*TIP 1: Make your visual supports content and context rich. Go beyond word lists or labels to putting language in context... around my room I have recreated several of our minibooks utilizing the vocabulary in chunks and sentences drawn from the stories. By providing language in context you give your students more than single words; you give them the supports to put those words into functional phrases they can use to express themselves more communicatively. The picture below is part of our minibook 'Julieta y Mateo hacen un picnic', a simple storyline to learn fruits in context.
*TIP 2: Foster early literacy skills by having lots of print on display- and reference it often. Related to the above, providing as much print in the target language not only creates an environment full of Spanish (or the language you teach!), but it also provides visuals your students can refer to over and over again as they build their sight vocabulary. Encourage your students to look at and utilize your word walls, allowing them to familiarize themselves as to where they can find vocabulary they need, which also fosters independence and responsibility in learning.
*TIP 3: Consider utilizing a circle as your teaching space rather than desks/tables and chairs. I have always taught at circle, it's such an early elementary school tradition and I love it! A circle allows for all of you, students and teacher, to be together in a cozy community where materials can be passed and shared easily and greeting and partner activities are pulled together quickly.. Use clipboards or folders as writing surfaces (or, if there are tables/desks they can return to those for writing activities when those are being done). MINITIP: If teaching in a circle, it is a good choice to have a seating chart; students quickly find their seats and you don't have to deal with bickering or kiddos with hurt feelings because someone didn't want to sit next to them.
*TIP 4: Create areas of imaginative play where students can interact with the language while having fun. I am a huge proponent of imaginative play and try to provide as many opportunities for my students to engage with the language in this manner. Set up a small magnet or felt board with pictures that provide a context that fast finishers can go to for play with the language or create a storytelling basket with manipulatives with the same purpose in mind. See our post on creating thematic story baskets here!
*TIP 5: Make your space kid-friendly. At first glance, this tip doesn't seem to foster language acquisition...until you consider that stuffies, toys, play food, etc motivate students to use language. Little kids love to have stuffies "talk", manipulate play food, and use all manner of toys. Tap into this by incorporating lots of these items in your classes and have them at the ready in baskets or bins around your room.
*TIP 6: Place useful classroom phrases and requests strategically near what they are referencing. If you want your students to learn how to say, 'May I get a kleenex?', have the phrase posted right over the kleenex box. Connect the phrase with the item/objective at hand, forming a visual link between the words and the purpose.
*TIP 7: Establish key phrases for routines and procedures in the target language and post them for regular reference with students. From the beginning of the school year, have a set of concise, direct phrases you use for classroom management; use them consistently and refer to them on a regular basis. Whether they are key words for good audience behavior or instruction cards detailing each step of an activity, this language in chunks will enable you to stay in the target language rather than break into English.
*TIP 8: Don't have a classroom? Use your school's hallways to create 'language centers' kids can see and interact with. Not having a classroom doesn't need to stop you from displaying language throughout the school (provided you have permission or space to use the hallways). Create bulletin boards or spaces where kids can not only view but interact with language, such as putting up a piece of chart paper with a question like '¿Cómo estás? or ¿Cuál foto te gusta más?, etc. Here's a picture of a Pinterest-inspired board I created. You can see my entire post on how I made it here.
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