Routines to help make your Spanish class run smoother this year
This year we've focused on creating resources to help teachers teach routines in Spanish class because we believe that routines are one of those magical resources that help keep our classrooms ticking smoothly along. It can be tricky to find routines that our Spanish students are interested in and also accomplish everything we want and need them to. They have to be simple, effective, and serve a purpose all without being boring. They create order, help establish classroom management, create a sense of community, and are the perfect opportunity to practice natural and simple Spanish every day in a way that all of our students can participate at some point or another during the year. It takes time to establish a routine and at the beginning of the year half of your class may look at you like you’ve just landed from Mars, but once they get the hang of them the students can know what to expect and are able to complete the tasks you’ve asked them to. Plus, they are a great way to give our students the reins, but still feel a sense of control because we’ve chosen the routine and know that they are getting something out of it. Here are some of the routine focused resources we've been working on and some other ideas for ways that you can get your classroom up and running with a spotlight on the role of the students.
One of the simplest classroom routines that we like to use is having a student of the day or the maquinista. You can choose any name you'd like to call the leader, we went for maquinista, but we're sure that there are lots of other creative ideas out there. In our younger classrooms this student is celebrated in many ways throughout the day (they get to hold our class stuffed animal and help the teacher throughout the day) and they get to be the head of the line when going different places throughout the school. The maquinista starts off the day (or class) by doing a roll call of all of the students. You can choose how you’d like your students to ask but an example could be ¿Dónde estás Anna? and the response being that the student says Estoy aquí. while raising her hand. We have a board in class with two columns, one that has a picture of the school and one that has a picture of the house. The student then moves Anna’s name card to the vertical column with the picture of the school. When there is a student that is home sick we say “(name of student) está en casa” and make a triangle with our hands to mimic the roof of a house. This process is repeated daily, but spiced up by the constant rotation of maquinistas and students who are out sick. An added bonus is that students practice speaking in front of the classroom from a young age. Students also practice reading and letter recognition by allowing the students to hold the name card of their classmates and if they can, call it out on their own without any help from you. For very young Spanish language leaners the process can be difficult to remember and speaking in front of the whole class can be very intimidating. For those classes we usually help the students in the beginning and continue helping those in need of help until halfway through the year when they usually begin to feel more comfortable and take charge themselves.
For students who can read and write we have developed an interactive activity that allows them to document everything about their day.
This activity can be done at the beginning of class or after you’ve started with another short activity (a hello song or a song that you like to start class with). The worksheet is designed to help your students begin to have an understanding of themselves and be aware of how they’re feeling each day as well as what’s going on around them. It practices simple and practical language in a visual way that makes it accessible to the whole class.
You can introduce this routine by practicing the vocabulary with our song and video Rutina de comienzo de clase. You can show the video the first few times you fill out the worksheet to help them understand the what it is they’re reading and writing. Another way you could use the song is by putting it on in the background while they complete the activity. To print less, we recommend laminating a copy of the worksheet for each student and having them fill it out with markers. If that’s not a possibility you could put it up on the screen (project it or have it on the electronic white board) and have one or a few designated students come up and fill it out each class.
Establishing a routine for quieting down can be a lifesaver. Think of those days before the holidays when they need a break and you really need them to quiet down multiple times and quickly throughout the class without yelling or scolding. Those are the times that we are most thankful we’ve established a quiet down routine. It could be as simple as a hand movement that you as the teacher do and others copy until the entire class is quite, or it could involve students doing something back (a gesture, clapping or a call back chant). Some examples are silent wolf/fox, where the teacher makes a dog shape with their hands to signify closed mouth and open ears. The students have to close their mouths and put their hands up high in the air. When doing something like that it’s helpful to look around the room, naming off students that are doing a good job and highlighting those that are not ready yet. Another could be doing a set of claps that students then return, making sure to change up the speed or pattern until the entire class is involved. Another great example and a way to maximize language use is to do a variation of Simon/teachers says. If you can hear me, touch your ear/head/knee, etc. We find that call and response are the most effective attention getters and love that the students have to participate by using the target language. Spanish Playground has a long list of possible attention getters that are fun for younger and older learners and Carolina from Fun for Spanish Teachers has a great list of attention getters with visual images and gestures that can go alone with them to incporporate a physical response element.
Two of our favorites from Spanish Playground's list:
Maestr@ – Zapato zapatito
Estudiantes – Dejo de hablar poquito a poquito.
Maestr@ -¿Qué te pasa, Calabaza?
Estudiantes – Nada, nada, Limonada.
Another essential routine is how you end class. Let’s imagine that you’ve been doing an art activity in Spanish and the students are really invested in what they’re doing, they’re excited about the Spanish language and their creations and overall it has been a successful and productive class, but now it looks like a hurricane has come through your classroom. A clean up routine is a fantastic way to teach your students to take ownership of the classroom and leave it in tip top shape, without dedicating a lot of time to explaining what you want each person to do. There are many ways you could establish this routine. You could give different students or groups roles (some clean up certain parts of the classroom or are responsible for collecting different items or cleaning paper scraps off the floor etc…) or you could put on this clean up song, A Limpiar, and have each student clean up their own workspace. Once you’ve established the routine of hearing the song and cleaning up you can use it in the future to trigger a quick classroom cleanup without having to strain your voice. Once we’ve cleaned up we like to spend the extra time doing something fun, like dancing to one of our favorite songs or ending with a whole class game.
We'd love to hear how you use routines in your classroom either in the comments section below or on our Facebook page! Rock on, teachers!