So, I’ll just be honest…as a student, I
hated the first day of school. Especially in high school. I could predict what
the day would be like, and I honestly dreaded it to no end. Visit every class,
barely meet your new teacher, and then get a syllabus to go over.
Same.thing.every.year. It was in my mind…pointless. I thought to myself, “Tell
me your name, give me the syllabus, don’t insult my intelligence by reading it
to me, and let’s move on.”
I understand that you want to “set these
standards” but is there any other way we can do it?
I vowed to myself that when I became a
teacher that my first day for my students would rock. I wanted my class to be
their favorite (or at leas their least dreaded). I wanted that when students went
home & told about their day…that maybe, just maybe, there was a little
excitement for the next day in Spanish class. I knew that by "liking the class, the language had a chance"
So today I want to share some secrets that
set my class apart from other typical classes on the FIRST DAY! SIDE NOTE: Many of these activities CAN BE adjusted FOR ANY subject & any level. You just have to customize the task to your own subject & teaching!
1. 1. Music…when they walk in, they
might just walk in moving their hips.
some classes, I will show a music video that compliments a Spanish song and
displays culture. The kids can tell from the music and video that the energy
will be high, and the class is going to be very different.
2. Make them an honorary Latino for the rest of the year. I don't
put my kids in alphabetical seating and I don't do rows. Instead, they are
placed in a Spanish speaking country group where they will be competing against
OTHER countries. They win prizes, homework exemptions, and even food. I love
hearing the kids say on the first day, "What are you? What country are you
in?" Plus, if they didn't know any countries that spoke Spanish, they
learned six on the first day.
Note: what's even awesome is when OTHER teachers ask you about
this "country thing" because they overhear kids in their classes ask
what country other students are in.
I use little seat flag tags on the desk that group the countries
together. The kids on the first day get exposure to the flag, the country name,
the word "soy", and the nationalities all IN SPANISH.
Little tip: I stand at my classroom door and tell every student
that enters which country they are in. I have always done this idea because it
allows me to talk to every individual student on the first day. I can smile and
introduce myself. Plus, making that first impression has always played in my
3. Close the door & give a quick intro. This is one of my
favorite parts because this will be the FIRST time ever they get full exposure
to the Spanish language. Before I even do attendance, I give a quick little
three minute intro of my class (and myself), but I use half Spanish and half
English. I only speak Spanish that is complete cognates and I speak very
clearly & slow. I love it because the kids will respond "I think I
totally understood what you said" or "I followed you the whole
time." I try to be very warm and embracing during this little intro. I am
amazed at what personalities I will see come out within the first five minutes
of the class.
4. Spanish word attendance. This activity is soooo much fun &
can be played anytime, but you AND YOUR STUDENTS will love it on the first day.
Basically, you're going to call out your students names for attendance. You'll
teach them to say "hi, here" (In Spanish: hola, aquí) but then they
must say ONE Spanish Word that they know (or whatever language you teach). It
can be a food, animal, country, etc. It's so much fun to hear the kids spill
out a Mexican restaurant menu. I promise there will be laughs by the end of
attendance, and look at how much Spanish you're already exposing to the kids.
5. Time to show the "About the Class & About the Teacher
PPT" This is where you'll settle some Spanish nerves and give a great
snapshot of your class. This PPT answers any dire questions, but more than
anything: it shows the kids WHY, JUST WHY learning a language is so important.
I even make a slide of jobs they can obtain with being bilingual. Hey, money
The 2nd half of the PPT is an About Me section. This is where I am
going to be vulnerable and connect with my kids. I am going to tell them about
my childhood, where I went to school, why I became a teacher, etc. This is
where the students will connect. This is where they will understand why you are
doing what you're doing.
6. After the PPT, time to go over the Syllabus....but...
with memes! That's right. It's time to explain the expectations
of your class but for each section, the students will see funny memes. This
makes the most boring part of the class a little less painless, and who doesn't love a good
Will Farrell meme.
7. One more PPT (and it's a biggie)...Class Procedures. Okay, I'm
going to vent/nag/whatever...I hear and talk to so many teachers who complain a
few weeks into school about how their classes have gotten chaotic & they
have lost control. My first question: did you teach class procedures? They'll
often say, "Yeah, we went over the rules." Noooo...did you go over
class PROCEDURES? There is a huge difference. No cursing in class is a rule.
