Classroom management is definitely a skill that you build with practice. And it’s something that is constantly changing and evolving according to the different personalities of your students and classroom chemistry. What works with one class might not work with another, or what worked one school year might not work the next. I find myself continuously changing and adapting my classroom management strategies.
Writing this post is a reflection exercise for me. In the past, I had assumed that because the homeroom teachers I worked with had been investing time (not spending, or as we might say in a literal translation of Spanish, “wasting”) in going over classroom rules, creating beautiful agreements, their students would automatically come to me ready to engage and learn! How wrong I was! If the homeroom teacher has been investing time in making it a safe learning environment for everyone, I also have to do my part. Children need to see that teachers are all working together, and that we all have the same high expectations for them. Quite often we “special teachers” don’t start teaching on the very first day. What a great opportunity to go into the classrooms and learn the language and procedures homeroom teachers are using with their students.
Let Your Students Know A Little Bit About You
I started day one in my classes with a “Get to know the teacher” activity. I have done it different ways in the past. I have created a picture book about me, PowerPoint presentations, and these last two years I have made videos using PowToon. This is a short version I created to share here. In the presentation I use with my students, I add pictures of my family too. They love it! After watching the short video, we played a simple “cierto” and “falso” game. I also use this as an opportunity to connect with other students by asking simple questions such as ¿quién tiene perros?, ¿a quién le gusta el brócoli? or ¿a quién no le gusta el brócoli?, ¿qué te gusta comer?, and the conversation gets long! Some of my classes have asked to watch it a few times!
By first sharing a little bit about me with my students, I find that it is easier to start working on creating a class with a safe learning environment. I also invest a lot of time in talking about these rules in English, although the signs are in Spanish. I have noticed that starting with English and making sure my students understand and practice the rules will save me from having to use a lot of English later. With elementary students it takes a lot of practice. You kind of have to use the pattern of modeling, talking, and practicing. It is a lot of time at the beginning of the school year, but having the routines and rules well established will allow me to stay in the target language for more time. So far my grades 1-2 students (I haven’t met kinder yet) enter the classroom by greeting me in Spanish, and the grades 3-5 students enter the classroom using “La frase de la semana.”
Keep Your Rules Simple
These are the rules that I have been using for the last couple of years. I wish I could say I came up with them, but they were shared by my two colleagues who have used them in the past. They are simple, concrete, and easy to TPR. We talk about how each of them looks, and we model, practice, and talk again!
Once in the room, we talk about how they transition to their places in class. I started by not assigning spots or chairs in the classroom, but quickly noticed some of my students were having a hard time finding a place, so I decided to assign places in class. I have seen my students about 7 times this school year, and so far we have started every class by pointing at the posters, practicing and reinforcing them. These are the rules that I currently use with my students.
Introduce Other Routines
I also introduce the children to respond to the sound of the chime and teach some of the call and response chants that we will be using through the school year. During the first week, students also get to know our classroom, and the different procedures to use the materials we have in it. My school has a strong Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program and uses a lot of Responsive Classroom techniques, so many classrooms have a “Take a break” space. I call it “El espacio de la reflexión.” Responsive Classroom has a great explanation of this strategy.
I’m a brain break lover, so I definitely make sure to start using them with my students from day one! Elementary students need to move a lot, so this is a “must do” in all my lessons. It’s extremely important to introduce all your routines during the first weeks. Depending on the level, I either end the class with a song, exit ticket, or a simple “chócala” to send my students to line up quietly.
So far everything has been going great! Fingers crossed that it will continue that way. How do you do classroom management in your Spanish class? Please feel free to share in the comments!
“La frase de la semana” or phrase of the week is a great opportunity to teach useful language. I try to use phrases that I know we can incorporate into our classes. I teach grades K-5, but I only use it with my students in grades 3-5.
We make it part of our routine. I keep a poster with the phrase of the week taped on the door. I sometimes teach classes back to back, and having this routine can buy me an extra minute while I am getting everything ready for the next class. My students wait for me in a line outside my class.
La frase de la semana serves as their password to enter the classroom. It takes about two minutes on average, so children know that they need to find their place quietly in the room and read the “Plan de la clase” to find out what we will be doing (although there are days when this goes more smoothly than other days). I don’t have a variety of classroom jobs because I find the logistics hard for me, but I do have a “secretario” and “secretaria” who help by passing out materials when needed, sharpen pencils, turns lights on and off, and so on. After children have practiced with it and have the routine down pat, I sometimes ask the secretarios to help me by staying by the door and listening to their classmates say la frase de la semana. I love when they start using those sentences in natural ways and in the context of the class. It’s magical when I start to hear spontaneous remarks like “¡Qué chévere!” or “¿Qué tal Sra. Gómez?” when students see me during recess or in the hallway.
