Yes! Another school year has ended, and now it’s time to reflect upon on it. I have always been good about writing a list OF reflections at the end of the school year, thinking about what worked or what didn’t, what I need to continue working on, and what I will keep doing in the new school year. However, since it’s essentially a note to myself, I rarely benefit from anyone else’s experiences (something I value highly!) and I often lose the list during the relaxation and shuffle / travel of the summer. This year I decided to use my blog as an open forum to reflect on my school year. I know it will always be here (unless Blogger shuts down!) so I can come to back to it when I need it. I have also saved a copy in Google Drive, something I suggest you can use to safely store your reflections too! This document can also be used as a reference to set your goals for the new school year.
Teaching in the Target Language
As a native speaker, I find it an easy task staying in the target language (TL) and keeping my instruction at the proficiency level of my students. I come from teaching in a FLES programs where we were required to stay 100% in the TL, to the point that my students thought that I couldn’t speak English. Yes, the children were trying harder to communicate with me in the TL, but there was more to it than that. Once I moved to a different school, the policies about teaching 100% in the TL changed. That was when I realized that I had been missing an opportunity to connect with my students and get to know a little bit more about them. It was okay for them to use their L1 to communicate with me during recess time. I feel that because I am a native speaker, they need to know that I am bilingual and that I also have interest in their language and culture. Keeping my class at 90 to 95 % TL in my classroom continues to be my goal.
Whole Brain Teaching
This was my first full year using WBT. As a result I feel that my students were more engaged, and I spent less time focusing on discipline issues in my class. Due to the limited amount of time I have with my students I only use level 1 in WBT, which involves these steps:
1. Five Classroom Rules
2. Teach OK
3. Attention Getters
5. Hands and Eyes
I will need to be more consistent in using the steps and definitely need a wider variety of “Attention Getters” in Spanish. If you use WBT, please share your Attention Getters with me! Also if you would like to try WBT next year, here is a link to the visuals in Spanish.
I use the WBT Scoreboard system for the whole group. I use the “pesos system” for individual participation. If a student challenges himself/herself to stay in the target language, they would get a copy of a printed peso to keep in their billeteras (a paper craft made at the beginning of the year). There were three opportunities for the children to use their play pesos to buy from my “tienda”. The tienda was filled with pesos, stickers and erasers. We got to practice sentences such as “¿Cuánto cuesta?,” “yo quiero un lápiz,” or “deme un lápiz, por favor.”
The “pesos system” got a little bit messy by the middle of the school year when students started to lose their pesos and billeteras, and, as a result, a lot of feelings of frustration were in the air. I have to find a better way to keep track of their points which translate into participation using the TL during
When using Interactive Notebooks, it needs to be clear that if you let your elementary students do this alone, they will take a lot time on it! This is my third year using Interactive Notebooks, and I sometimes forget about this. It is also necessary to put the samples together in advanced to have a visual to show to your students so they know what the final outcome will be. It is also important to be sure that the activity is at the level of your students. Something that has worked for me is to do activities with my students at the same time, making sure that they don’t get behind and always leave coloring for the end. Don’t use liquid glue – don’t even have it in the classroom because I learned the hard way this year when one of my students spilled glue all over his notebook. Glue sticks are the best! What I really love about Interactive Notebooks is that at the end of the school year students have a resource to take home to practice during the summer. I didn’t use them a lot this year, which I regret a lot because the excitement about this in past years has been great!
I started my school year strong on this, making videos for my students and sending communication with families about it. I teach at the elementary level, and the success of this really depends on how involved and available parents are to be able to sit with their kids. I might give it one more try in the new school year, but not keeping it as my priority goal.
I have to confess that one of my biggest fears is passing down stereotypes of other cultures to my students. Remember that I have reserved 5 to 10% of the L1 to use in the classroom when needed. On the issue of culture is where I give myself permission to use the L1 in class, especially to clarify any messages that can come across as stereotypes. I know some teachers have an strong opinion about doing this completely in the TL, but I do have to confess that I feel better if I allow room for using the L1 to clarify and maybe have deeper conversations about other cultures. That’s what has worked for me so far!
I incorporated some “light” use of the culture into my daily routine comparing the weather and temperature in different Spanish countries and sometimes even calling my mom in Colombia to allow my students to have basic conversations with her, and they loved it! I still have to work on stepping out of my comfort zone to share with my students more about cultures other than Colombia and Mexico.
