This week (Wednesday to Wednesday) has been a whirlwind of first days with different classes – over the last 7 days, I have seen all of my classes, met all the new students, and welcomed back all of the returning students. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but after a few days, I’m starting to shake off the dust and get back into the swing of things.
Last week, I wrote about my first day with 1st and 2nd graders. With the older ones, there is a bit of a difference because they come up to my classroom (on the 2nd floor of our building) for class.
I know that lots of teachers advocate for using the TL first thing on the first day of class, but that’s not the approach I took this year. I have the advantage of teaching all of the kids in the whole school and as such, most of them already know what to expect from Spanish class, the kinds of activities we will be doing, and the amount of Spanish we will be speaking during the class period.
Instead of an ice-breaker or a head-first Spanish activity, I decided to give a tour of my classroom. I have a lot of changes for the year and we talked about them all on our tour. We talked about my new Smart Board, which is very cool and, more importantly, works perfectly! We also talked about the FVR reading program and the class novels we will be reading this year.
The other important stop on my tour was the flag. For me, the key to using the TL in the classroom is to do it in a way that is very procedural and formal. The flag is a two-sided flag that a student made for me years ago. On one side is an American flag and on the other is the Spanish flag. When the American side is showing, students are able to use English or Spanish or any other language.* When the Spanish flag side is showing, we are all only to be interacting in Spanish (as much as possible). This is a very challenging goal, especially with impulsive 3rd-8th graders who are prone to shouting out whatever comes into their heads, but it is a tool that helps me and the kids to keep each other in check and using the TL.
The next part of the discussion was our use of Passwords. I will have monthly passwords (or bi-monthly, depending on how it goes-I only see e kids twice a week, so it might need to be the full month to be really effective for them to learn and perform the word or phrase). I introduced this idea on the students’ first day in all of the classes 3-8 and they had to remember it for this week.
Then, along came Monday and I was surprised and excited when they not only remembered it (almost everyone remembered it!) but they were super enthusiastic about it. I will admit that I was a little bit skeptical that the “Cool” middle schoolers would be into it, but they were and it was great!
Days 2 and 3 of class involved passwords, reviewing procedures/rules and using the TL for a new part of our class routine: Calendar Talk. Over the course of a day of practice and trying new ways to complete this activity, I figured out a 4 part routine (If there’s one thing that teaching younger elementary students has taught me, it’s that incorporating the boring but necessary/expected vocabulary like days, numbers, colors, etc is to make it something we talk about a little bit each day we have class rather than having a unit all about it that we only visit once per year):
- The Date
- Events – tests, quizzes, meetings, tryouts, games, club events, pep rallies, etc.
- The weather
After this new routine, we did something that is pretty familiar: we created madlib stories. Usually, after creating the details of the character with the class, I would have them finish the story (solve the problem that the character has). This week, since it’s the beginning of school, we completed the story aloud using Story-asking and actors. This was successful and fun in middle school because they have been doing this kind of activity for years now. The madlib was not so great for 3rd, 4th, and 5th. They need a bit more support and scaffolding before I can throw them into the deep end of creating characters.
But that’s ok – I get to tell more simple stories with them for a few more weeks, which is really fun for me and for them and really boosts their confidence and acquisition of the high-frequency vocabulary we use on a daily basis.
So we’re off and running for the 2019-2020 school year. More updates and some BIG conference announcements to come soon!
*At first, I was reticent to say American flag=English because there are so many Americans who don’t speak English, but then I decided to use it as a teachable moment to teach the kids about how the US doesn’t have an official language because it is a place where all are welcome–we use English most of the time, but it isn’t a requirement, so that’s the way it is in our classroom.