communicate with me during recess time. I also feel that because I am a native speaker, they need to know that I am bilingual and that I have an interest in their language and culture. Now, keeping my class at 90 to 95 % TL in my classroom continues to be my goal.
As I mentioned above, keeping it simple is the best way, at least during your first year. In a regular pre-COVID setting, depending on the students’ level:
End the class by thanking each other, where I say: “Gracias, class”, and students reply: “Gracias, maestra” (ps: I will change to profe this year because maestra doesn’t sound natural to me. In my prior years in Boston, students called me by first name – this is a topic for another post!)
If I have time I do a quick “exit ticket” for the children to line up.
Parents also like to know what’s going on in your classes. Having a monthly newsletter or a website as a routine to communicate with your parents is also a great PR for your program!
Setting Up Your Classroom Norms
Simple is my motto! I think three to five norms accompanied with good visuals are great! I usually have them in Spanish, but I introduce them and discuss them in English with my students. Some teachers like to create their norms along with their students, but I usually go with generally simple rules that are phrased in a positive way. I keep them in front of the room to point at them if I need them as reference. I have experimented with different norms every year, and by far these have worked the best:
You can also piggyback on the norms the homeroom teachers have created for their classrooms.
Join a Language Organization
Stay up to date with professional development by joiningACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), NNELL (The National Network for Early Language Learning), or yourstate language organization. They usually send newsletters to help you stay abreast of the newest research and methodologies in language teaching. If possible attend national and/or regional conferences. Sometimes it is important to be in the same space sharing with people who care about and to whom it matters what you do.
Be You and Make Time for YOU!
With so many teachers sharing on social media it is inevitable to see ideas and want to bring them to your classroom and expect to get the same results as that teacher who posted on Instagram. To be honest, I have been there too, but the reality is that we never know what’s behind the scenes, so if you see an idea, read it, watch the video and see how you can adapt it to the needs of your students and to the special qualities of your personality and style. Remember that you got hired to do that job because you were the best-qualified teacher for it. So start with trusting in yourself!
Last, but not least, make time for yourself! Start now when you are new, use the weekends to disconnect if you can. Make time to take walks, exercise, or watch your favorite show on your couch. I am telling you this because I have made the mistake to get into the routine of just working, even on the weekends – sometimes to the point that I even forget that I have two kids. These last years I have made it intentional to only bring work home if necessary, and it has made a difference in my classroom. A refreshed teacher gives everyone the best chance for truly engaged students!
Please feel free to contact me if there is anything I can do for you!
Brain break or calm down activities? This is the question I have been asking myself this year after teaching my sweet first graders. I am lucky that we have a mindfulness teacher in the school where I teach. I asked him for some help, and he graciously offered to come sit and observe my students in my class. After observing my class he noticed that I have been using a lot of brain breaks that will leave my students with high energy, which doesn’t really help this group of active first graders maintain focus during the rest of the class period.
This is what he suggested I do:
Calming Scents: He mentioned to me that this age group is highly affected by their environment. He suggested that having calming scents such as lavender, lemon or peppermint might help.
Sounds: Playing relaxing music or natural sounds such as rainforest or waterfalls as they enter my classroom might help lower their energy levels.
Slow movement activities: Play slow music in the room and have them pretend to be different things in nature. Visuals will be handy for this. For example, a cloud, a slow elephant, a bird and so on (and this also gives a fun opportunity to reinforce some vocabulary or teach new words).
Breathing movements: Encourage movement activities that require students to inhale and exhale while sitting down or walking around the room.
Here are some visuals that might be helpful to have in your room.
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Austin, Texas. Fun for Spanish Teachers is the result of my passion for teaching Spanish to children and my desire to inspire collaboration and creativity in a vibrant teaching and learning community. It’s the perfect stop if you are looking for songs, games, teaching tips, stories, and fun for your classes.