Inside: back-to-school ideas: Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans
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.
(**Update:** I wrote this post in a flurry of tossing my Spanish textbook and moving toward CI-based teaching. I define our classroom as “proficiency-based and comprehensible input-driven.” Since writing this post, I’ve relaxed a bit. The gist is really this: focus on high frequency structures. Communicate expectations. Make them feel welcome.)
I so appreciate other teachers sharing their process (see my giant round-up of back-to-Spanish activities and plans), so in this post I’m outlining my first two weeks. You also might want to click over to my post on Spanish classrooms tours to see how other teachers set up and organize their rooms.
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 aiming for 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. Mine aren’t fancy and don’t require much cutting. They’re where we record bell-ringers and store our written input (stories, authentic songs) and the bit of explicit grammar we do near the end of the year.
Unit 1: Our Classroom & Nuevos Amigos
Essential Questions: Who is here? Who am I? 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.
Language: Greetings, introductions, classroom objects, chico/a, tener, ser, hay, numbers, decir, gustar.
Here is an overview of the first two weeks, day by day:
(Brain Breaks as needed: Listen to Puedo Ir al Baño/ play Mano Nerviosa.)
Day 1: Learn names, give/get a feel for class. ¿Cómo te llamas?, me llamo, and se llama (“Circling with Balls”– chatting in the TL about our students)
Day 2: Get to know each each other more. Review se llama, and introduce hay, chico, chica, and le gusta as a guessing games, begin special person interviews.
Day 3: Talk in English about the course and prep interactive notebooks, briefly. Introduce proficiency levels and talk about grades
Day 4: Get familiar with some common objects to maintain TL in class. Tengo, tienes, and a few classroom objects. Continue special person interviews.
Day 5: Review phrases from days 1-4. Games. Ask a story using phrases from days 1-4.
Day 6: Begin Dice Unit & first reading. Read typed-up story from Day 5. Begin Martina Bex Unit 1: Dice, and listen to Los pollitos dicen.
Day 7: Read & understand a short story. Continue with storyasking in Dice Unit. Continue with special person interviews.
Day 8: Sing & understand the chorus of a traditional songs. Continue with Dice Unit, using embedded readings, and work with Los pollitos dicen.
Day 9: Introduce numbers. Continue with special person interviews. Introduce numbers 1-10 and play Mano Nerviosa as brain break or to finish class throughout the week.
Day 10: Review and Assess. Do first FreeWrite assessment. Play games to review.
Materials/ideas I rely heavily for these first two weeks:
Martina Bex’s Dice unit . It is available for free! 2nd week: Me Llamo readings from Martina Bex.
My free activity for Los Pollitos Dicen.
Special Person Interviews from Bryce Hedstrom.
Spanish Class First Two Weeks of Lesson Plans
- I can say my name.
- I can understand when the teacher talks about another student.
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. They 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 and syllabi 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 at the end of class, to end the first day on a high note.
Everyone stands up and we do a bracket vote. By this time, the outer brackets on my board are filled in with drawings of activities my students like. I point to two terms and say ¿Leer (pointing to the left) o Netflix (pointing to the right)? They vote by moving to the left or right side of the room. This is completely input– they just listen and vote. By the end we know what activities are the most popular, I know my students better, and they see how comprehensible class can be.
- I can understand a short story.
- 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.
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.
Closing: If there’s time, we watch Señor Wooly’s Puedo ir al baño.
- I understand class expectations and grades.
- I can identify my proficiency level.
Discussion: Instructions on board indicate that students should skim through ACTFL statements (on chairs) and determine where their skills lie. 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 do a brief discussion on my grading scheme, too. The most important thing is for them to understand that most quizzes and grades are unannounced. This isn’t a class based on memorization or cramming the night before! Being fully engaged in class and letting me know when they don’t understand is their main job.
I also use this day to assemble out interactive notebooks. This takes about half the class period, but it saves us a ton of time the rest of the year.
(Prep and attach):
We listen to Puedo ir al baño and Tengo tu love while working, as “tengo” and “tiene” are coming up the next day.
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
- 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 un chico muy preparado. Es creativo. Un chico se llama David. Es un chico 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 one 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.
- 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 games, 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 Martina Bex’s Me Llamo texts.
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: Me llamo readings.
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.) 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.
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
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.