The first days and weeks of school play an important role in how the school year might go. In this post I have shared a series of practices and strategies I use in my classes.
Find a Signal To Get Your Student’s Attention
I’m a fan of having chimes in different places in my room. I also have them in my bag when I travel from classroom to classroom. Watch the video to see how I use a three-tone chime in my classes. I would love to say that I came up with this idea, but I learned it from an awesome colleague and translated it into Spanish.
Use Call and Response Chants
Yes, sometimes using our chime or clapping our hands doesn’t work! I have found that call-and-responses work magic to get my students’ attention while using the language. Find some that you like and work for your class!
Use Songs As Quiet Reminders and Transitions
Songs are great a way to remind your students what they need to be doing at the moment, especially younger students. You can use songs to remind students to line up, clean up, and so on!
Set Classroom Norms and Expectations
Some teachers like to set their norms prior to the first class, other teachers create them with their students and others piggyback on the norms students created with their homeroom teachers.No matter what you decide, make them simple, talk about your norms and expectation, model them, practice them and also make them part of your everyday routine. If possible place posters in the front of the class to keep them as reminders!
Greet Every Student
If you have a classroom, waiting for your students and greeting them at the door is one of the best ways to set the tone for your class. If you don’t have a classroom, you can still make sure to greet every student in your class. Remember that saying their names when you greet them is important for your students, and also a way for you to remember all their names.
What else would you add to this list? Write them in the comments!
Looking for ways to build classroom community from day one? Community is one the most important things to have a successful school year with your students. Having strong classroom communities will lead to empowered students who will feel validated and ready to thrive.
These are just some of the ways you can start building community in your classes:
Students want to know who their teachers are. Sharing simple things about you will make them feel safer and find ways to connect with you.What can you share with your students? Likes, dislikes, special traditions, languages you speak, and so on! I recommend not asking about summer activities since not everyone has access to the same opportunities.
Learn How to Pronounce Your Students’ Names Correctly
This is key for building classroom community. Let your students know that it’s ok for them to correct you if you mispronounce their names. Find ways to help you remember the correct pronunciation.
Celebrate Your Students’ Cultures
World language classes should not only focus on the cultures of the target language. Our classes should be spaces where all cultures and traditions are celebrated. Look for ways in your classes to elevate your students. Make your class a space where everyone is welcome!
Focus on the Positive and Always Celebrate Your Students’ Milestones
Focus on the positive and always celebrate your students’ milestones: Remember that our classes are filled with students that have different learning styles and personalities. It’s important to keep in mind that they are all processing and learning at different paces.
Involve the Families of Your Students From Day One
Send a letter or email to your students’ families / caregivers prior to or right after you have your students in class on the first day.Let them know about you, your program, your professional experience, and expectations for your class, and ways to connect with you! Families are also important when building classroom communities!
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.”
It’s not like no one has ever counted the days until a break! Right? Every time a break is getting close, my mind tricks me and everything seems so slow. Well, I also take it as a reminder that if I am tired and ready for a break, my students probably are too! We all know that the days leading up to a school break are no time to start anything new. Our students are all over the place, with too much energy, and it is hard for them to concentrate. What’s the best we can do? In my opinion, the best approach is to take it easy and go with the flow. Time to look for activities to review some of the content taught before, spiral curriculum style. And one more thing. No administrator should decide to visit your class days ahead the break! Not because you are not doing your job right, but because we are all kind of out of routine.
I always love going on a break with my lesson plans ready or just leaving a few notes that will remind me where to pick up where I left off. Once we are back after the break, it is a a good time to go over your rules and classroom routines again. Believe it or not, one or two weeks are enough for some of those things to be forgotten. The great news is that you don’t have to spend time on activities to get to know your students. Instead, you can just reinforce and keep working on a safe classroom environment for you to continue teaching and for your students to continue growing. Teamwork!
Here are some visuals that might help you go over important and simple rules to make your class a safe space for every learner. It’s important to talk about them, model them, and practice them a lot! If interested in reading more about classroom management, I have one more post where I share what I do and what I include in my classroom to support rules and procedures. Click here to read it all!
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.
Yes, sometimes using our chime or clapping our hands doesn’t work! I have found that call-and-responses work magic to get my students’ attention while using the language. I am sharing some that I have learned from other colleagues, at conferences as well as some that have simply occurred to me. I like keeping a variety of them and start introducing them one by one so I can have a big repertoire. I use the short ones with my K-1 students and the longer ones with my 3-5 students. I put them on posters and am sharing them with you in this post. Click here to download them all. And if you have more call-and-response chants, please share them with me in the comments below. I would love to keep adding more to my repertoire!
¡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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