Communication with Parents
I used a website hosted on Haiku, but because it was password protected it made it hard for some parents to access it during their busy routines. My goal was to get rid of paper newsletters, and I did, but the password protected site wasn’t helpful this year. I have heard of other teachers using Instagram and other social media outlets to share with parents while still protecting the privacy of their students. I might look into it and decide on what to use next year. I am open to any suggestions you might have, so please share them with me in the comment box!
What Am I excited About?
After 15 years of being in Boston (which is also the total of years I have been in the US) and 7 years of teaching at the same school, my family and I will be relocating to Austin, TX this summer. I will be teaching in grades K-5 at an elementary school, so I am excited to be working with a wider range of groups. I was the only PreK-3 Spanish teacher in the school I was teaching at in Boston, and now I will be part of a team of two more teachers teaching the same grades! How sweet is that?! I am excited to have more companeras.
This summer I will be attending the iFLT conference in Tennessee for the first time, and although I already use TPR I can’t wait to take it further and start with TPRS!
How did your school year go? What are you plans for the summer? Any goal for the new school year yet?
An Interactive Student Notebook is nothing more than a regular notebook, but it’s organized in a specific way that helps students keep track of all the content we explore in class. For older students, their ISN requires them to have a table of contents, numbered pages, and space for teachers to add notes. Also, there are lots of hands-on, independent enrichment activities peppered throughout for students to explore at their own pace or at home (e.g. to cut and paste, color, match words, etc.). Since I teach Spanish at the lower school and don’t see my students with much frequency, I have adapted this tool to use more simply. We keep songs, make games, write short paragraphs and make it interesting for students to feel proud of their own work. At the end, it’s their own creation they can be proud of and feel a sense of ownership.
Interactive Student Notebooks have been a life saver for me and wonderful teaching tool at the elementary school level. I started using them last year and created mine along with my students and aligned it with my own curriculum –take a peak inside it!
There are a lot of benefits to using Interactive Student Notebooks in a world language class at the elementary level. Here are a few I have found while using them in my classes:
1. Easy to keep organized: I’ve found Interactive Notebooks are an easy way to keep my students organized. I used to have binders for my second and third graders, and it became chaotic for them to handle and keep them in order. Interactive Notebooks provide a space where everything we do in class is kept in one place.
2. High motivation for students: Students are more engaged in class and constantly ask when they can take their notebooks home. I include hands on activities, lyrics of songs we’ve learned, and games!
3. Good communication with your students’ parents: Spanish notebooks help children keep track of their own learning and exploration in class. Many of the activities in the Interactive Notebook should be engaging such as games, puzzles, memory games, and so on.
Provide space during the school year for students to take their notebook home to share with parents what we’ve done in class – this helps parents feel more connected with their children’s learning and allows you to educate them since, in most cases, this kind of second language learning is much different than their experience.
4. A resource for the summer: When the school year is over, children will have a resource they have created and can take home to practice over the summer.
5. You will love it! Just make sure you have the materials required for the fun. I use regular composition books and glue sticks.
This is my first year using interactive notebooks with my students. I teach grades PreK-3, but I only use it with second and third graders, and they have Spanish twice a week for 45 minutes each class. We play games and sing a lot in class and sometimes make projects on iPads,but at the end of every unit I like making a paper project or worksheet they can keep in their notebooks. Last year I used binders and divided them into sections, but soon enough the binders were messy, and some students dropped them by accident, and pages flew all over the place. I am not sure how interactive this notebook is, but I like calling it that because it sounds less boring than calling it just a a regular notebook, at least for my own motivation! So far the results have been great and the children really love them. Creating an interactive notebook is a lot of work. I have decided to create mine along with my students and with the curriculum in progress to see what activities really work.
Take a peek inside our notebooks. These are some of the activities in the second and third grade interactive notebooks. I will keep adding more pages as the school year progresses.
Children worked on personalizing their notebooks
We used these two activities during the first two weeks of school.
The calendar in the notebook is very useful as we use it as part of our class routine and can refer to it and access it very easily.
We also glue regular worksheets in the notebook folded in half to save space.
These are two different activities second and third graders did to review and learn new parts of the body.
We also glue booklets and lyrics of some of the songs we learn during class.
This is our latest activity to share what we are thankful for in Spanish.
At the end of the notebook we glued envelopes to keep those extra papers we need to save such as our participation cards.
More pages will be added as the year goes by and we explore more language in our classes. You can purchase all the activities above in my TpT store. The good news is that I will keep adding more activities to this set, and if you purchase this set now you will be the first to get the new activities at no extra charge. You will be notified via e-mail every time I add more to this product, and you will just have to download the recent file! The price will change as the product grows, and you won’t have to pay anything extra.
Have fun putting your interactive notebooks together with your students!
¡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.