Thank you for making 2017 a great year for Fun for Spanish Teachers! Starting a new year is an opportunity to hit the reset button and start again! I have so many goals for myself this year on both a personal and professional level. I’ll continue working toward some of my goals from last year. Some of the them actually involve working less or smarter, though I aim to share more via this blog with all the Spanish teachers out there. Along with that, I would love to go back to running, since it is an activity that I truly enjoy and serves as a form of moving meditation. As far as my professional goals, I hope to continue learning from other teachers to integrate new approaches and methodologies into my teaching. I also look forward to connecting with many of you! What are your goals for the New Year? Please feel free to share them in the comments. I would love to read them!
I leave you with some love for your classroom! Click on the pictures below to download them!
Print the pages of this black and white calendar and use them as your
personal planner or a calendar for your students to keep up with your class.
Print these letters and place them on a bulletin board or cart
One of the things I love about Facebook is how easy you can find online communities related to any topic and interest. And teachers really do know how to take advantage of Facebook. Just type keywords into the search bar to reveal different groups and pages related to them.
I want to share with you some groups that have been created for teaching Spanish at the early and elementary level. Please note that for some of the groups you will have to request to join the group; this is because they want to make sure only Spanish teachers join. Also in some of them the moderators will have to approve your question before it is posted on the wall. In an effort to keep the group clear of spam, some moderators will delete anything that is not related to teaching at this level. The language of interaction changes according to the group; some groups use English and Spanish, while some of them just use English, and some only Spanish. You will have to find the one you think works best for you.
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?
CharlaELE is a special place on Twitter created by Spanish teachers for Spanish teachers! How great is that? It’s an opportunity to participate in a live discussion about the topics that we, as Spanish teachers, care the most about. And each discussion happens completely in Spanish! Teachers from different parts of the world dive in to participate in dialogue and share their expertise on topics related to teaching Spanish at different levels. When you participate in the chat you will always leave with the feeling that you really learned something new.
If you are on Twitter, just make sure to follow @CharlaELE1 and keep your eyes open for the tweet that will give you the discussion topic of the live chat, which uses the hashtag #charlaELE1. If you can’t participate during the live chat, the team of CharlaELE has you covered! You can visit the WikiPage to learn about every past discussion.
Need a little more information about how CharlaELE works? The video below tells you all about it!
Isn’t this wonderful? An opportunity for professional development from the comfort of your own home or favorite cafe!
Make sure to follow CharlaELE’s moderators on Twitter since they are always sharing interesting topics and insights related to teaching Spanish.
If you are on Facebook, Pinterest or enjoy following blogs, you may like to know that there is a group of Spanish teachers who are active on social media. They are all dedicated educators who share teaching tips, classroom management ideas, what has worked or hasn’t worked for them, and a lot more when it comes to teaching Spanish as a foreign language. Following them on social media can save you some time and will keep you on track while navigating the internet.
I created this in no particular order. The levels are identified by the following letters:
I am really happy to welcome all the new teachers! Thank you for spreading the love of learning a new language in your school community and to your students!
Planning is one of the most important aspects to ensuring a successful class over the course of a school year. Of course, getting to know your school community and the needs of your students are intimately tied to this part of the teaching process. You also need to be clear regarding what kind of language program your school wants to develop or has in place so that you tailor it to the demand and expectations appropriately. In many cases, we language teachers are in charge of planning our class 100% while building a curriculum from scratch, especially since textbooks at the elementary level have limited applicability for a natural approach to language teaching and learning.
In over fifteen years of teaching languages to children, I have found that planning a week in advance for the following week works perfectly and gives me time to assess the material, reflect on the way I am teaching, and to adapt for my students as needed. Although there are fancy higher tech ways to do this, I’m old school when it comes to planning, choosing to keep it simple. I plan for every day on a single sheet of paper, and by the end of the school year, I have about two big binders with all my lesson plans collected in one place. I re-use these lesson plans the following year, but I create a new binder with changes as I adapt activities year by year.
How to write a lesson plan for a 20-30 minute lesson
Prepare a routine: Make sure you develop a clear routine for your class. A routine doesn’t equate to boredom and doesn’t mean that the activities are always presented in the same way. Creating a routine means creating a space for learners to feel safe about their knowledge and to be ready to switch gears. Prepare two to three elements that are always in your routine, but make sure they can be presented with plenty of variation.
This objective is one objective or piece of an objective drawn from the objectives planned for the entire unit. Remember that a spiral curriculum plan will allow you to come back to your other objectives later. This singular focus helps ensure that your entire lesson is well-targeted and clear. It’s the foundation for all that you do with your students.
Includes your routine (calendar, weather, birthdays, etc). Singing or playing a game related to the routine or theme of study helps students warm up for your lesson and creates a positive environment.
The activity is the core of your lesson. In this stage of the planning, students will get engage with your theme for the unit. Different strategies are stated here to allow students to accomplish the lesson’s objective. It is important to determine the steps of the activities and to be clear about them to create a confident learning environment. An unclear set of activities will create confusion between students.
This allows you and students to know clearly when a class is over and feel a sense of accomplishment. This ending can be done through a simple game or by reviewing some elements that were explored in the lesson.
In a FLES class, the assessment is mainly done during the progress of the lesson. Try to focus on a few students per lesson, and observe them closely during the development of the lesson.
List all kinds of resources you will need to teach your lesson effectively. This will also help you to prepare in advance and avoid trips to your office during class.