Here are some of the phrases I have used:
¡A mí también!
You can also find more phrases on “Mis cositas.” Lori Langer de Rámirez is so generous and shares tons of resources on her blog. Make sure to stop by her blog and download “Passwords perfectos.”
Ben Slavic also has a wonderful site with tons of CI/TPRS resources. He shares a list of great rejoinders that can also be used with la frase de la semana.
Feeling ready to start with la frase de la semana? Download this free resource that will help you get ready!
This a list of what I have in my classroom and can’t survive a school year without any of these materials.
Chime: Sometimes we need breaks from using call-and-response chants or clapping our hands. I have found a three tone chime* that works well because it gives enough time for my students to settle down.
Map: I had a hard time finding a map that was simple enough for my elementary students. Luckily I came across this map on Pinterest, and it has been the best purchase ever. You can find it at Spanish Cuentos.
Puppets and Plush Toys: Puppets and plush toys are a great tool in language teaching. I love when my students make connections with some of them. They become one more member of the class. Visit my post where I talk about the use of puppets in a world language class.
Special Chair: I have a chair that my students use when we sing to them to celebrate their birthdays in class. They all look forward to having a chance to sit on that chair in class. They also get a small gift from me which is usually a pencil, eraser, or small craft from Colombia. They also get a birthday certificate. Click here to download some free ones for your classes!
Play Parachute: Every single one of my students seems to love parachute time, no matter how old they are. It’s always fun to use parachutes for a brain break. I have written a few posts about how I use them in my classes:
Authentic Art: I love displaying art from different Spanish speaking countries. I usually label items to show where they come from.
Favorite Music Playlist: Thank goodness for YouTube! I love how you can easily make lists of your favorite songs. I like creating playlists by grade levels. Here is a list of some of my go-to channels:
Flags: I have flags and posters from the different Spanish speaking countries. You can display them all at once or take them out one at a time when you do the country of study. This pack is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Pointers: I found a really awesome set of pointers* that I use while looking at our “Plan de la clase” as well as when we play interactive games on the Smart Board. These ones have been the best so far! I have had them for about two years now:
List of Brain Breaks: Brain breaks are great not only to get your students’ attention back, but also for you to take a break as a teacher. I keep a list of brain breaks and yoga cards handy. Download free yoga cards here!
Simple Picture Books: Last year I started a library in my classroom. So far the books that have worked best are books with minimal text and also books that the children are already familiar with in English.
Movies: Sometimes I like using movies right before the break when I know a lot of my students will be missing. I also use them when I am out and can’t find a sub that speaks Spanish, or just being honest, to take a break!
Balls: Yes, balls of different sizes to play games or ask questions!
Instruments: Playing with these is something my younger students really enjoy!
Apron: This is not a “must,” but it has been great for me to stop putting things in my pockets when I am teaching. I used to always end up emptying my pockets of an assortment of things at home that should have stayed at school instead of hitching a ride with me – things like tiny pointers, markers, pencils, and the classroom keys. This is the one I plan to use this school year. I am especially excited about the llamas on this one!
What is something you think I should add to this list? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments box.
“Los Pollitos” is one of those traditional songs that everyone who grew up in a Spanish speaking country knows from childhood. It’s catchy, cute, and fun so I make sure to teach it every year to my Kindergarten students. I am sharing some ideas that I use while teaching this song.
Use TPR while teaching the song. I like using American sign language, or I sometimes create the gestures along with my students. Click on the links below to see some of the signs for the song:
Use plastic Easter eggs and markers to have your students create their own pollitos. Place the lyrics of the song inside the egg and send it home for your students to sing to their parents. Download the lyrics here.
Make props to use while singing the song. Download them here.
After singing the song, your students can color a simple page related to the song. Download it here.
I’ve had the chance in previous schools to have real chicks in the classroom and sing the song to them. We don’t have real pollitos now, but I was able to find these pretend hatching eggs called “Growing Pet.” *Affiliate link
Watch a time-lapse video of little chicks hatching
There are different versions of the song on YouTube. Choose the one you like or think works best for your classes.
February 21st is International Save Bears Day. This day seeks to raise awareness to protect these beautiful animals. The National Park Service of Colombia has made this day “El día del oso de anteojos” (spectacled bear), in order to raise awareness in the country. El oso de anteojos is also known as the “oso andino.” It is found in the Andean nations of Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Perú. Will you put on your glasses to join the celebration? Find out more about how to join this effort to raise awareness at “Conservemos la vida”: http://conservacionosoandino.org/
Get ready to sing this song to celebrate los osos de anteojos!
Visit Mundo de Pepita’s blog to print the awesome glasses template she created to help you take part in this celebration!
¡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.