Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Back to School Checklist for Elementary Spanish Class

IT'S THE END OF JULY and though I still have much of the month of August left before I go back to school, my teacher self can't help thinking about those first days and weeks. With almost 400 elementary school students in 21 classes (that I see twice a week each) organization is what keeps me sane (and the chocolate!). At the end of last school year, I threw into a large pocket folder resources and materials I use at the beginning of the year so they are handy as I prep my room and myself. In spare moments (seriously, there were some?) I printed out stuff I knew I would need, such as name tags, Ratoncito Pérez tooth coins, birthday cards, etc and shoved them in the pocket, getting some things out of the way before August hit and I become a bit, shall we say, crazed?

I ALSO HAVE A CHECKLIST of things I need to prep every year, which I've turned into an infographic so you can see it for yourself. It's not exhaustive, but it covers the biggies! What do you do to get ready?

Need name tags for your students? How about ours? Find them here!

And don't forget about Ratoncito Pérez, the Tooth Mouse! He is, by far, the most memorable and tangible aspect of culture I share with my students- here's our Activity Pack with lost tooth posters, certificates, coins, and more!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How to Help & Support Your Students in a 90% TL Classroom

A FEW WEEKS AGO I SHARED MY REFLECTIONS ON TEACHING 90% IN MY ELEMENTARY SPANISH CLASSES, and one of the things I mentioned was my desire to teach learning strategies to my students right from the beginning of the year which would help and support them. The key to these strategies, in my opinion, is that they constitute a collaboration between my students and me- we each have our responsibilities in order for the strategies to be truly effective. I created an infographic to highlight these two sides, with my students' responsibilities on the left, and mine on the right. I've expanded on the infographic below.

*EYES AND EARS ON ME: We all have those little squirrels who play with their shoelaces, braid the girl's hair next to her, roll about on the carpet, etc. Keeping tabs on those kiddos and redirecting them when they aren't focused is crucial to ensuring kids don't miss what is going on- I frequently remind my students that seeing what I am showing and doing is as important as hearing what I am saying for them to understand what is going on. TIP: Do a visual scan to be sure students are paying attention before you start talking, especially when giving instructions or other important communications. This makes a huge difference!

*UTILIZING OUR RESOURCES: I make sure there are tons of supports for my students to access at all times, whether that be our contextualized bulletin boards, word banks in their folders, songs that we sing to help us remember vocabulary, etc. It is my responsibility to remind them those supports are available, and explicitly teach how to use them. Little kiddos do not all intuitively utilize these types of supports so regularly reminding them they are available is a huge help!

*MAKING THE EFFORT: We as teachers are very used to telling our students that putting forth their best effort is an integral part of their learning. I liken it to being a member on a sports team- you wouldn't just sit out on the sidelines and expect to get better at soccer, would you? Of course not! You need to be in the game to improve, and the same goes for school. For my part, I need to support and celebrate my students' efforts, making it part of "business as usual" in terms of how I interact with my students.

At the beginning of the school year, I have the above conversation with my students, and then we come back to it regularly. Letting students know that you are part of a team with them, that you have responsibilities, too, builds community in your classes and tightens the bond you have with your students, and shows them it is a two way street- working together as a partnership makes for a great year of learning!


Friday, July 8, 2016

Practicing Names in Authentic Activities in the Elementary Spanish Classroom

I'M GOING TO CONFESS, I am really bad about providing activities for my elementary Spanish kids to practice answering the question '¿Cómo te llamas?' and stating their names... think about it- kids know each others names, so introducing themselves over and over again doesn't make much sense- it's simply not authentic communication! But, I know that being able to answer the question ¿Cómo te llamas? or ¿Qué es tu nombre? is a typical expectation, and I feel like I'm missing the boat. However, there are some activities that I do, and should do more of!, to provide more practice in answering these questions (NOTE: I teach my students 'Yo soy ____' as opposed to 'Me llamo' because it is so much more often used by native speakers).

Here are some good authentically communicative activities that I do- please share yours in the comments!

*BRING IN YOUR STUFFIE DAY!: Invite your students to bring in a stuffie to class (you may want to provide guidelines around size of said stuffie, and be sure to let gen ed teachers know ahead of time so they know stuffies will be appearing)... you students become the "voices" of their stuffies, introducing them, or having mini conversations with '¿Cómo te llamas?' or ¿Qué es tu nombre?' or you could, as the teacher, as the questions of the stuffies as a quick greeting activity. However done, the stuffies' names are generally unknown to everyone else in the class, so it becomes an authentic communication for them to "talk" and share their names. You could have more than one Bring in Your Stuffie Day in the year, with each time a different stuffie coming to school.

*NAME THAT STUFFIE!: If, like me, you have a grand collection of stuffies already in your classroom, you can pass them out to students who can then name them and, like above, be their "voices" to introduce themselves or answer questions about their name. If you don't have stuffies, use stick puppets, dolls, little animal counters, Lego figures...anything they can name will do!

*VOTE ON A NAME!: In some of the minibooks we read in class, there are additional characters or animals without names- turn naming the character into a vote! My students love to brainstorm names and then vote on them as a class; I typically keep the brainstorming to 4-5 names, then we vote. Once names are given, we have fun incorporating them into other activities and stories. Since I have multiple classes for each grade, if there are multiple characters to name I have each class name just one character, then I share with the other classes all the names chosen, which they also love.

*MAKE AN INTERACTIVE BOARD IN THE HALLWAY: If you've got space to put up a piece of chart paper, why not put a picture of a stuffie or animal with the header question ¿Cómo te llamas? for kids to answer when they enter in the morning or at recess time? Provide a pencil on a string (expect it to disappear so monitor it!) and see what your students come up with! Tell your students they have to start with either 'Me llamo __' or 'Yo soy ____' to practice those structures and then sit back and enjoy their creativity!