Telling the kids how you want them to turn in their HW, what to do after
completing class work, and what to do the last 5 minutes of class...are Procedures.
You MUST teach them if you want structure. I always show this PPT! I will tell
the kids I love to have a good time (if we're learning) BUT if I think we're
sacrificing learning FOR a good time, you will see a different person.
Side note: Teaching the Procedures is important, but following
through is probably even more important. Basically: Don't get soft. Stick to
your procedure game plan.
If time: Group Introduction...I will teach the kids how to say "My name is...I am from...I like..." and have them share with their group. We
often don't get to this, but I always keep it in my back-pocket.
That's it, folks. That is my first day. It looks a little
different from the traditional first day but honestly, it excites me as a
teacher so I know it must be exciting to be setting in a student desk!
If you would like to purchase of any of the products I use on the first
day, see below. All products are editable and can be customized for your own
So I went to this conference a few years ago and was told that through-out the seminar/conference, we would be receiving ANOTHER seminar/lesson, but it was going to be delivered a bit different. I remember thinking What, Huh, Whatever...I paid my money. LOL So about a quarter of the way through the seminar when my butt kept going to sleep, my water was empty, and I noticed there was a change in the temperature of the room, I started to get, well...done. Yes, I was still interested in what he had to say, but I couldn't get my body comfortable... Yes, oh yes, I felt like one of my students. I'm setting there switching from butt-cheek to butt-cheek trying to get comfortable, FORCING my mind to get tuned in and thinking how the heck do they (my students) do this ALL DAY LONG? You called it...I needed a brain break (or maybe a butt break)! About NO JOKE 5 minutes later...the dude just stops and says "You know what folks, I need a break." I was thinking so does my butt. He introduces this other "speaker" and I'm like "Hey, hey, hey I NEED A BREAK TOO!" (In my mind...I don't have the cajones to say that out loud!) So yeah, we're all polite and clap (and really thinking...OMG). Really I am thinking, "Go away. I need to stand, I need to re-adjust, I need to talk. I need to just...do something else." And...that is exactly what we did. He stands us up and makes us stretch and WHILE we're stretching HE TEACHES US...about what we are doing. He tells us that we could teach VOCABULARY everyday with brain breaks...we could teach tiny lessons...we could teach facts of life. Whatever our heart desires. and the state tests. Blah :/ I instantly thought of my reflexive unit where I teach the verbs: Wake up, Go to bed, Shower, Wash, Stretch, etc. This is brilliant. We could be pretending to do the action. He then tells us that he wants us to interact, but we MUST move from our space to the next ACTING like an animal. Oh my goodness! It was a blast! So...a genius idea came up to me...what if I had a little poster that had the names of popular Spanish animals and the kids could do this EXACT same thing...except yell out every animal sound with what they are doing. Example would be: Neigh....caballo....neigh....caballo....neigh OR mooo...vaca....mooo....vaca...I was loving it. We went to "visit" a new friend & he gave us a very strict talking assignment. Talk about how we liked the conference so far, and what needed improvement. I met a new friend named Wanda. She was so sweet. She game me a piece of candy from her purse. Reminded me of my nana a bit. But anyways, we talked about our experience at the conference. I didn't mention my butt but I did say I was getting a bit "tired" I noticed something while we were talking... There were little ladies & men walking around just wandering...Ah hah, they were from the conference. Cheaters. Trying to hear what we thought of the conference. Then it hit me...this could be ME. I could give the kids a SILLY and FUN talking assignment and do the same. This would be presented as a break but really it's continually giving formative assessment to my kids. And it doesn't have to be some serious assignment. It could be goofy: "Think of all the Spanish Item Vocabulary you know...what would you take on an island." Everything you name, you can take, if you can't think of it in Spanish, you can't take it" BRILLIANT! I ran back to my seat (as a chicken), got out my notebook, noticed my water glass had been refilled, wrote down my ideas real quick, and was re-inspired (and really freaking excited to take this back to my classroom)! Brain Breaks! So...here is a list of all Spanish Brain Breaks you can do in your classroom. Honestly, you could take a WHOLE Friday (maybe a day when there is a large field trip and attendance is low) and JUST DO BRAIN BREAKS! Okay, here's the list: 1. Dance to Commands. Play an instrumental song and make the kids dance to action commands. 