5 Ways to Get Your Students Speaking in Spanish

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 / Leave a Comment

5 Guaranteed Ways to Get Your Students Speaking in Spanish

What is the single most important thing that you can do to help your students communicate more effectively in Spanish this year??  

Get them to speak more Spanish in class!  

Believe me, I know how hard this is!  If you're a language teacher, chances are, one of these situations has happened to you.

* Students start a partner activity and you're working with one pair, but hear the other pairs speaking mostly in English. 
* Students whisper to each other in English while you're teaching.
* As soon as your students finish a structured activity, they immediately revert back to English.

As language teachers, this is probably one of our biggest frustrations, right?  

Never fear, here are 5 tried and true strategies to help combat the English invasion in your classroom.

1.  The One Word Method
Write one word on the board in Spanish (try to make it a really long word to start).  Personally, I like to use the Spanish speaking countries and capitals, so I start with Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.  Each time a student speaks English in class, erase a letter.  If the class has any letters left at the end of the period, give them some small reward (an extra point on a quiz, a night without homework, etc.).

If they have lost all their letters, they don't get the reward.  As they get better, use shorter and shorter words and eventually, wean them off of the system all together.

Variation:  If you aren't speaking all in the target language, write the word for yourself on the board.  Each time you speak in English they get to remove a letter.  (Sometimes, we're part of the problem, too).

2.  The Class Competition Method
Tell students that you will be having a competition between all of your classes.  Each time someone speaks English, write a mark next to their class on the board.  The class that has the least checks at the end of the week (or end of the day), gets a small reward.

3.  Speaking Beans
Each student takes 3 dried beans when they enter class.  They keep the beans on their desks.  If you hear them speaking English, don't say anything, just take away a bean.  If they're doing a great job speaking Spanish and staying on task, add a bean to their pile.

At the end of class, all the students put their beans into a community glass jar.  The jar is labeled with certain rewards at certain levels.  Once their beans reach that level, the class gets that reward.  They like seeing how the other classes are doing and competing with them.

Variation:  Give 2 beans and students must earn 3 more beans before they leave class by participating 3 times.  If you notice that certain students don't have beans, ask them questions and do your best to get them to participate.
Tip:  You don't have to do this every day, but may wish to do it several times a week.

4.  The Name Card Method
I use this one with some of my most reluctant learners.  Cut out small squares of colored paper.  Use a different color paper for each different class for easier sorting.  Give each student 3 small squares.  They write their names on each of the squares.

Each time they answer a question or participate in class, they pass a square up to you or you walk by their desk and take it.  They have to hand in all 3 squares by the end of the day.  If they do, they get a plus next to their name on a chart in front of the class.  If they don't, they get a minus.  At any given point, they can make up for a minus by participating 3 extra times (more than their original 3 cards).  These pluses and minuses determine their participation grade for the quarter.

Tip:  After you've given students many chances to volunteer to participate, call on the kids who aren't raising their hands, too.  As long as they are making an attempt to answer the question, take one of their cards.
Tip:  Pick a student each week to sort the cards at the end of class (that way, you won't have to).  Ask for volunteers and tell them that sorting counts as 1 of their participation cards each day.

5.  The Clothespin Method
Students each get one clothespin to wear during class.  Whenever a classmate speaks English, and another student catches them, they take their clothespin.  Anyone who still has a clothespin at the end of class gets to enter his/her name in a raffle for a prize at the end of the week.

Variation:  Award a point on a weekly quiz to everyone who has a tally of at least 5 clothespins at the end of the week.  Keep a clipboard with student names.  Write down how many clothespins each student has as they leave (or have a student helper do this - a different person each day).  The person with the most clothespins gets an additional point or additional raffle entries.

Want more ideas like this?  

Check out this post with 20 tips for getting your students to speak Spanish in class.

Here are a few ideas for individual and class rewards:

Individual Reward Ideas:
* Extra Point on a Quiz
* Free Homework Pass
* Switch Seats with Anyone Coupon
* Late Assignment Pass (Only 1 Day)
* Ask the Teacher for an Answer on a Test

Class Reward Ideas:
* Choose Your Own Seats for the Week
* Free Homework Pass
* Night without Homework
* Listen to Music While We Work
* Class Walk (Go for a stroll outside on a nice day, but still speak in Spanish)

If you're looking for more prize ideas, check out:  

Hope you found this helpful.  
Would love to hear your ideas for getting students to speak in class! 
 Please share in the comments section.  

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Bellringers: Stress-Free Ideas for the World Language Classroom

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 / 1 comment

Bellringers. I think there are some magic teachers who've found a way to start class without them. If that's you, awesome!

For the rest of us, bellringers are a must while we manage attendance, tardies, and questions.

