Saturday, August 16, 2014

The first days of school

I know some teachers want to use the target language from day one. I understand the sentiment and I wish I could do it but I just can't in my current situation. I teach at a Title I school. A lot of my students come to me with anxiety and being thrown in a class where they have to work extra hard to understand what's going on leads to a lot of acting out and behavior issues.  My students need lots and lots of practice doing basic routines so that we can go 90%-100% TL later on. Or as they said in my APL training this summer - "Go slow to go fast."  Here is a list of things I've been modeling and practicing with kids in the first specials rotation.

How to come in quietly
How to sit on the carpet
My quiet signal
How the scoreboard works
How to go to timeout and calm yourself down
How to line up
How to stand in line
How to turn and talk to a partner (smiling, eye contact, and using school talk)
The rules of Spanish class
My signal that it's time to repeat after me
My signal that it's time to talk to your partner
My signal that it's time to switch during partner talk
My signal that they can shout out an answer vs. when they should raise their hands

Here's a video that shows how I model. I don't do it with every procedure but definitely for lining up, going to timeout, and talking with a partner.

That's a lot for only 50 minutes!  Although it helps that a lot of things haven't changed from last year so many of the kids just need a quick refresher. Those students that need extra practice get "retraining" either during a fun activity during class or lunch if I have a free period.

So no Spanish yet - other than Hola and 1, 2 adios. My sign won't switch over for another rotation or two (because we also need to get folders organized and talk about room procedures like getting out supplies and cleaning up.) But once we're ready, we'll be ready to fly and operate totally in the target language.

Do you start in the TL? Feel free to vehemently disagree with me, but if you do I'd like to know how you manage behavior in the TL from day one.


  1. Love love love Responsive Classroom- I use it, too! And, like you, I start the year, especially with my Kinders, mostly, if not all, in English as I go over routines, procedures, etc. Above Kindergarten, my 1-4th graders have been with me so they know our routines and such, but still need a 'refresher course' :). I usually do a couple of routines a class (mine are 30 minutes long each) instead of all at once because of time, so I usually try to throw a game or song in as well. And, of course, we get our 'Spanish Spots' (assigned seating) the first class...makes life so much more efficient going forward!

    1. This is the first time I've used Interactive Modeling and it works like a charm! I've been combining bits and pieces of Whole Brain Teaching, APL, and Responsive Classroom and so far so good. Hopefully we will have a nice smooth transition to Spanish next month!

  2. This is extremely helpful and extremely timely. I'll be starting my 2nd year teaching 4th and 5th grade Spanish after several years of teaching HS, and last year I really, really lacked these routines and procedures. Things suffered as a result. Thank you!

  3. This is great! Thank you so much for sharing! I teach at RS school too and love every single thing about it. I also use Whole Brain Teaching in my classes.

    1. I use a mix of things (APL, Kagan, RS, & WBT) - there are great parts to every "system"! Thanks for reading and sharing on facebook!

  4. I love Responsive Classroom! I use it in my Lower School Spanish classes, too. However, I do use TL since day one. I like the students to think I don't speak English at all. I used to work in an immersion school in Mexico City (as a pre-K head teacher teaching everything in TL). When you model, you do exactly what you are doing, just in TL. You'll be surprised how children respond and try to guess what you are doing and saying. When any of the kids understand and say it in English, I put my thumb up to let them know they got it, I then write that routine in the white board in Spanish. Of course it takes longer and is more work, but it is much more effective in terms of language teaching. I try to think I am in an ESL class with children speaking different languages and not being able to use the first language at all.

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I always have guilt about using so much English in the beginning, but you have validated that you need to start in English in order to use 90%+ TL later on! I actually consider being immersed a procedure and go over/model how to know what I am saying when I am speaking only Spanish. I tell students that we will ease back into using the TL so we go for just 5 minutes the first class and then build up to using it more each class. Thank you so much for your wonderful blogs! They always seem to come at the right time and are always so thoughtful and helpful. ¡Gracias!

    1. ¡De nada! The way you do it sounds like it works and that's what's the most important. I would love to try 90-100% from day one someday and I really respect people who do it but in my current school a lot of my kiddos have enough anxiety and trauma that I don't want to add Spanish class to the list. We get there - we just do it the second week instead of the first. Gracias por leer el blog!