Every year since 1988, when President Ronald Reagan first implemented Hispanic Heritage Month, the United States recognizes September 15 to October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a month to celebrate the different Hispanic cultures and their contributions to the United States.
What a great opportunity to highlight the diversity of the different Spanish Speaking countries! Here are some recommended resources for elementary Spanish:
I am so excited that I got to use these photo booth props and rejoinders in Spanish with my kindergarten students. I wanted to document their language acquisition experience from day one! Most of my kindergarten students come to class with a smile on their face, and I really wanted to share that with the parents. The pictures came out so cute, but unfortunately I can’t share them here, but I can still share the props and love with you!
Download your props here! Print on card stock paper, cut out, and tape a popsicle stick on the back. Get ready to have fun! You can also use some of these props for “La frase de la semana.”
I named this post “An Activity for the First Weeks of Spanish,” but in reality this activity can be used any time during the school year. This activity is wonderful to get to know a little bit about your students, to make connections, and have fun! It has been adapted from an activity by Responsive Classroom called “Just Like Me.” Sometimes it’s used in the faculty meetings in our school as an ice breaker. I love how simple it is!
I called my Spanish adaptation “¡A mi también!” The first time I played it in my classes I made a PowerPoint with about 20 slides of different things I thought my elementary students would like. I also added a funny slide that I knew would make them laugh. For example, one of the slides says “Me gusta Justin Bieber” which for the second graders was awesome, but not so much for the fifth graders. We all sat in a circle and I read the slides one by one. Any time a student identified with the slide she would jump up and say “A mí también” and then go back to her sitting position. Sometimes it was just one student jumping and other times five students jumping at a time. The rule is that they have to jump and say “A mi también” at the same time. You can also make your students stand up if you feel that it’s safer for them.
Download a copy of the game HERE and get ready to play in class!
While playing this game, my students wanted to stop at each slide and talk about their favorite ice cream flavor, if they had pets, what kind of pets they had, and more! The first day I used the activity we didn’t make it past the 5th slide. Once we finished playing with all the slides in the PowerPoint, I had my 4th and 5th graders write one sentence using “Me gusta/Me gustan…” for them to get more ideas of what they could say when playing the game the next time. We then played the game with the cards they had written.This game has now become one more brain break in our class, and the children no longer have to write sentences to think about what they want to say in the game. It comes naturally!
Classroom management is definitely a skill that you build with practice. And it’s something that is constantly changing and evolving according to the different personalities of your students and classroom chemistry. What works with one class might not work with another, or what worked one school year might not work the next. I find myself continuously changing and adapting my classroom management strategies.
Writing this post is a reflection exercise for me. In the past, I had assumed that because the homeroom teachers I worked with had been investing time (not spending, or as we might say in a literal translation of Spanish, “wasting”) in going over classroom rules, creating beautiful agreements, their students would automatically come to me ready to engage and learn! How wrong I was! If the homeroom teacher has been investing time in making it a safe learning environment for everyone, I also have to do my part. Children need to see that teachers are all working together, and that we all have the same high expectations for them. Quite often we “special teachers” don’t start teaching on the very first day. What a great opportunity to go into the classrooms and learn the language and procedures homeroom teachers are using with their students.
Let Your Students Know A Little Bit About You
I started day one in my classes with a “Get to know the teacher” activity. I have done it different ways in the past. I have created a picture book about me, PowerPoint presentations, and these last two years I have made videos using PowToon. This is a short version I created to share here. In the presentation I use with my students, I add pictures of my family too. They love it! After watching the short video, we played a simple “cierto” and “falso” game. I also use this as an opportunity to connect with other students by asking simple questions such as ¿quién tiene perros?, ¿a quién le gusta el brócoli? or ¿a quién no le gusta el brócoli?, ¿qué te gusta comer?, and the conversation gets long! Some of my classes have asked to watch it a few times!
By first sharing a little bit about me with my students, I find that it is easier to start working on creating a class with a safe learning environment. I also invest a lot of time in talking about these rules in English, although the signs are in Spanish. I have noticed that starting with English and making sure my students understand and practice the rules will save me from having to use a lot of English later. With elementary students it takes a lot of practice. You kind of have to use the pattern of modeling, talking, and practicing. It is a lot of time at the beginning of the school year, but having the routines and rules well established will allow me to stay in the target language for more time. So far my grades 1-2 students (I haven’t met kinder yet) enter the classroom by greeting me in Spanish, and the grades 3-5 students enter the classroom using “La frase de la semana.”
Keep Your Rules Simple
These are the rules that I have been using for the last couple of years. I wish I could say I came up with them, but they were shared by my two colleagues who have used them in the past. They are simple, concrete, and easy to TPR. We talk about how each of them looks, and we model, practice, and talk again!
Once in the room, we talk about how they transition to their places in class. I started by not assigning spots or chairs in the classroom, but quickly noticed some of my students were having a hard time finding a place, so I decided to assign places in class. I have seen my students about 7 times this school year, and so far we have started every class by pointing at the posters, practicing and reinforcing them. These are the rules that I currently use with my students.
Introduce Other Routines
I also introduce the children to respond to the sound of the chime and teach some of the call and response chants that we will be using through the school year. During the first week, students also get to know our classroom, and the different procedures to use the materials we have in it. My school has a strong Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program and uses a lot of Responsive Classroom techniques, so many classrooms have a “Take a break” space. I call it “El espacio de la reflexión.” Responsive Classroom has a great explanation of this strategy.
I’m a brain break lover, so I definitely make sure to start using them with my students from day one! Elementary students need to move a lot, so this is a “must do” in all my lessons. It’s extremely important to introduce all your routines during the first weeks. Depending on the level, I either end the class with a song, exit ticket, or a simple “chócala” to send my students to line up quietly.
So far everything has been going great! Fingers crossed that it will continue that way. How do you do classroom management in your Spanish class? Please feel free to share in the comments!
“La frase de la semana” or phrase of the week is a great opportunity to teach useful language. I try to use phrases that I know we can incorporate into our classes. I teach grades K-5, but I only use it with my students in grades 3-5.
We make it part of our routine. I keep a poster with the phrase of the week taped on the door. I sometimes teach classes back to back, and having this routine can buy me an extra minute while I am getting everything ready for the next class. My students wait for me in a line outside my class.
La frase de la semana serves as their password to enter the classroom. It takes about two minutes on average, so children know that they need to find their place quietly in the room and read the “Plan de la clase” to find out what we will be doing (although there are days when this goes more smoothly than other days). I don’t have a variety of classroom jobs because I find the logistics hard for me, but I do have a “secretario” and “secretaria” who help by passing out materials when needed, sharpen pencils, turns lights on and off, and so on. After children have practiced with it and have the routine down pat, I sometimes ask the secretarios to help me by staying by the door and listening to their classmates say la frase de la semana. I love when they start using those sentences in natural ways and in the context of the class. It’s magical when I start to hear spontaneous remarks like “¡Qué chévere!” or “¿Qué tal Sra. Gómez?” when students see me during recess or in the hallway.
Here are some of the phrases I have used:
¡A mí también!
You can also find more phrases on “Mis cositas.” Lori Langer de Rámirez is so generous and shares tons of resources on her blog. Make sure to stop by her blog and download “Passwords perfectos.”
Ben Slavic also has a wonderful site with tons of CI/TPRS resources. He shares a list of great rejoinders that can also be used with la frase de la semana.
Feeling ready to start with la frase de la semana? Download this free resource that will help you get ready!