(Profe, I'll be gone next week-- can you give me all the work I'll miss? The end of the quarter is tomorrow, and I was wondering if I could do some extra credit. Profe, I did my homework, but I left it at home, but I've got a picture of it my mom just sent me...)  You know.

With a good morning routine, students know you are ready and expect them to get busy, right away. Today, I have some tips for streamlining the process and creating meaningful bellringers.

First off, I know I'm not interested another stack of papers to grade (who is??). So I've mainly gathered input-focused tasks. These bellringers focus on absorption of the language, with only a minimal response required. Student attention is high in those first 5-10 minutes: let's get compelling language going the minute they walk in the door.
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CONNECT FOUR: Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 / 1 comment
Hi everyone! I'm pleased to introduce you to our guest bloggers this week, Granabana created by Sol y Mar. You're probably already aware of Granabana because these two women have been creating innovative resources to share with others for quite some time! Over the summer they presented a conference for World Language teachers and we're so glad to be able to share part of that conference with you here today! We hope you enjoy this fun idea!

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

We, as Sra.Sol y Mar, creators of Granabana, facilitated a workshop in August we called CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.  If you thought you had missed a Summer conference, think again! for we bring you a portion of it today courtesy of Secondary Spanish Space!


This activity is effective for incorporating interpersonal speaking skills and technology into your curriculum and can be modified across all subjects and levels.

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

How does it work?

1.  Create a set of powerpoint slides to facilitate conversation of an appropriate level and theme for your group.  Each slide should have an open-ended question on it.  Students are given 20 seconds to answer each question, so include enough questions to fill as much time as you would like.

2.  Arrange the students' desks into rows so everyone can see the slides, and can still move easily into another desk.  For higher level classes, you might decide to only let the student who is reading the questions see them, so that their partner is required to listen closely.

3.  Start the timer.  ALL students read the question chorally to ensure 100% active engagement.  Row B answers and elaborates to fill the 20 seconds which is the time allotted for the Simulated Conversation in the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam.  Encourage students to use transition words, idiomatic expressions and their best higher level vocabulary.

4.  After 2-3 questions, students rotate partners in the direction of the arrows.

Here’s a diagram of a possible seat arrangement:
CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.
Note that the blue arrows are rows for students to move to their next seat and next partner.

Some tips:

  • Allow students to feel comfortable by starting slowly, allowing previous practice in pairs and small groups. 
  • You can help students feel prepared by posing a question on the powerpoint slide, allowing for think time, then collaborating as an entire class to create an answer together on the board.  
  • Encourage elaboration by modeling. Should you observe a student needing help, share some of the questions ahead of time to further lower the filter.
  • Decide how many rows and how many desks in each row you will have depending on the number of students.  
  • Remind students to sit up, feet on the ground lean forward, and make eye contact.
  • You may have a student click on the slide and/or the timer and then incorporate into the game.
  • The facilitator calls the letter of the row who is asking/answering questions.

Here are example slides we used at the end of the year with a beginning level class learning the preterite tense and a slide we used last week in the beginning of the year with an AP class.  The 20 second timer is embedded in the slide.

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

We hope this first idea inspires you in your teaching this year! We look forward to sharing more fun and innovative ideas from our Professional Development presentation with you right here on Secondary Spanish Space!

CONNECT FOUR:  Integrating Technology and Best Practices in 4 Language Abilities in the Secondary Classroom.

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Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish class

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Each year the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage month from September 15 to October 15. As Spanish teachers this is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the varied cultures, histories, and contributions of Americans with Spanish speaking heritage. To be honest, in the past I have not done the best job making Hispanic Heritage month a priority. With the back to school hustle and trying to start the year off right, the month of September often flies by and suddenly it is October and time for Día de los Muertos. Here are many resources to put culture at the core of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage Month in Spanish class - Secondary Spanish Space

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Back to Spanish Class: Transition Tip for Any Secondary Classroom

Tuesday, September 5, 2017 / 2 comments

If you haven't figured out by now, I love using games, task cards, and hands-on activities in my secondary classroom. I like how they lend themselves to collaboration and community building, all while having fun and learning. Research shows a teenager's attention span is about 10 minutes so I move my students around a lot while we do these activities. Plus, have you yourself ever sat through a whole day of PD? I know my body aches by the end and I am usually one of those teachers standing in the back. Kids need to move!


Getting students out of their seats several times a class period requires a lot of transitions and that means the potential for many precious minutes to be wasted during those transitions. When students are in pairs or small groups, rather than say "Okay, someone needs to move," and spend the next three minutes listening to a classroom full of teenagers whine and argue over who has to move, I use statements to help determine who has to move. All can be quickly determined and make the decision for the students. 

