Ease into the New Year

One of the most frequently asked questions when I present a workshop is “What do you do the first few days of school?”

I like to spend that time getting to know my students! When I began the year with textbook handouts and rule sheets, all those bright, enthusiastic eyes that had come in ready to learn a little Spanish left the room a little duller! I know my students already know the rules so I just hand out the syllabus and dive right in!

In our district, Spanish 1 begins with a traditional round of “Circling with Balls” (as Ben Slavic called it) or “Card Talk” (from Tina Hargaden, I believe). I saw Ben do a demo of Circling with Balls when I was just transitioning to teaching for proficiency and it was such a cool way to get to know the kids and build a foundation of classroom language before starting our first unit!

As students enter the room, they see folded construction paper name tags in their seats. This makes seat assignment a BREEZE and gets them started working right away! Their job is to draw a picture of something they love to do. (Ben said so many draw sports balls that he called it circling with balls, I prefer calling it card talk because balls makes kids laugh).

We spend at least 5 days and often 7 or 8 using these drawings to learn about students in the class. Some things we learn are facts, some are completely made up. The foundational vocabulary we build is second to the community we build making up these stories about each student!

Ready to go for day 1!

In Spanish 2 we go for a spin on the Spanish 1 card talk by discussing things we did over the summer. Each student can draw 1-3 things that they did and we discuss each kid one by one. It’s a great way to ease into discussing things that happened in the past!

In Spanish 3 we set goals for the school year. Each student draws 2-3 goals they have for the new year and we use the future tense to discuss all the things that we WILL do.

In Spanish 4, we do if/then statements. “If I were ____, I would ____”.

One little activity can be adapted in so many ways to make it novel and engaging at many levels. And never underestimate the power that a community builder like this has in your classroom! When students laugh with you, they listen to you!

I have 2 weeks left of summer but I’m already looking forward to meeting this new group of students… no matter how weird 2021-22 turns out to be. At this point, abnormal has become expected!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at gmail.com.

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