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!
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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.
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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.
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As language educators, we have a great chance to influence our students’ learning experiences. Our classrooms shouldn’t just be places for teaching; they should be welcoming and encouraging environments that promote teamwork, language growth, and a sense of belonging. This are some tips that might help:
Mindful Classroom Arrangement and Organization: Maintaining a clutter-free and well-organized classroom is crucial for promoting student engagement and collaboration. Minimize distractions and ensure that your students are familiar with the space and know where things are located in the classroom.
Take Advantage of the Power of Visual Support: Visual aids are powerful tools for language development. Through visually appealing displays, we provide our students with accessible language resources that reinforce their learning and support them staying in the target language. You can also empower your students by involving them in the creation and use of these displays! Some ideas for visuals are question words, useful phrases, chants, calendar and more.
Use Visuals to Mark Routines and Moments: Visual aids, such as schedules and routines, play a vital role. For some students, using visuals to support the routines and moments in class gives them a sense of comfort, knowing what will happen next. These tools help them understand the structure of the class, set clear expectations, and reduce anxiety, leading to a more comfortable language learning experience. For example, a specific image or visual can be used for a brain break, and steps to follow, such as writing your name, coloring, cutting out, and more, can be provided in the target language.
Include Diversity in Themes and Books: Our classroom libraries should mirror the diverse cultural backgrounds represented in our student body and beyond! By thoughtfully curating a collection of books that showcase various cultures and perspectives, we help our students forge meaningful connections and develop a stronger sense of identity. If books at the level of your students are hard to find, make sure that you represent your students in the visuals of your classroom. As language teachers, we should not limit ourselves to incorporating topics just from the target language but also from the cultures of our students.
Celebrate Other Languages: Consider labeling classroom items and areas in both the target language and asking your students to help you label things in their home language. Remember that we are in a world language classroom, and this is a way to honor our students’ identities and cultures.
Leave Space to Display Students’ Work: Set aside some blank spaces in the classroom to showcase students’ work. Their creations are far more meaningful and impactful than posters purchased online! By displaying their work, you will not only foster a sense of pride and accomplishment among your students but also create an inspiring and dynamic learning environment.
By incorporating these practical tips we can create dynamic and inclusive language learning environments that empower our students to thrive and succeed in their language journey. Together, we can shape a future where language education fosters understanding, cultural appreciation, and a lifelong love for learning.
Over the past few years, I’ve been working to create more inclusive and considerate expectations for my students, ensuring that everyone’s needs are respected. Additionally, I’ve been mindful not to impose any ableist or overly controlling standards that could negatively impact their well-being. An excellent post by the Neurodivergent Teacher on Facebook provides concrete examples of this. The idea is to keep the expectations simple and avoid language such as “keep your eyes on the teacher” or “sit criss-cross applesauce.” Additionally, I have purposely moved away from using the word “reglas” since it might sound like something imposed. Instead, I use “expectativas,” which is similar and easier for my students to understand.
As a teacher who only interacts with my students once or twice a week, I need to keep things simple. These are our classroom expectations:
To foster a positive and proactive learning environment, I use the Responsive Classroom approach to engage in open discussions about each expectation, encouraging students to share real-life scenarios that illustrate the importance of these guidelines. To reinforce understanding, we model each expectation through role-playing, followed by further discussions. All of this happens in the common language, supported by visuals in the target language. Each expectation is also accompanied by TPR. After introducing each expectation and talking about it in the common language, we transition to and support each of them in the target language. I see the use of the common language to talk about expectations and agreements at the beginning of the year as an investment in classroom community.
Respecto and bondad are words that are significant and need specific examples, so we discuss them and give different examples of how they should look in our class. Additionally, español is included there, but as a teacher of novice learners, I understand that my students won’t have the language to communicate some of their needs most of the time, so we have a signal to mark when we need to use English in class. We simply show a letter “T” for time in the other language, and sometimes students in my first through 3rd-grade class accompany me with the phrase ¿Puedo hablar inglés? This is just to mark a space for the other language in our class.
Furthermore, I believe in the power of classroom agreements made by students and teachers in their respective classes. I take pictures of these agreements and incorporate them into the slides I use for my classes too! By doing so, I emphasize that these agreements apply equally in my class, fostering continuity and reinforcing a sense of community. And since my time with my students is limited, this saves me some time.
Throughout our time together, I keep the expectations displayed on the board, ensuring they remain visible and accessible to students. This way, we can refer back to them whenever necessary, promoting accountability and maintaining a positive learning environment.
Here are some helpful suggestions to reinforce expectations in the target language:
- Keep them short and simple.
- Frame them in a positive way.
- Accompany each of them with a visual.
- Use TPR to represent each of them.
- Make sure there is a manageable number that your students can remember.
Building a strong classroom community is based on clear expectations and agreements. This fosters collaboration, respect, and values each student’s voice. Taking the time to work on classroom expectations and agreements at the beginning of the year is an investment. It brings many benefits and helps the class throughout the entire year!
The Andean weather bear, also known as the osito de anteojos del clima, is no ordinary bear. It brings a delightful twist to my classes, where my students can engage in interactive learning by dressing up the bear to match the weather of the day or reflect the changing seasons.
In my kindergarten and first-grade classes, we have incorporated the osito de anteojos into our routine. Every class, we look through the window to observe and discuss the weather conditions for the day. The bear acts as a visual representation of the seasonal changes we experience. Through this activity, we not only explore the weather in our local region but also delve into the concept of seasons in both the northern and southern hemispheres. For example, I pull out a map and share with my students that while it is summer in the United States, it is winter in Argentina.
Beyond our classroom walls, the osito de anteojos encourages broader discussions with students of other grades. We engage in a fun guessing game where we estimate the temperatures in different countries, leading to conversations about varying climates and corresponding seasonal attire. As we dress the osito de anteojos to match these far locations, we describe in the target language what the bear is wearing. This simple tool has become a way to give input and start simple conversations in a natural way, and it helps the class flow.
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Have fun with the weather bear!
You might like this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers:
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!
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