An example of how it works: When it comes time for someone in the pair or group to move, I say "The person who was the last to eat pizza moves,". Students then figure who that person was and that person moves. This usually takes less than 5 seconds. If it is taking more than that, I make the kid who has been seated the longest move. 


Since I implemented this strategy, my transition time has decreased dramatically, we are getting more accomplished during the class period, and our relationships are stronger. I love learning little facts about my students and they love learning about each other, too. Bonus? Admins LOVE this strategy. That's always a good thing, too!

As with any new procedure, you will need to teach students your expectations for transitions. In this case, that the "mover" needs to be quickly determined (no long side conversations) and that they need to find their new seat hastily. What may take a minute at the beginning of the year shouldn't take more than 10-15 seconds max after a few weeks.

Here is a list of questions to get you started! 
The person...
1. ...with the next birthday moves.
2. ...with the last birthday moves.
3. ...who is oldest moves.
4. ...who is youngest moves.
5. ...who is tallest moves.
6. ...who is shortest moves.
7. ...with the longest hair moves.
8. ...with the shortest hair moves.
9. ...with the most siblings moves.
10. ...with the fewest siblings moves.
11. ...with the most pets moves.
12. ...with the fewest pets moves.
13. ...who got to school last today moves.
14. ...who got to school first today moves.
15. ...who has traveled the farthest moves.
16. ...with the most tattoos/piercings moves.
17. ...who plays the most sports for the school moves.
18. ...who woke up first today moves.
19. ...who woke up last today moves.
20. ...who lives the closest to the school moves.
21. ...who lives the farthest from the school moves.
22. ...who went to bed the latest last night moves.
23. ...who went to bed the earliest last night moves.
24. ...with the most jewelry on today moves.
25. ...with the least amount of jewelry on today moves.
26. ...with the most articles of clothing on moves.
27. ...who most recently finished a book (not for school!) moves.
28. ...who has eaten the weirdest thing moves.
29. ...who went to a concert last moves.
30. ...who played an instrument last moves.
31. ...who listened to music last moves.
32. ...who watched a movie at the theater last moves.
33. ...who watched the most TV yesterday moves.
34. ...who watched a movie last moves.
35. ...who traveled the farthest last Christmas moves.
36. ...who is wearing the darkest colored socks today moves.
37. ...who ate French fries last moves.
38. ...who drank water last moves.
39. ...who has moved the most amount of times moves.
40. ...who has moved the least amount of times moves.
41. ...who has traveled the farthest moves.
42. ...who went out to dinner at a restaurant last moves.
43. ...who trick-or-treated last moves.
44. ...who sent the last text message moves. 
45. ...who played a video game last moves.
46. ...who has the next math class moves.
47. ...who has the next science class moves.
48. ...who went to the last school dance moves.
49. ...who went to art class last moves.
50. ...who went to the last school sporting event moves.

In the rare event of a tie, I have students quickly do rock, paper, scissors.

I hope this helps you with your transitions! Do you have any fun questions to add to the list? Please leave them in the comments below! Have a great school year!

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Back to Spanish Class: 5 Back-to-School Purchases that I LOVE

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 / Leave a Comment
5 Back-to-School Purchases that I LOVE

Hi everyone!  I am so happy to introduce our guest blogger for this week!  Laura Lee from 
Señora Lee – for the LOVE of Spanish is a good friend and fellow Spanish teacher author She has taught Spanish at the elementary and middle school levels for over 18 years and is a wealth of information regarding fun and engaging resources for the classroom.   I know you are going to love her ideas!  Enjoy!

Back to Spanish Class: 5 Back-to-School Purchases that I LOVE

¡Hola! I am Laura and my favorite part of back-to-school is the shopping! I love receiving a big check from the school district to purchase the best resources for my classes. The resources I’m suggesting today have been favorites of my middle school / Spanish 1 classes.

 A Señor Wooly Subscription. This has been number one on my wish list for many years, and it is worth every penny and more!  $35 gives you access to all of Sr. Wooly’s hilarious and captivating videos. Students and teachers absolutely LOVE them.  My favorite video to begin the school year is “¿Puedo ir al baño?  I’m pretty sure my students know every single line.  After one showing, they want to watch it again…and again. Which is ok because I can never get enough! No one will ever ask, “Can I go to the bathroom?” in English again. 

Sr. Wooly has videos to go along with almost every unit. When teaching about descriptive adjectives and “ser,” sing along to “Guapo.” (It is hard not to sing along!) Watch “No Voy a Levantarme” when teaching the use of “ir + a + infinitive” and daily routines. You’ll love the surprise ending! Teach the structure “tener + que + infinitive” with “Los Quehaceres.” All videos use high frequency vocabulary and have a lot of repetition. They are easy to understand and come with the option of Spanish or English subtitles.