2. Dance to "Anywhere a Mouse Can Go". Once again, put on an instrumental song and have them do actions (dance moves) of the Spanish you are saying: Encima, al lado de, cerca, cerca, cerca, etc. 3. Harry Potter Wand Command (Duck & Hide): This is a fun one I thought of & my kids LOVE IT! So the kids are all walking around (you must walk) and trying to HIDE from spells. So when I say "Vaya" if a kid can cast a command at another kid before he gets down behind a desk (or behind a cabinet), they must continually do that command for the remainder of the brain break. Come, Bebe, Habla, Grita, Escribe, Etc. 4. Command Stretch. This is the example I gave up above about acting out the reflexive verb unit. 5. Animal Sounds. This is the example I gave up above about acting like an animal. 6. 4 seconds to answer & sit. So the students are all walking around. When I yell "Pregunta" (out of no where) the kids have to ask the person closest to them a question. If the one who didn't ask can't answer in 4 seconds, the "responder" has to sit. So basically, you want to always have a question ready. Oh, and I will tell the kids "Como te llamas" is OFF limits after the first couple rounds then De donde eres is off LIMITS, etc. If a partner asks a question off limits...they are out. It will come down to just a few standing. 7. Complete the pattern. This is the same concept as above of just walking around but when I said "Continua" the kids will say a number pattern "veinte, veintidos, veinticuatro..." and then the other partner must complete. If they can't immediately, they are out. IF they can, they stay standing. 8. How is the food. This goes along with our "estar" and descriptions of food. The kids walk around acting the way their food is. Example, if spicy...they may be waving their hands and have their tongue hanging out. When I say "estima" the kids have to guess how the food is "La hamburguesa esta picante" If they get it wrong, they have to sit. By the way: the games with elimination where the kids SIT when out, they became police. So if they see someone not doing something, or just trying to stay under the radar, they can police them, and have them sit! These are just a few we play. You can use these as actual class game OR you can use them as quick brain breaks. The possibilities are endless!!! Hope you guys can get some great Brain Breaks (Butt Breaks) in this year! God Bless, Brittany B.
Let's all raise our hands if we have attempted 50 billion seating arrangements in our classroom? That's right...every hand should be up. I don't know about you all but for me, searching for the perfect seating arrangement is like searching for the secret formula for success in my classroom. Anybody else agree?! IF I just get them to sit like this, then this will be better, and that will improve, and this, and that. And...I'm tired. Sound familiar? Anyways...I have been through the loop & back trying out different seating arrangements...I've done rows, I've done groups, I've done the horseshoe, I've done what's called the "butterfly"...you name it. But...there was ONE in particular that was definitely memorable and my favorite. That...was groups. Groups of 6. Now why did I change it if it was working? Well, at this time I had eliminated my desks and had little to no desks in the room. I decided to get rid of my 2nd hand furniture due to stuff breaking, fighting over the furniture, the littering in the couch seats, etc. I was done. BUT...I SHOULDN'T have been done with groups, COUNTRIES that is...they worked! So this year, I will be bringing back the countries, and I will be bringing back the groups. Honestly at 8 years of teaching Spanish...I am tired of being a walking dictionary. I feel like allowing the kids to be in groups makes me LESS of a walking dictionary. So I'm getting to the culture part...I promise...but before we do, let's take a look at the pros & cons of group seating: Pros: 1. Teacher is LESS of a walking dictionary. "ASK YOUR GROUP" goes a long way. 2. They get to teach each other. Isn't teaching something truly learning it the best? 3. They are less likely to get bored. 4. The desks are actually easier to maintain because they are all squished up against each other. 5. Relationships are built and cliques are separated. 6. They are more likely to TRULY speak Spanish & interact. Cons: 1. Cheating, cheating, cheating. Solution: Folder tents during assessments. 2. Maybe too much talking? Solution: Be strict when direct-teaching & monitor work progression while they are completing assignments. 3. Drama? Well, mine are high schoolers and like adding weight around Christmas....IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN! LOL Once I added the pros & cons, I realized that groups will do me so much better. Sooo...I'm not just stopping at groups. I'm building on it. I'm making them be apart of COUNTRIES...SPANISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES. They will compete with one another, help each other, earn rewards, get to dress in their country colors on certain days, get to research places within their culture, and embrace their "country" So on the first day of school, they will see the image below on the projector & find their name:
Every person will be apart of a country & will sit where their number is. This is what the tag looks like:
With these little tags alone, they are learning the flag, country, nationality term, and "soy" (which we know they will ask the first day).
