Inside: My back-to-school lesson plans for the first two weeks of Spanish class.
Every year, I forget just how exhausting those first few weeks are. My brain is spinning. I’m in overdrive, trying to make everyone feel welcome –but not smile until December, right? (just kidding)– be utterly consistent, totally organized, and always engaging.
Whew. The truth is, you just do your best. And that will exhaust you. But it does help if you can see what others are doing, and not reinvent the wheel. That’s why I’ve pulled together my Spanish class first two weeks of lesson plans, to give you a jumpstart.
After a year of intense research, I tossed our textbook and formulated a (developing) personal philosophy of teaching Spanish. I define our classroom as “proficiency-based and comprehensible input-driven.”
I so appreciate other teachers sharing their process (looking at you, Mis Clases Locas), so in this post I’m outlining my first two weeks.
Grading, Procedures, and the Syllabus
Changing my why of course changes the how, and so I am overhauling a lot.
I am trading in my old categories of tests, quizzes, classwork, etc. for these five categories: reading, writing, listening, speaking, and work habits. I took this directly from Martina Bex here. She also has a great explanation of her switch to standards based assessment and grading. My actual grading scheme comes from MagisterP, who has amazingly helpful rubrics and ideas. I am choosing the option of 90% proficiency and 10% DEA– that just feels realistic as I start out. For Spanish I, we are shooting to be at Novice-Mid by the end of the year.
It is worth clarifying here that being proficiency-based does not mean looking at the ACTFL standards and working backwards by practicing the the standards. Before, my quizzes tested how much the students had memorized and practiced. I looked at a standard (I can talk about my family members), and we would practice talking about family members. Now, I look at that standard and think about input. What stories will we tell? What music will we listen to? What will we read and what structures do we need? When I do assess, and ask a student about her mother, I am not listening to a memorized paragraph and marking errors. I am letting her use what she has internalized to tell me about her mother. This will let me see her actual proficiency, not how hard she studied the paragraph the night before.
“In an effective classroom students should not only know what they are doing, they should also know why and how.” – Harry Wong
This is syllabus I project onto the board the night the parents meet me for back-to-school night:
(The eyes and ears part is quoted from Musicuentos, and the Can-Do’s are modified from the ACTFL standards.) I give a different, black and white syllabus to the students that outlines our specific procedures and rules. Many of those are school-wide and we work through all of them over the first 2-3 weeks. I love this handout from Bryce Hedstrom for procedures. Also, this free syllabus template from Creative Language Class is awesome.
I use interactive notebooks. They record bell-ringers, can-do statements, notes, target structures, and more in their interactive notebooks.
Unit 1: Our Classroom & Nuevos Amigos
Essential Questions: Who is here? Why learn Spanish? How do I get what I need in class, in the target language?
- I can greet and meet others.
- I can get materials and information I need in the TL.
- I can explain why we are here, what I can expect in class, and what is expected of me.
Assessment: Ehhh… don’t have this figured out yet. Something informal, maybe.
Language: Greetings, introductions, classroom objects, chico, chica, tener, ser, hay, numbers, decir, some TPR commands.
Here is an overview of the first two weeks, day by day:
Day 1: ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama (Circling with Balls)
Day 2: Introduce proficiency levels. Review se llama, and introduce hay, chico, chica, and le gusta for brief personalized storytelling.
Day 3: Prep interactive notebooks. (Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love.)
Day 4: Tengo, tienes, and classroom objects. (Play card games with classroom objects images.)
Day 5: Review classroom objects with games. Ask a story using structures from Days 1-4.
Day 6: Read story from Day 5. Begin Martina Bex Unit 1: Dice, recording the 3 targets in notebooks and listening to Los pollitos dicen.
Day 7: Continue with storyasking in Dice Unit. Introduce numbers 1-10 and play games as brain breaks.
Day 8: Continue with Dice Unit, using embedded readings, and work with Los pollitos dicen.
Day 9: Do the Te presento a reading from the Dice Unit, and teach numbers 1-10. Play Mano Nerviosa.
Day 10: Do first FreeWrite assessment, and have discussion in English on class objectives. proficiency, and expectations.
(For week 2, I rely heavily on Martina Bex’s Dice unit . It is available for free! I own many of her units and love them.)
Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans
- I can describe what I need to do in class during a group activity in the TL.
- I can say my name.
Bienvenidos: Greet students at the door and have some songs on Spanish playing in background. Students find their seat with their name on a post-it note. Follow instructions on board to choose a name from a list of Spanish names, cross it off when chosen, and make these name tags and drawings to prep Circling with Balls activity (my student must draw two activities).
Introductions: Circling With Balls from Ben Slavic. I use this to introduce ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama. I start with myself to model.