Sr. Wooly’s videos make students want to learn and practice Spanish inside and outside of class. I will never forget one Monday morning when three of my 8th grade Spanish 1 students excitedly came into class. They told me they had practiced a Sr. Wooly skit (“Es una Ganga”) all weekend long and wanted to perform it in front of the class. Wow! Imagine, students volunteering to do an unassigned presentation. If you want your students to be excited about learning and fully engaged, this is one of my favorite ways to MAKE LEARNING FUN. And your students will love you for it.  [If you are a 1:1 school you will want the Pro account for access to the entire curriculum. Read Allison’s post for more information! 

Quizlet – Teacher Account.  Another must-have resource that everyone loves is Quizlet. This fantastic app is free! And, in case you have not heard, Quizlet Live is about the best collaborative game ever! (For more on Quizlet Live, read Spanish with Sra. Shaw’s post.) 

If you are a 1:1 school, have more than 8 classes and love data, you will want the $35 upgrade! You can track student activity – exactly how and when students practice. You’ll find data to answer these important questions: Are students challenging themselves with more rigorous activities? How frequently do they review? Which terms are the biggest struggle for them?
I assign specific activities for students to complete each week. It is a great setup. Most students have the app downloaded to their phones and can practice any time. In class, students use Chromebooks. As a teacher, you can see exactly where students are struggling (for example, most commonly missed vocabulary words) and gauge student progress. You are also able to quickly see who has (or has not) studied.

As a teacher, you can see the high scores and use that data to bring out the competitive spirit in everyone. The high scores from previous years still remain, and current students continue to compete against past years’ top scores. Other perks include being able to upload your own images and record your voice to each flashcard. These features help you to create the very best sets full of engaging content - personalized with your own voice! I LOVE QUIZLET. [Compatible with Google Classroom!] 

Cultural Videos from Teacher’s Discovery by Moo!  Out of all the videos I have ever purchased, these are my favorites for integrating culture into the classroom. Students watch authentic footage filmed on location in Spanish-speaking countries that feature a dialog between a native speaker and an American student. They experience the rich traditions of Día de Los Muertos, Las Posadas and Cinco de Mayo through an engaging, thought-provoking video. Students think about the meaning behind their own holiday traditions, which sets the stage for a thoughtful discussion. Watching these videos is like taking a mini field trip. It really brings the culture to life to watch actual interactions with native speakers, learn about the customs, and get introduced to the food. The Day of the Dead video was filmed live in Oaxaca and is completely unrehearsed. The interactions are real. Students relate to it and are engaged the entire time. No wonder it received an Emmy Award! 

My favorite videos include the holiday videos listed above, The Culture of Mexican Food, Ordering Food and Weekend in Mexico. Each video is about 25 minutes long and packed with rich content. They vary in price between $27 & $33 each and are available for instant download. To read more about the Las Posadas video, read my blog post

Novels. I was very fortunate to have the district purchase a set of novels for our classroom. I chose Agentes Secretos y El Mural de Picasso  by Mira Canion. This is an excellent first novel for beginning Spanish. It is a mystery and is set in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The story is intriguing and the language is comprehensible. Students learn vocabulary naturally while they read, through the use of cognates and use of consistent language. 

I love that the novel incorporates art, history and culture into the storyline. Students are introduced to Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica and are naturally curious about its significance. My students develop confidence as they read aloud, are able to understand each chapter and are fully engaged. (Especially the boys!) This is a great reader to add to your collection.
To learn more about using novels in the classroom and how to get funding for a class set, read Allison’s post from Mis Clases Locas. 

Resources from Teachers Pay Teachers. Teachers Pay Teachers is the largest online marketplace for teachers. It has over 2.7 million resources created by teachers for teachers. Over 93,000 of those resources are for Spanish alone. And almost 10,000 of those are FREE!   I first discovered TpT in 2014. They had current and engaging resources that I could download in an instant at an affordable price. My students benefitted from the creativity and expertise of a variety of Spanish teachers with many years of experience. 

I found comprehensive resources that taught culture in the target language.  The site also had cooperative learning activities that built community in my classroom. The reading assignments were interesting and meaningful. The games brought excitement to my lessons. Teachers Pay Teachers is the only place where I buy resources now for my students. I wish I had found out about TpT ten years ago. It would have saved me so much planning time and would have really enriched the curriculum! Talk to your school administrators about the resources available on TpT.

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Back to Spanish Class: 10 Classroom Management Strategies for a Smooth School Year

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Let's just be honest. Classroom management is hard. It's one of these intangible things where there isn't just an easy fix. However, there are effective strategies that can help. It takes time to find tricks that work for you, your school, and your students because every situation is different. I get it because I've been there.

