Thursday, August 29, 2019

First Days of School (Back) in the Spanish 1 Classroom

It's been 7 years since I taught Spanish 1, but I'm happy to report that I'm back in the Spanish 1 classroom and enjoying the newness of the language to the students and the way they are soaking it up.

Last year I asked my administrators if I could teach a few level 1 classes again to revisit the curriculum. They obliged me and for the fall semester I have three Spanish 1 classes and one Spanish 4 class. 

I searched for and found my old lesson plans on my computer, and I was obvious they needed some serious updating. I pulled a little something from here, an idea from there, and voila, the first four days went 10x smoother than I could have hoped for. It went so well, in fact, that even though I haven't been documenting much on my blog in the last year or so, I felt I had to share in case  the lessons may be useful to others. 

Following is a summary of my plans for 70 minute classes for Spanish 1.


1. First day intro, brief syllabus/expectations
2. Explained call back: Hola Hola Inca Kola (idea from Annabelle Williamson)
3. On construction paper, students wrote their name and something they want
4. Teacher questions in Spanish and students answers in English or si or no

    I questioned a few students about their cards, asking them what they want, showing it to the class, asking if they already have that item, which other students have that item, how many/much of the item they want, etc'
     In the first class, I started with a student that had drawn the money symbol. Just as in normal conversation, the student's answer led to another question, followed by another answer, which took us in another direction, and on and on it went. I only discussed the information on 3 students' cards because the questions and answers flowed so easily and the students were engaged. At least one student in the other classes also drew money so I asked similar questions in those classes too. 
     Keeping the conversation in Spanish involved framing my questions with cognates, writing key words in Spanish & English on the board, pointing and pausing at the question words, sketching, clarifying, comprehension checks, and all the other tricks we have to remain in the Target Language while still be comprehensible.
     The conversation allowed for many repetitions in context of the words: quiere(s), tiene(s), es, está PLUS interrogatives

5. WRITE & DISCUSS: I asked students questions about the conversations and wrote the information on the board. We read the sentences when finished (4 or 5 sentences) and then students copied it into their notebooks.


1. Chatted about Day 1, the first day of school, for 10. Once again, it was in the TL. I asked students what classes they have, recycling tiene (has), which class in their opinion will be the easiest or the most difficult, who the teachers were, etc.
2.  I asked students to READ the sentences we wrote yesterday and I wrote them on the board. We reviewed the information in the sentences but other information that we talked about yesterday but did not include in the written sentences, we READ the sentences in English, asked students "which word means X", 
3. Discussed a few other student cards (quiere)
4. WRITE & DISCUSS the new information
5. I used SpanishPlan's powerpoint story "El niño quiere un dragón" for PictureTalk. HERE is the free download on TPT. More recycling of the words quiere, tiene, está and introduced dice. We read each of the slides except the last one. I saved the surprise ending for tomorrow.


1. Warm-up:  

2. Re-read the powerpoint "El niño quiere un dragón"
3. Watched the short video and asked students to explain the surprise ending.
4. Read the last slide of the story "El niño quiere un dragon"
5. Discussed last two slides from SpanishPlans ppt - how much English was used?, what helped them to understand?, etc
6. OWI (One Word Image) explained HERE
7. WRITE & DISCUSS the OWI. Below are the students' masterpieces. 😊

1. Warm-up: I posted a OWI sketch on the board from another class for students to refer to along with 10-12 sentences about the character. They chose 5 Spanish sentences from the descriptions to translate to English. When completed, I read the sentences in Spanish, one by one, and asked for volunteers to tell me in English the translations of the sentences.
2. Reviewed the class' own OWI. If we didn't complete the information that we created yesterday, we did that in WRITE & DISCUSS format. For the class that completed the WRITE & DISCUSS yesterday, we created a story WHY Rico el calcetín was sad and then did a WRITE & DISCUSS.
3. Nineteen years ago (😊) I made two maps of Mexico & Central America & the Caribbean and of South America on poster boards and made Velcro labels of the names of the countries & Puerto Rico and bodies of water. I put the poster of South America on the board and randomly distributed the labels to students. Any student that thought they knew where their country label belonged on the map went put their label on the map (only 1 or 2 per class did this). Then I gave them hints on the answers (examples: think of Argentina as LARGEntina, Uruguay begins with U just as the word "under", as "tucked under" does and Uruguay is tucked under one part of South American; Colombia starts with "C" just as "conectado" does and Colombia está conectado a América Central) and other fun helpful hints. 
     We continued with the map of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
     Teaching the map information in the Target Language is easy. Just remember to slow your rate of speech, write words on the board they don't know (example: país=country; frontera=border; isla=island, norte, sur, oeste, este, isla) point to interrogatives and pause;  
     Recyled tiene, está, es, and a few others that have naturally crept into our discussions the last few days such as pero, con, también   

BRAIN BREAKS - 1 (moving around when labeling the countries provided a mini-brainbreak for students.

I deem this week in Spanish 1 a success! I am so proud of my students. They were engaged and I am delighted with the amount of growth I've seen in that short period of time.  
As I said, I'm sooooo proud of them. 👍🏼

Things to keep in mind:
1. Staying in the target language is definitely doable if you are committed to slowing your speech, adjusting your language and vocabulary for the level of students, pointing and PAUSING - do not forget the pausing please; writing words in Spanish and English, short verbal clarifications/comprehension checks;  

2. Brain Breaks - If you ARE successful in staying in the target language, don't fool yourself into thinking the students can maintain that engagement and focus indefinitely. They N-E-E-D a brain break. It is worth it to pause for 1-3 minutes because they can refocus much better. 

3. If you forget to include brain breaks because YOU are so into your lesson, assign the job to a student to let you know when it is X-o'clock and I can guarantee you the student will not let you forget the brain break.  :)

4. WRITE & DISCUSS is POWERFUL; even more so, in my opinion, when the teacher writes the sentences first, with input from the students (allow them to answer in English but you write in the TL), and only after you finish writing (and reading it and "discussing" the text) should you allow the students to copy the text.

5. OWI (One Word Images) provide rich vocabulary for students and you will get  student buy-in and ownership of the character. ENJOY the process and laugh with the students and encourage and appreciate their creativity.

6. LOOK the students into their eyes. This is my 19th year of teaching and finally...I am able to consistently accomplish this. Making connections is 10x easier when you meet this goal.

7. "Haste makes waste". You can't rush language acquisition, but you can provide comprehensible, enriching language experiences for your students. Guard those precious moments of instructional time and use them to their fullest!