Like he suggests, I have my classroom rules posted in class and point to them as needed. I figure the students are overwhelmed discussing rules in every class,Better just to pinpoint several main things: stay in the TL, give me your eyes and ears, and know that I care about you. Rather than lecturing, we jump in and communicate expectations as we go.
My twist on Circling with Balls is to project a bracket onto the board. I record their responses on the board with a quick sketch. I already have some common activities typed up with a picture, and simply place them on the board as we go. Someone likes to read, and leer goes up on the bracket as a picture of a book.
Icebreaker: I do this towards the end of class, as I like to end the first day on a high note as well.
I have everyone stand up and we do a bracket vote. By this time, the outer brackets are filled in with activities my students like. They all have little drawings next to them– everything is clear and comprehensible. I call out and point to two terms, and they vote by moving to either side of the room. This is completely input– they just listen and vote.
(Keep in mind that my class sizes are on the small side. You might spread this over two days. The Cognates Game II is a simpler version that could work as well, since the terms have pictures.)
Closing: If there’s time, we watch Señor Wooly’s Puedo ir al baño.
- I can identify my proficiency level and where I want to be.
- I can say other names in our class.
Para empezar: Greet students at the door. Have names from the day before in chairs to indicate seating. Instructions on board indicate that students should skim through ACTFL statements (on chairs) and determine where their skills lie.
Input: (Prep: using the name cards from day 1, type up short statements about several students in the class and project them onto the board, using cognates as well.) Write hay, chico, chica, and le gusta on the board and sketch/write the meanings. Then, describe one of the students.
Hay una chica. Es MUY atlética. Le gusta jugar al voleibol. (With picture clue.) ¿Cómo se llama?
Call on students, having them guess who it is. After several repetitions, call up an outgoing student and ask the class, and story-tell about them. ¿Cómo se llama? ¡Es MUY atractiva! Remember to be super complimentary. I start with this to reinforce expectations of procedures and TL use, and get in some more se llama reps. It is short, though- the focus for today is understanding proficiency levels.
Icebreaker II/Brain Break: This is to prep our discussion of proficiency. We play a short game of Celebrities OR use the Proficiency & tacos activity. The icebreaker from the day before has given me a good idea of what this group can handle.
Discussion: Discuss what proficiency in Spanish means. Review ACTFL standards briefly, and pass out rubrics to show how students will be evaluated, and where we’re going.
- I can show how we will use interactive notebooks to track input and progress in proficiency.
Assignment: Assemble interactive notebooks and number the pages.
(Prep and attach):
Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love while working.
Here’s an overview of how I organize our notebooks:
- I can get materials in the TL.
- I can express what materials I have and don’t have.
Para empezar: Copy classroom objects terms into INB Beginning of the Year booklet page.
Input: Write tienes and tengo on the board. Listen to Tengo tu love, zeroing in on tengo. (There a reference– a negative one– to a table dance in the song. I avoid that part, but for some of you it may mean not using this song.)
Game/Interpersonal activity: Work on classroom objects. I teach these right away, because I want to be able to give instructions in the TL. My students tend to know a lot of the words already (profesor, estudiante, la mesa, el libro). Depending on time and what they already know, we do several of these options:
- Do Yo tengo, ¿quién tiene? (freebie) with Classroom Objects
- Review se llama with pictures or actual objects
- Hand out picture card or actual objects and ask ¿Tienes ____? They answer Sí, tengo. or No, no tengo.
- Play Slap–it with picture cards or Flyswatter with pictures on the board.
- Play Go Fish, using tienes/tengo . If my student already know a bit of Spanish, I use this one. Otherwise, I spread out these activities over the next few days.
- I can express what I have and don’t have.
- I can match a short description with familiar words to a drawing.
Input: Listen to Tengo tu love and complete the accompanying worksheet.
Read the Classroom objects worksheet and sketch what you understand.
Do first storyasking about an unprepared student who comes to class woefully unprepared.
(It can be hard for me to tell an engaging story with so little vocabulary at this point. It helps A LOT to have some funny props– a giant pencil and paper, for example, a little halo to put on the prepared student, a fake bathroom set up etc. I choose several outgoing students to act out the story we come up with as a class, and may tell the actors a bit of the background so they know what to do.)
I follow this outline, loosely, after writing dice (says) on the board:
Hay dos chicos. Un chico se llama Miguel. No es muy preparado. Es creativo. Un chico se llama David. Es MUY preparado. No es creativo. Miguel y David tienen la clase de español. Miguel y David están en las sillas.
La profesora dice: – ¿Cómo te llamas?
Miguel dice: – Me llamo Miguel.