When I started teaching high school 12 years ago, I was just 22 years old, only a couple years older than many of my students. I was utterly unprepared and a classroom management nightmare. Thankfully, since then, I've taught in a variety of environments that have helped me improve my ability to manage my students. I've taught in 6 different middle and high schools for grades 6-12 in 4 different public districts in 2 different states. I've been in schools that were rural and mostly Caucasian, another that was urban and at least 50 percent African American, and I now teach in a suburban school in a university city that is so diverse I couldn't really begin to give you the racial breakdowns. 

As you can see, I've experienced a wide variety of different student body makeups and teaching environments ranging from easy-as-pie to extremely challenging. Somehow, through my experiences and trial by fire through the years, I went from being fairly inept at classroom management to have it become one of my biggest strengths.  Today, I'm excited to share some strategies that have made a world of difference in my ability not just to manage my classes, but to work in an environment where my students can learn and I teach.

Back to Spanish Class: 10 Classroom Management Strategies for a Smooth School Year

1. Set clear expectations

Maybe I should start off by saying that it's part of my personality to be extremely forthright and honest, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that, in my opinion, setting clear expectations is the most important thing that teachers can do to set the stage for what the year will look like. You can do this any way you want. You can come up with the expectations yourself or you can let your students help you come up with what the class norms will be.  Call me mean, but I come up with them on my own.  It took me a while to be able to outline exactly what things mattered, but now my students are very clear about what I'm looking for. I try to spin my expectations positively by detailing what I do want to see as opposed to what I don't, but my students know what is appropriate in my class and what is not. Some still choose to ignore my expectations and do what they want, but I'll get to what I do about that soon.

2. Make sure the kids know your expectations

Once I've defined my expectations, I make sure the kids know them. A lot. I teach my expectations and informally assess my students' understanding of those expectations repeatedly, but I try to make it at least feel novel and as interesting as humanly possible as I review them. Last year, I used Piktochart to create a syllabus that laid out my expectations in a graphically clear way, which seemed to work really well for the kids.  The next day, I used a Prezi to go over all of my expectations, especially the more specific details, with students, followed by some situational role-plays.  I broke students into pairs and had them demonstrate what it looks like and sounds like for students to start class.  Finally, I have students do an exit slip called an "Expectations Challenge" where I give students a handout with different situations and they have to write what the appropriate expectations would be. For example, "You've missed the last few days of class. What should you do? Where will you find your makeup work? When is it due?"

It may sound like overkill, but I'm fine with that. My students need to know what I expect, and I need to know that they understand fully.  Plus, I always spice it up with my witty banter and dazzling personality, so that obviously helps.

3. Get a simplified graphic to hang on your wall

I have a couple different graphic posters on my wall that reiterate my expectations, so I reference them often.  Both of them are based on the CHAMPS classroom management system, which I LOVE because it helps teachers "develop an instructional structure in which students are responsible, motivated, and highly engaged in the specific task at hand." CHAMPS seriously changed the way I teach and improved my classroom management because it forced me to think out my expectations for my classroom and for different instructional activities. I think they are cute and most importantly, effective, at helping remind my students what I want them to do.

I keep the chart below prominently displayed in my classroom and teach my students the behavioral expectations for different types of activities early on in the school year, before many lessons until they get the system, and the as needed throughout the rest of the year. This poster and the CHAMPS model changed my teaching more than any other single method and I cannot recommend it enough.  I encourage you to read my recent blog post fort the 5 reasons why the CHAMPS method will improve your classroom management. Trust me, it really does work. 

5 Reasons why the CHAMPS Method Will Improve Your Classroom Management

4. Read up

Everyone has their favorite method or book about classroom management, behavior management, discipline strategieis, student engagement, or whatever the popular tagline is this year. I personally have trouble reading Harry Wong's ever-popular undergrad favorite The First Days of School without wincing, but he certainly does have some very worthwhile and effective ideas.  As you know, my personal favorite is CHAMPs or its secondary version, Disclipline in the Secondary Classroom.  Other popular methods are Teach Like a Champion and Teach Like a Pirate. Even though I've been teaching for years, reading and reviewing classroom management techniques is essential to refine my practice, remind myself of habits I need steer away from, or things I should try.

5. Build relationships

I know this one is a little cliché, but seriously, we all know students perform best for teachers they have a relationship with. I'm very firm (some students would say strict), but I make it a priority to get to know my students so I understand what makes them tick and to help me connect with them. Meet them at the door as often as your busy schedule allows, go to their events, find out who their friends are, ask what they did over the weekend, eat lunch with them in the cafeteria, whatever it takes. We all have our strategies for building relationships with students and it matters immensely.

