Using stories to teach Spanish to young learners can be an effective and engaging way to introduce children to the language and is a great tool for language acquisition. Here are some tips and ideas to help you make the most of this approach:
Choose age-appropriate stories: When selecting stories, it’s important to consider the age and language proficiency level of your students. For younger learners, simple stories with basic vocabulary and repetitive phrases can be helpful. As they progress, you can introduce more complex stories with a wider range of high-frequency vocabulary.
Use visuals: Including pictures or illustrations can help children better understand the story and increase their engagement. Use visuals to introduce new vocabulary or help children make connections between words and their meanings.
Ask questions throughout the story: Encourage children to participate and interact with the story. You can ask yes or no questions or provide choices for students to respond.
Act out the story: Acting out a story can help children better understand the plot and vocabulary. Use props to make it more fun and interactive. You can use students as actors while telling or reading the story.
Incorporate music: Including songs or rhymes related to the story can help children remember new words and phrases. Music can also create a fun and engaging atmosphere in the classroom. You can come up with your own songs to support the story!
Follow-up activities: After reading the story, incorporate activities to reinforce learning and keep children engaged. These can include games, crafts, or writing activities related to the story. You can also have students retell the story in their own words or pictures, or create their own versions of the story.
Use diverse stories:ry to incorporate stories with diverse characters and cultures as well. This can help children develop empathy and understanding for people from different backgrounds. Bring both fun stories and stories where your students can see themselves represented.
Stories provide a rich and effective way to aid in language acquisition. Sometimes, children forget that they are hearing a different language because they become so immersed in the plot.
The “Roll a Story” activity is an engaging and easy-to-use activity that is excellent for providing input at the novice or beginner levels. You will need dice and a “Roll A Story” template with predetermined details. This template includes words and pictures, making it more accessible for lower elementary students. This activity can be done individually, in groups, or as a whole class.
Students take turns rolling the die, with each roll representing a sentence in the story.Students can write the story in their notebooks or complete a template, as seen below.
After your students have finished rolling their stories, encourage them to create an illustration to go along with it. If students worked in small groups, have them share their stories, or you can read them aloud to the class. Take this opportunity to pause and ask questions about their stories.
These “C’s for the first days of school” are a group of consejitos that I consider important and also reflect on every year. Focusing on these C’s is important to me, as they represent essential aspects of establishing a positive classroom environment in the initial days, which will have a lasting effect throughout the rest of the school year.
Building relationships with your students, as well as among the students themselves, starts from day one! Engaging activities like identity maps, puzzles, and ‘All about me’ exercises can help foster a sense of belonging and establish meaningful connections within the class. Additionally, it’s important to allow your students to get to know you by sharing a bit about yourself. This can be achieved through a simple presentation where you discuss your interests, preferences, and share some pictures.
Cooperatively establishing classroom norms and agreements is key to setting clear expectations and building a strong classroom community. Involving students in this process cultivates a sense of ownership, nurturing their commitment to maintaining a classroom environment defined by mutual respect. This can be achieved through the use of a shared language, which can then be reinforced with visuals in the target language. Some teachers opt to capture images of students exemplifying these agreements, accompanied by sentences in the target language, and display them in the classroom as visual aids.
Taking the time to learn and correctly pronounce each student’s name not only demonstrates respect but also creates a welcoming atmosphere. Celebrating diversity and various cultures fosters inclusivity. I invite you to explore my blog where I have shared a few name activities that you might find helpful!
Implementing clear and consistent daily routines not only improves classroom organization but also provides students with a sense of structure, empowering them to navigate their learning environment more effectively. These routines can encompass various elements, such as greeting your students at the door or the beginning of class, having them find a place to sit in the room, or starting the class by reading a message in the target language. Consistency is key in fostering students’ autonomy and a sense of security, particularly in the elementary classroom.
Ensure that your students can comprehend the target language effectively. Enhance their understanding by incorporating gestures, visuals, and Total Physical Response (TPR). Pause and check their comprehension.Consider establishing a signal that allows your students to indicate whether they understand or not. Personally, I find it effective to pause and inquire, “Clase, ¿está claro? o ¿no está claro” while displaying a thumbs-up for clear understanding and a thumbs-down for lack of clarity. Some students might verbalize their response, while others might use their thumbs to signal.
Introducing students to the physical layout of the classroom and its resources can help them feel comfortable and confident in their new environment. Knowing where things are in the classroom and understanding their designated places after use will save you time in the future. If you move between different classrooms, consider taking a tour with your students so that you can also become familiar with the layout of the room you are teaching in. Additionally, don’t forget to label things in the room in the target language too!