La profesora dice: – Hola, Miguel.
David dice: – Me llamo David.
La profesora dice: – Hola, David.
(Teacher writes their names on board.)
La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un lápiz?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un lápiz. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. teléfono, computadora).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!
David dice: – Sí, tengo un lapiz.
La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)
La profesora dice: – ¿Tienen un papel?
Miguel dice: – No, no tengo un papel. Tengo un ________ (funny cognate…. foto, tablet).
La profesora dice: – ¡Ay, no!
David dice: – Sí, tengo un papel.
La profesora dice: – ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel a sad face and David a happy face on the board.)
Miguel dice: – Profe, ¿puedo ir al baño?
La profesora dice: – Sí.
(Miguel runs to the “bathroom” and grabs some toilet paper.
Miguel dice: ¡Profe! ¡Tengo papel!
La profesora dice: – ¡Jajajaja! ¡Muy bien, David!
(Teacher gives Miguel 10 smiley faces because he is creative.)
- I can sing phrases from a short authentic song in Spanish.
Input: Give students the typed story from Friday, with some questions in English. Go over their answers briefly.
Para empezar: Use Martina Bex’s Dice unit slideshow p. 5 or 6. This is the first time using the interactive notebook for the bell-ringer, and I go over the procedure. I just have a paper with nine blank boxes, and they use block a day.
Input: Introduce Los pollitos dicen, using elements from Days 1 and 2 in Dice unit.
Brain break: Review classroom objects. Have the students stand up and touch the objects you say (la mesa, el lápiz, etc), play Slap-it.
Storyasking: Students copy down éste/ésta es, un muchacho/a, and dice into the notebooks using flip-flaps like the ones below.
Closing: Show slide 5, 6, or 7 from the Dice plans. This might make for a good exit ticket.
- I can ask someone else what their name is.
Para empezar: Dice unit, slide 8 or 9.
Input & storyasking: Do storyasking from Dice unit p. 19. We don’t copy the structures as we know them from week one.
Brain break: Review classroom objects with gamest, or choose a song to listen to.
Closing: Review dice with p. 20 from the Dice unit.
- I can match a description of a scene with a picture.
- I can sing the chorus to a traditional song.
Input: Me llamo embedded readings from the Dice unit.
Interpretive Listening: Listen to Los pollitos, using this free Los pollitos dicen activity sheet. This song has many high-frequency structures, and we’ll come back to it throughout the year.
Brain Break: Review classroom objects with games, or choose a song to listen to.
- I can learn other’s names.
- I can count 1-10.
Para empezar: Dice unit, slide 11.
Input: Te presento a readings from the Dice unit.
Game: I like to teach numbers early on because most of my students can usually rote count and don’t need lots of input on this. We quickly write down the number words in the beginning of the year booklet and play Mano Nerviosa to practice the individual numbers. (Days, months, weather, etc. get added naturally, as we talk about the date or birthdays during La persona especial interviews later.) We just come back to this booklet again and again until it’s full.
Brain break: Classroom objects games.
- I can explain why I am learning Spanish.
- I can explain how to rise in proficiency and what I need to do in class.
Assessment: Do first freewrite for 5-10 minutes. Have the students tell a story without any supporting materials. I emphasize that this one is a FORMATIVE assessment– it will give us a starting place to see where everyone is, and something to compare to as the school progresses.
Discussion: I wait until the end of my intro unit talk about why we’re learning Spanish at all. I used to do this the first day. Then I realized that in the craziness of that first day it would all probably go in one ear and out another. As we close out our mini-unit, we reflect on these first two weeks and digest it all: the how, and then the why. I used to highlight the pragmatic reasons for Spanish: better jobs, higher salaries, improving brain function, etc.. Those are benefits, for sure, but they don’t get to the heart of the matter. I want to make sure to pause and think about how learning a second language makes us better people and touches our souls. We talk about empathy, compassion, friendship, thinking globally, valuing diversity, and caring for others.
Brain Break: Mano nerviosa.
And that’s my tentative plan for starting off the year! Ideally, at this point, our procedures are established and the students can greet and get what they need in Spanish. After Labor Day, we jump into the next unit.
Unit 2: My Immediate World and Who I Am (5-6 weeks)
Essential Questions: What am I like? What do I like to do? What about the others in the room?
- I can describe myself and what I like to do.
- I can describe other students in the class and what they like to do.
- I can explain what fun things I might do today.
Assessment: Quizzes from La persona especial interviews. Perhaps a project.
Language: Sports, hobbies, voy a, vas a, va a, adjectives, estoy, estás, está, le gusta, me gusta, te gusta, article adjectives, ir + infinitive, plural vs. singular
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