To be completely honest, building relationships is probably the area I struggle most with or the thing I'm most concerned about.  Last year, I used several of the suggestions in Catharyn's (AKA Sol Azucar) post about how to create good vibes in the the Spanish classroom and I was really pleased with how much better I felt I knew my students and how much they knew one another. There's seriously so many good ideas here! Check it out!


6. Keep them busy 

In my first teaching position, I taught my students in 20 hour blocks, 5 days a week, with 3 preps. I was essentially set up for failure because there was no way I was experienced enough to keep my students engaged and occupied for that much class time.  12 years later, I still see the value of keeping them busy (ahem, engaged). I start each class with different kinds of warm-ups that I expect my students to start BEFORE the bell and I teach until the bell or do some sort of exit slip.

I don't know about you, but I find that I get students of extremely varying abilities and thus, I get some kids who finish things very early. I have a list of activities that fast-finishers are expected to do while their peers are still working.  A couple of my favorite fast-finisher tasks are DuoLingo, logic puzzles, and LyricsTraining.com.  Find a couple that work for your classroom and go from there, but there's nothing better than never having kids say, "Sr./Sra./Srta. _____, I'm done!" If you train them and go over what to do when they're done before letting them start an activity, you won't have to repeat yourself 1000000 times.

7. Seating charts

I'll admit it. I'm a control freak and I've come to be ok with that label. I also always start every first day of school with a seating chart and kids stay in a seating chart FOREVER. For the first time ever, last year I trusted one group of my 8th grade students so much that I let them select their own seats, but I waited until early May to let it happen. I applaud those of you who are more laid back and your kids succeed in whatever seats they've chosen, but it's just not for me. Plus, I teach middle school; it's a different world.

When I have student teachers/teaching interns, one of the first things I have them do after they've observed for a few weeks is create a seating chart for a couple of classes and then I sit down with them and we go over it together. We talk about the importance of placing students where they are going to succeed and pairing students appropriately.

What to do about seating charts on the first day of school when you don't know the kids? One of my favorite mottos is "Randomness is the spice of life." My school's gradebook software has a seating chart feature that lets me create a classroom layout and then I can select for it to randomly place students in a seat.  Another alternative is to use a random grouping strategy like Martina Bex's adorable (and free) character seating cards.

Although I've never tried personally tried Jessica's (AKA Miss Señorita) idea to let kids choose their own seats on the first day of class as she describes in this post, it's genius. What a tricky lady. Definitely check it out.

8. Initiate contact with parents/guardians

I'm for real about this one.  I actually (mostly jokingly) always make it a point to tell my students during the first week of class that one of my favorite things to do on a Friday after school is to call parents. Usually, at least half of them look at my like I'm crazy and I'm completely fine with that. With a smile, I calming I explain that I LOVE to call parents to talk to them about how awesome or not so awesome their kids are in my class.  I explain that I find Fridays to be the best time to call because they then get to spend the whole weekend with their parents, which can work either for them or against them. Last year, I had an impressive amount of 7th grade boys who didn't seem to believe I was telling the truth. I chose two of the boys, called their parents after school on Friday, and strangely enough, their behavior was markedly improved on Monday. Word of my Friday phone call spread to their buddies and suddenly those 7th grade boys calmed down. #victoryismine Plus, you can imagine your the parents' faces looking like this when you call:


9. Use call-backs or attention grabbers

How many times have you found yourself trying to get your students' attention by repeatedly saying, "Silencio. Escuchan," only to have them completely ignore you? I did this more times during my early care than I care to admit and the result was completely ineffective if not undermining.  When I implemented the CHAMPS method, our trainer recommended teaching callbacks and I thought to myself, "Oh heck no. I am not an elementary teacher." Seriously, call-backs make me cringe especially when a trainer uses them in PD like all of us are first-graders. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit this, call-backs work. If you can find ones that you and your students like and that you can use without completely embarrassing yourself, they're extremely effective.  For example, when I say, "Hola, hola" my students must respond "Coca-cola." The key is that they have to stop speaking to one another to repsond with the "Cola-cola."  Here's an amazing list of ideas for attention grabbers and call-backs from Spanish Playground that you really should check out.

10. Find out what works for you

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Who is she kidding? A call home doesn't work for all kids!" You're absolutely right and I am the first to admit that the 9 suggestions above will not work for all schools, students, and classrooms. At my school, historically, we've had very little administrative support, so I pretty much handle all classroom management on my own without the ability to write disciplinary referrals or send students to the principal's office.  When I inevitably find kids who could give a **** less about my beautiful expectation presentations or a call home, I've got to get creative. If that means creepily showing up at their class right before lunch and bringing them to my classroom, so be it. If that means I keep them after school to help clean my room and get to know them better, ok. If that means I contact little Johnny's basketball coach and explain my behavior concerns and then the kid runs their tail off in practice that day, awesome. Whatever works, within reason, of course.