Communicate With Families / Caregivers
Send a letter or email to your students’ families/caregivers either before or immediately after having your students in class on the first day. Inform them about yourself, your program, your professional experience, and the expectations for your class, as well as ways to get in touch with you! Families and caregivers also play a crucial role in the building of classroom communities!
Include mindfulness pauses and brain breaks in your class routine. If you have a classroom, designate a space within it where students can go to manage their emotions and find calm during challenging moments. If you don’t have your own classroom, you might want to assign a space in the rooms where you teach. Additionally, as a teacher, find time for yourself to disconnect from your professional life and prioritize your well-being.
Lastly, don’t worry about a fully decorated classroom from day one. Starting with bare walls has proven effective for me for several reasons. Instead of focusing solely on decor, I prioritize essential materials and involve students in decorating. Our classroom is a shared space, not just mine. What other consejos would you add to this list? Have a wonderful school year!
Incorporating a centering or mindful activity at the beginning, middle, or end of each class is a great way to create a focused and calm learning environment. What’s even better is that you can start incorporating them at any time during the school year. Here are some simple ideas to bring to your classes:
Start by asking students to close their eyes and breathe deeply. You can start with simple inhale and exhale exercises. This is not only helpful for students but also for us as teachers. There are times in my classes when I pause and let my students know that I need to take a breathing break, and they are welcome to accompany me. This is also a way to model for our students that it’s okay to take a break when we need it, and to start cultivating the importance of listening to our bodies.
Guide students through a peaceful visualization exercise. Have them imagine a serene place, such as a beach or a forest, and describe its details, encouraging exploration through their imagination. This practice helps reduce stress and nurture creativity. You can enhance the experience by using pictures and describing them in the target language to your students. Canva for Educators (which is free) offers beautiful scenes from different places around the world that you can utilize.
Share a series of positive affirmations with students, such as “I am unique,” “I believe in myself,” or “I am enough.” Ask them to silently repeat these affirmations several times to establish a positive mindset. You can begin by printing the cards below, and then introduce an affirmation per class. Download them here!
I also recommend this book! It’s simple, beautiful, and serves as a great introduction to positive affirmations.
Provide students with paper and pencils and give them time to draw or write freely. This allows them to express their thoughts and emotions and can serve as a relaxing activity during class. I find that instrumental Andean music works great with this activity.
Play gentle nature sounds, like birdsong, the flow of a stream, or the rustling of the wind. Ask students to close their eyes and focus on these sounds, setting aside distractions. You can find great ones on YouTube.
Free Meditation Apps for Educators
There are some companies that offer free subscriptions to mindfulness apps. I myself have a free subscription to the Calm app and love it! Headspace also offers free subscriptions for educators. Please note that I am not associated with any of the apps mentioned here!
Introducing centering or mindful activities cultivates focus and calm in class. They work at any class point, meeting student needs, and easily fit into the school year. Trying these ideas aids concentration, emotion management, and awareness.
Whether you’re a new teacher or have been in the classroom for a while, there are simple yet powerful tips for decorating your classroom that can save you time and transform your classroom into a hub of creativity and teamwork.
Imagine stepping into your classroom on the first day of school. The walls are adorned with bright decorations, everything neatly organized, and inspiring quotes displayed everywhere. Many teachers aim for this kind of inviting setup to grab students’ attention from the start. But what if there’s a different way that not only saves you time and stress but also brings your students together and gives them a sense of belonging? This approach involves keeping things minimal and letting your students take the lead in decorating. Personally, I prefer using whites and earth colors, and I also recommend adding plants to create a more relaxing atmosphere.
Instead of spending hours making everything look perfect, provide the basics and let your students get creative. When students help decorate, they feel like they’re part of the classroom. They understand that the classroom isn’t just your space; it’s a shared area where their ideas count. Keep your classroom decoration simple and minimalist.
In the first few weeks of school, involve your students in decorating tasks. For example, they can color the calendar, create signs, and discuss and put up class agreements together. This teamwork not only saves you time but also fosters a sense of community right from the beginning. Additionally, consider that most of the visuals in your room should serve the purpose of supporting your students’ language acquisition process.
Also, set up a spot on the walls or bulletin boards to showcase your students’ work. As you do different projects throughout the year, displaying what they create boosts their confidence and makes them proud of what they achieve.
Besides the basics, think about adding a few things that represent your students’ different cultures. Talking about these items can start interesting conversations and help your students learn about each other. By going for a simpler look and letting your students join in decorating your classroom, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on your lessons and what you want to achieve during the year.
In the end, whether you decide to go all out with decorations or keep it simple is up to you. As you get ready for the new school year, remember the great potential of letting your students create a welcoming space where everyone’s contributions are valued.
¡Hola! I am Carolina, a Colombian elementary Spanish teacher based in Boston, MA. 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.
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