I do plan on switching up countries 1/2 way through the trimester so they'll get to learn more about another Spanish speaking country, but I am so excited to re-introduce this.
PLUS, when you play games...the kids are already in groups! We also did a thing were we would have "embassy" workers that were allowed to represent their countries while VISITING other countries. This is where the numbers come in on the desk tags.
I will laminate the tags & keep two sets, just in case some little booger tries to steal the desk tag, I can easily replace it. Feel free to steal my idea. If you would like to purchase my desks tags, the product is below: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Spanish-Country-Desk-Flag-Tags-3187622 Feel free to create your own that represent your own favorite Spanish speaking countries. Hasta luego mis amigos! Brittany B.
So I had the pleasure of attending AP training when I began teaching AP Spanish 6 years ago. I absolutely loved getting to talk to other language teachers, and see how they ran their classrooms.
One very common practice was...AP Summer Homework. I remember saying, "Wait...we need to give AP Summer Homework?" I remember every head turning to look at me in awe; as if...did this chick just say that?
One really sweet gentleman spoke up and said, "This test is incredibly hard. We need to make sure our students continue learning and don't lose any grammar, vocabulary, idiomatic phrases, and more. Summer homework really pushes the kids to keep going."
So...after the training I went home and started preparing my first AP summer homework packet..hmm...
Ok, honestly....the very first year that I prepared the AP summer homework packet, it was awful. Horrible. Pointless.
To be honest, I really didn't understand what the students should be doing in the summer. I didn't understand the three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational.
Four years later, I finally figured out summer homework that actually increased my students ability to be conversational speakers and to grow their skills.
I learned how to give assignments that reflected listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
When I prepared this final homework bundle, I handed it out to my students and waited for their reaction. Believe it or not...I was shocked. They were actually kind of "excited" to start on the homework.
So this is my secret: if you want your students to be enthusiastic and open minded about summer homework, you must make all the tasks "doable"
There is a very fine line of being challenged and being overly challenge to where you feel defeated.
In the past, it took it too far. I was assigning actual AP work but yet my kids hadn't had a day of the AP Spanish class. They didn't know the trick, the patterns, or even a grasp on the various grammatical concepts.
I can finally say that I have summer homework that I am extremely proud of, and can see SUCCESS for the past couple years.
It took a lot of research and work to prepare, but I can tell when my students return their skills are still intact.
They still remember the conditional, future, present, etc. They still know the difference between imperfect & preterite. Their listening skills are strong, and basic conversation has not been lost.
So my final thoughts are... don't be scared to assign summer homework. Start small and build on a full bundle that you are proud of.
Think...will my assignments help my kids conquer AP or are the kids doing busy work? My first few years it was pure busy work, and on top of that, it was freaking hard busy work.
Here are some basic benefits of assigning summer homework:
1. Continuation of practicing skills
2. Sets the tone that the class is rigorous.
3. Can weed out kids that don't want to take it seriously.
4. Forces the kids to make Spanish apart of their life.
5. On the road to fluency.
I have included a link to my Summer Homework for AP Spanish below if you would like to just buy mine:
Check out my video below that describes a really fun way to practice verb conjugations! This is a student favorite & you'll hear why in the video.
I use this game with all levels, and it can be used with ANY verb. It actually could be used with subject pronouns, and even question words. I was actually observed (walk-through) while playing this game & my principal couldn't say enough awesome things about engagement, whole student-learning, accountability, & some other $10 words. He even brought it up at a staff meeting which made me turn lobster red (but it was all good). :) lol
I am going to put the link down below of the game that you all can purchase if you would like to avoid the creation process. It comes with everything you need to know to play plus all the cards that can be edited for any & all verbs.
You could create this game yourself using flash cards if you wanted. This document could also be used with other languages besides Spanish, possibility even other subjects.
So while I have been home on maternity, I am not going to lie and say I haven't thought about my job. As a matter of fact, it's actually gave me some pretty good "Pinteresting Time" When you have a baby that's not content...unless he is held, & your 3-year old wants to snuggle on you, let's just say...I've gotten some good "recliner cuddle time" & done a little pinteresting on my phone while they sleep & watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse all.day.long!!!