I hope today you found a few classroom management strategies that you can use to have a smoother, saner year. Remember, it's a process that we are constantly working on improving and there will be "those days" where things went less than perfectly.  Stick with it, try something new, you've got this! Remember, it's so much easier to do be in this amazing profession when your teaching environment is relaxed and effective. You can teach that amazing lesson you so carefully planned so much better when your kids are engaged, respetful, and know what you expect. Have a great school year!

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Back to Spanish Class: 9 Ways to Be a Happier Teacher

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 / 18 comments
No matter what, it is always hard going back to school. I always try to look on the bright side though, and setting goals for the new school year helps. Here are a few ways that have helped me be a happier Spanish teacher. I hope they might inspire you as well.

1. Buy yourself some nice supplies.

Get yourself some flair pens, you deserve them! I get nice supplies for my students too. I always invest in a class set of Astrobright card stock paper, new markers, and colored pencils. Get your materials organized and express expectations that students take good care of the materials, too. I swear students put in more effort and are actually more respectful of materials when they have nice things to work with and take ownership for their use.

2. Set a goal to try something new in class.

Maybe you want to get students speaking more in Spanish, try out IPAs instead of traditional tests or quizzes, or introduce a whole class novel study or Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) into your classes. Maybe you're getting rid of homework this year, flipping the class so all homework is assigned online, or have some new ideas for how to spice up homework. Maybe your goal is something more general like increased collaborative learning, more inquiry style learning, or aligning your lessons to ACTFL practices.

No matter the topic, your goal should be realistic and specific. How exactly will you accomplish it? How will you measure your progress? Write down your goal. Check in with yourself and revise your strategy as needed throughout the year. Take time to reflect on the journey. Nothing is perfect the first time around, but how will we grow if we never try anything new?

3. Build community in your classroom.

Making your classroom a positive, safe space for students is one of the best ways to be a happy teacher. Behavior problems go away and you and your students can really enjoy being with each other. It may seem a little tricky, because every class has such a unique dynamic of different students with their own needs, expectations, and personalities. Here are a few tried and true ways to create good vibes in Spanish class that have worked for me.

4. Observe fellow teachers.

I know it seems like you don't have time to get into another teacher's classroom to observe. But make time. It can be as simple as dropping in for 5 minutes to observe how Mrs. A starts her class or visiting for 10 minutes to observe how Mr. B ends class. This is one of the best ways to learn new ideas and reinforce what you're already doing right (or what you want to change) in your own classroom. Oh, and don't just observe the other foreign language teachers or your teacher friends. Get in a variety of classrooms.

5. Get more involved in extracurriculars.

Taking on a club, coaching, or volunteer position at your school can be such a great way to interact with students in a different way, outside of the classroom. Spanish club always needs a sponsor, right? Or think about starting up a Spanish Honor Society. If you don't have the time or opportunity to do something quite so formal, consider attending more school events like student concerts, performances, athletic events, family evenings, school dances, etc.

6. Play more games in class.

Making my classroom a fun and engaged learning environment is a sure way to make me a happy teacher. So bring on the games! Plus, pedagogically, games can be an amazing way to provide comprehensible input in a way that really engages students. I use modified versions of classic games like Guess Who, Scattergories, and Taboo in Spanish. Or conversation Jenga is always fun. Maybe you get your students outside and play around with sidewalk chalk, prompting them to show their language skills in a way that doesn't require boring paper and pencil. And there are always so many different ways you can play guessing games with Spanish vocabulary, ranging from Pictionary to learning stations to Scoot.

For even more ideas, Sherry and I run a Pinterest board for Spanish games and fun, be sure to check it out, we're always adding more new ideas as we find them.

7. Collaborate more with other Spanish teachers. 

You have great ideas to share. They have great ideas to share. Why not work together to learn and grow? Option 1: Attend your local conferences and workshops and get to know people. These tips for getting the most out of a workshop might help! Option 2: Connect with other teachers online. Not sure where to start? This step by step guide to how to get started collaborating with Spanish teachers on social media might help.

8. Get student feedback and change accordingly.

As teachers we must monitor and adjust! When we are responsive to our students' needs, interests, and abilities, students are better able to succeed and class is more fun. That's the perfect combo for a happy teacher if I've ever heard it. I am a data nerd myself, so always want to know more about where my students are at. I love Holly's discussion of how she uses surveys in her secondary Spanish classes if you're looking to start using these.

9. Eat lunch, please! And while you're at it, go to the bathroom.

Enough said! Take care of yourselves, teachers.

