I finally feel confident about my plans for the first three weeks of Spanish I! After a year of intense research and reading, I tossed our textbook and formulated a (developing) personal philosophy of teaching Spanish. I define our classroom as “proficiency-based and comprehensible input-driven.” My use of TPRS, IPAs, authentic resources, interactive notebooks, and other tools will probably change over the next few years. I haven’t quite nailed down what I think about it all. But for the first time, I can at least articulate how I believe student acquire language and grow.
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. Please keep in mind that I have smaller class sizes and most of my students have exposure to Spanish on some level by the time they get to me. If your students are brand new, this might be content to spread over three weeks. Hope it helps!
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 quotes 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.
I use interactive notebooks, and the students also have a slim 1/2 -inch binder for lyrics, typed stories, free writes, and other full-page content. 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.
Daily Plans: You will definitely need to adjust these, because I teach at a university-model school: my students study at home Wednesday and Friday. I lament this while planning, and love it when I’m in sweatpants reading Se vende gorras at home with my kids at 10am.
(For week 1, I rely heavily on Martina Bex’s Dice unit . It is available for free! I own many of her units and love them.)
- 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, and it will all run together. 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 them, we jump in and communicate expectations as we go.
My twist on Circling with Balls is to project a bracket onto the board and 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 listen to read, and leer goes up on the bracket with the picture of a book.
Icebreaker I: Yep, I do this towards the end of class. If you know me at all, you know I must work in movement or a sort of game if at all possible! I really 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 the corresponding side of the room. I’m
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 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.
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.
Día 3 (my students are home this day)
- I can show how we will use interactive notebooks to track units, bell-ringers, participation, and progress in proficiency.
Assignment: Assemble interactive notebooks and number the pages (following directions posted on school website).
Prep and attach):
- El índice
- ACTFL standards
- Proficiency Rubrics
- Para empezar choice boards
- Beginning of the Year booklet
- Participation rubrics
Listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love while working.
- 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.
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.
Día 5 (my students are home this day)
- I can express what I have and don’t have.
- I can match a short description with familiar words to a drawing.
- I can sing phrases from a short song in Spanish.
Para empezar: Martina Bex’s Dice unit slideshow p. 5 or 6. This is the first time using the interactive notebook for the bell-ringer. Our general procedure will be completing choice boards (freebie) or answering a specific prompt. Today they respond to the slide in the first block.
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. (I think éste/ésta es sounds a bit rude when referring to people, but it is used heavily in TPRS circles. I also prefer chico/a. I teach both so I can use the stories!)
Closing: Show slide 5, 6, or 7 from the Dice plans. This might make for a good exit ticket.
- I can count 1-10.
- 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 slap-it.
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.
Closing: Review dice with p. 20 from the Dice unit.
Día 8 (my students are home this day)
- I can match a description of a scene with a picture.
- I can sing the chorus to a traditional song.
- I can express what classroom objects I have and don’t have.
- I can explain why we are learning Spanish.
Para empezar: Dice unit, slide 11.
Input & storyasking: We do a story about a student who comes to class very unprepared. The teacher keeps asking the student if he has this or that, and the student doesn’t. Twist ending?
Brain break: Quick game of Mano nerviosa.
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.
Día 10 (my students are home this day)
- I can explain why I am learning Spanish.
- I can explain how to rise in proficiency and what I need to do in class.
Assignment: Te presento a readings from the Dice unit. Respond to each question, briefly:
1. How do you think learning Spanish can help you as a person?
2. Where is your proficiency level now? How can you grow in proficiency?
3. State, in your own words, how you can help yourself acquire Spanish this year.
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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