Back to my confession...so I have ALWAYS been jealous of elementary teachers because of the "details"...Their fun activities, their AWESOME classrooms, their limited number of students, but the one thing I am jealous of is the "diversity" and "variety" in one school day!
They have "around" 25 kiddos and with those kids...they do math, art, music, science, reading, etc. (sigh)
I wish as a (high school) teacher sometimes I could "branch" out & yes, do some of the awesome activities that elementary kids get to do while relating to my own subject area.
I was actually having this conversation with a friend/colleague. We discussed what would our kids do if we treated them like elementary kids with respect to the diversity & activities?
We came to one conclusion...they would probably LOVE it!
I don't get it...in elementary school...the engagement is high, it's hands on, it's so diversified!
Then you get to high school and it is desks in rows, note-taking and tests. Where did the fun go?
Where did the excitement for learning? Did anybody else LOVE elementary school? I know I did, and I rocked it!
I was the best alphabet finger painter around! I know elementary education is WAY more than this, just a little fun pun :)
But back to topic: so if you're reading this blog post...you are "probably" a world language teacher and if not, you're awesome for checking it out. (You're awesome no matter what you teach or don't teach, by the way)!
Think about it...world language teachers, if we were to take our language content level into consideration...we are "kind of" teaching elementary school, right? So shouldn't we be able to do some of the awesome, diversified activities that elementary does?
(Sigh again)...So here is my dream, you ready...............
I wish that everyday when students entered my classroom, they had variety at their fingertips in 70 minutes.
I want my classroom to represent "different" areas of learning: listening practice, speaking practice, culture, grammar & mechanics, writing fun, and reading experiences, etc.
I want them to have a known routine so when they enter, they dive in quickly in 70 minutes.
I want them to have every minute used for authentic & meaningful hands-on activities.
I want to teach using props, using conversations, using each other!
I want color, I want pictures, I want technology, I want resources!
I want laughter, I want silliness, I want time to pass quickly, not because I'm bored or they are, but because we are involved, engaged, and having fun & lost track of time!
Anybody else getting excited reading this?! No, just me?! LOL
Anyways, why can't we make small changes to add this type of learning into our HIGH SCHOOL classes?!
We can have this TOO! Is it harder for us? Ab-so-freaking-lutely!
Does it involve switching up the whole "high-school traditional style learning"? Yep, and it's a step-by-step process. It can't be done in a day, week, or even a whole school-year.
But we can make steps to bring back that engagement & that "love" of learning!
One thing that gets me inspired is sometimes to "look" at elementary classroom pictures, their activities, and their schedule of how they do things! I instantly try to "convert" it into something that would work for my own classroom.
Let me clarify one thing: I DO NOT want to be an elementary school teacher. I know it sounds like it...but no, I promise! I love my high-schoolers and my content! It's just...I want that "spirit"!!!
Below you will find some of my inspiration & ideas. Check out pics of these lovely classrooms that "represent" diversified areas of learning & some activities that can be converted to high school.
Task Drawers Using Hands-On Props
You could have directions/tasks in target language that challenges students to follow directions using the items?
This could be used to have all kinds of target language adjectives. Think of all the possibilities/tasks you could do with this door/area alone?!?! Also, the students could be the ones who make it...that is a great station activity!
Brain Break Cards
I can think of so many possibilities...Spanglish task cards, finish early tasks, whole class Spanish language brain breaks, vocabulary run-though brain breaks, ahhh, the possibilities are out there people!!!
Today's Word or Phrase
Instead of today's "number"...it could be today's word or phrase. Use it with a friend, build a conversation, create a scene in writing or act out (and video record)...so many cool activities! This could be one of "many" variety options for a bell-ringers or station activities.
Telling Time - Target Language Phrases
You could TOTALLY take this activity and just convert it to target language "Son las dos y veinte"(that means 2:20 in Spanish) & match with the egg-clock! Awesome hands-on activity!
Think of all the "scenarios" you could do with writing practice. "Everyday I....(create sentences)"..."On the weekends I...(Create sentences), so many neat things to write about.
Read & Sort
Read and sort...you could do the different tenses "Present, Past, Future, etc." or lower level ideas: Sports, Family Members, Verbs. The students could write the English & Spanish on a writing sheet & put into a sentence.
Okay, now that you have seen some cool activities...check out these classrooms to die for:
Hope you all enjoyed today's "Guilty Confession" & maybe got the brain stirring a bit :)