We are in one of the most important professions out there, and deserve to be HAPPY! Thank you for all you do and have a great year!


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Back to Spanish Class: Teaching Tips to Get Excited for the First Week of School!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 / Leave a Comment
Back to Spanish Class:  Teaching Tips to Get Excited for the First Week of School!

Back to School Teaching Tips for World Language Teachers

Hey guys!  Let me guess - if you haven't started school yet, you're getting a little nervous about the first day, the first week, and which students will be in your classes this year.  Yep, that little pit of anxiety growing more and more as the first day approaches. Well, I have a few new strategies for you to help relieve some of your worries . . .

1.  Let this be the year that you are EXCITED for the first day instead of nervous.  

*  Take a second to recognize when you are feeling those back to school jitters.  Every time that you find yourself feeling or talking about being anxious, use the word "excited" instead.  Say your new positive sentence out loud or even better, write it down.  Writing your goals really helps preset your brain to help accomplish them.  
Old Way of Thinking:   
"I'm very nervous about who my students will be.  Sometimes I get really challenging classes."

New Way of Thinking:
"I'm so excited to meet my students on the first day and I bet they're really excited to meet me.  Can't wait to support the uniqueness of each student and watch them grow as students and people throughout the year."

(Even just writing this second sentence got my brain focused in a more positive direction.  I started thinking . . .)

 "Hmm . . . how can I focus on the strengths that each student brings?  How can I accentuate their positive qualities?  If I'm really excited and enthusiastic, they probably will be, too. How am I not only going to help them learn Spanish, but also teach them to be kind, to study efficiently, and to become contributors in our global economy?" 

Old Way of Thinking:
"I'm so sad that summer is over.  I'm really not looking forward to grading papers - so much work and I'm always so tired."

New Way of Thinking:
"Wow!  I had a great summer, but I'm also looking forward to a fresh start and a chance to shape young minds.  I'm lucky to have such a meaningful job where I'm really making a difference (even if I can't always see it).  This year, I'm going to implement a few new strategies so that I get my work done at school and bring very little home.  I know if I stay focused and plan well, I can do this.  That way, I'll be able to focus on my family, friends, and squeeze in some me-time when I come home.

Back to Spanish Class:  Teaching Tips to Get Excited for the First Week of School!

Old Way of Thinking:
"Some of my colleagues are great, but I wish I had a stronger group of colleagues who loved to share new ideas, collaborate on projects, and even just to joke around with from time to time.  Sometimes I feel really lonely at school."

New Way of Thinking:
"How cool is it that I can now connect with online World Language colleagues from all over the world.  I learn so many innovative ideas, (Minuto loco, Música miércoles, Trifold Flashcards, Conjugation Bracelets, Differentiated Instruction Units) get great new resources, and best of all, they make me laugh with their crazy memes that only World Language teachers understand.  Plus, there are tons of amazing teacher blogs - love reading these and continually challenging myself to be a better teacher."

Speaking of blogs - did you know that each of us here at Secondary Spanish Space also has her own blog?

Honestly, my Spanish teacher friends in this group are a seriously inspiring group of chicas!  I read their blog posts and . . .

A.  Learn something completely new that I had never thought of doing before.

B.  Feel like I'm hanging out with a good friend who gets me and my Spanish teacher woes.

C.  Laugh out loud because these chicas crack me up!!

Allison - Mis Clases Locas 
Catharyn - Sol Azucar
Dianna - La Profe Plotts
Elisabeth - Spanish Mama
Emilie - Island Teacher 
Sherry - World Language Cafe (That's me!)

What a powerhouse group of Spanish teachers!  I learn so much from each of these amazing women every week.  Hope you do, too!

Well, I originally planned to include 8-10 Back to School teaching tips in this post, but got so "excited" about the first one that it was all I could fit.  Hop on over to the Teaching Tips section of my blog to check out a few more such as:

* Advice for a First Year Teacher (also good for veteran teachers)

Wishing you a wonderful start to your school year!  I'm so EXCITED!!!  How about you?

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Back to Spanish Class: Getting Started With Interactive Notebooks

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 / 4 comments
Sometimes in teaching, it's the little things that create the biggest headaches. Paper can be one of the those things: lost papers, late papers, loose papers. And of course, all of that means lost time. Many teachers are turning to interactive notebooks as a solution. INBs can be a streamlined process of keeping everything in one place, through student-created materials. 

Here in this post, you'll find info on getting started and some examples. (If you are thinking INBs aren't for you, read 5 Common Myths on Interactive Notebooks-- just in case.)

Sometimes you just need to see an idea in action. We'll start off with some videos showing interactive notebooks from different teachers.
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