These 9 things have been game-changers for me in 2017

Here are 9 things I implemented this year in my classes (and I am really glad I did!):

  1. Word Posters: This past school year I bought one of those packs of giant 3M post-its that you can stick anywhere. I was inspired to do this after going to iFLT in Denver this past summer. It has helped my students’ comprehension in class, lowers affective filter and helps me to use structures repeatedly that I otherwise might have avoided because I didn’t want to write them on the board all the time. Here are a few recent examples in my room…
    Using the post-its make it easy to remove them for each class. Rewriting the same phrases for every class period was a pain!

    Look around the room to see the post-its. These stay up all the time.
  2. S-L-O-W-I-N-G  D-O-W-N:  Last year at midterm I had made it through Unit 7 of the Somos Curriculum which I use in Spanish 1 and do follow for the most part (though I am not a slave to it by any means). This year at midterm we finished Unit 4. I slowed way down. I took time with stories, several days even, just letting things happen, doing more PQA and even shelving them for a bit if needed.
  3. … and going deeper:  I spent more time up at the beginning of the school year with the Super 7 (has, goes, is x2, there is, wants and likes). I also did A LOT more with movietalks than I ever have before. They used to be a fun little “add-on” after I had introduced structures, developed a story and done some reading activities. It was usually just part of a class period at most. Now, many of the movietalks have become a unit of themselves. See here for one example. This has provided more repetitions of target words and phrases in new contexts, all the while pulling in new relevant language that may or may not be acquired by all but certainly is by some. One of my favorites for level 1 is the Wildebeest movietalks, originally put together by Martina Bex.
  4. Using rhymes, song lyrics and tongue-twisters: See this post for more on this.
  5. NOT sheltering / targeting quite so much: When I was new to CI/TPRS I was pretty careful to not stray from the “script”, whatever that was. This year I have started to loosen up a bit with stories and allow students to take it in other directions. I have found that allowing students to take a bit more control of the story (but not too much!) makes a big difference. They have more buy-in which increases the “compelling” element of the story. The more compelling, the more likely acquisition can occur and the more like that word/phrase you hadn’t planned on using will stick and become part of your and their language in the classroom. There is definitely an art to it.
  6. Sr. Wooly Pro Subscription: It is worth it. My students know those songs probably better than anything else we have done during this past first semester. I have only done Puedo ir al baño and la Invitación and spent about a week with each, telling the stories, talking through screenshots part by part, showing the video, doing the online activities and a few other things I would cook up for some fun repetition. See my blog post here on how I made a 5 day unit out of Puedo ir al baño.
  7. Really emphasizing signaling/gesturing at the beginning: I wanted my students to communicate with me non-verbally in class from day 1. So I taught them how to tell me to slow down, repeat, and when they didn’t understand. I just never let it go in the few weeks of school and it has paid off.
  8. Cell phone policy: No phones visible from door to door. I do not want my students walking in with earbuds in, looking at their phone because I want to place an importance on the fact that our class is interpersonal. If they need/want to finish a text before the bell rings, they are welcome to do that in the hall before coming in. And some do. But when they walk through the threshold of the doorway, phones and earbuds are out and away. After role-playing, review and a Nearpod interactive expectations slideshow (including where they have to draw a picture of what it looks like to NOT follow this policy) in the first few weeks of school, I have enjoyed nearly 100% compliance. There are approximately 3 students out of my 170 Spanish 1 students that test me on this. Overall though, it has been a phone-free class and well worth it. I am careful to keep my phone away too unless I am snapping photos of their awesomeness!
    Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 1.03.49 PM
  9. GETTING ORGANIZED!: I rely on Google Slides to guide what I and my students do for unit we are on. I have multiple slides dedicated to each part of each day… which ends up being a giant Google Slide doc consisting of sometimes 100 slides. It is worth it though because it allows me to stay on track, provide visual cues and directions and quickly play embedded videos, songs or whatever without changing tabs. The most important change for me though is a welcome slide with all the most important details for the day. Here is an example from Spanish 4:

    Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 12.46.13 PM
    Date always updated at the top (can’t get enough repetition of that), our warm-up and what they need to get started, the general plan for the day and what we did yesterday for absent students (this is always good for exposure to “we” form of verbs).

And here is an example from Spanish 1:

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 12.51.17 PM
We recite out loud together the date, their warmup and where they need to go to do it (sometimes this info is in English, just depends). The bottom left box is for whatever info is most pressing for the day. On this day I had a new student that I wanted to help remind about our cell phone policy 🙂

I don’t have data to show that these 9 things have actually helped my students acquire language but I know they have. I see it, hear and feel it. There have been more “magical” moments with my classes this year than ever before, my students are telling me (in their own adolescent sort of way) that they enjoy the class and… dare I say it?… I am enjoying my job more too.


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