The first day of classes is right around the corner. Are you ready?
No matter how you feel about the start of the school year, that day will soon be upon us. Here are some ideas to help you feel ready for the first few weeks of Spanish class.
Things you can do before the first day of class
1. Make the most of the information you can access; research!
Use this time to look through the yearbook and learn students’ names ahead of time, which is a great way to put your best classroom management foot forward. Knowing names (and using them often) can be a remarkably effective way of communicating to students that they are both visible and identifiable; this is important for both shy students who need to be drawn out and for spirited students who enjoy challenging their teachers with their big personalities. Take note of sports teams, clubs and other interests documented in the yearbook to show students you care enough to have learned something about them in advance.
As well, some schools will allow you check out your students’ academic records so you can see what their best subjects may be and what kind of academic background they bring to your classroom.
New students won’t expect you to know much right away, but a quick conversation with the new students’ advisors or with the school counselor may give you some helpful information.
2. Prepare and rehearse a spiel.
Why do you like Spanish so much? What do you want students to know about you? In your past teaching experiences, do students tend to ask the same questions about you when given the opportunity?
Mentally review your responses to these queries and practice saying them out loud so that it sounds natural and authentic. Any details that don’t ring true or genuine can be omitted.
Though students of all ages love to know about their teachers, boundaries are important; if you’re not sure what students should know about you, consult your department head or an administrator.
3. Go over your teacher checklist.
Do you have all of your supplies? Is your classroom looking great? Have you printed out your favorite Speaking Latino posters, signs and realia for your bulletin boards? Have you researched ice breakers?
Have a checklist and spend a little time making sure you have everything you need.
First Day of Class: 3 Activity Ideas
Here are three activities for the first day of class. Do all three if you have time over the course of the first week!
1. Get to know your students.
Icebreakers can be your secret weapon. They enable you to get to know your students’ interests and your students themselves.
Different icebreakers offer different ways of creating community between participants; for example, see how students respond to questions they aren’t expecting or how they behave with peers they don’t know. Who takes a leadership role right away and who waits for instructions?
Find out if any students play a musical instrument or enjoy cooking or play soccer or build things; with this kind information, you can customize your lesson plans and your teaching so that the material becomes more relevant.
Relevance is the key to student motivation, and find out what makes your students tick is the secret to relevance.
2. Create a classroom contract.
Invite your students to share their ideas for classroom rules and expectations. Suggest they think back to the expectations of previous teachers for ideas, and ask them to discuss what conditions worked best for them and why. Let students do most of the talking here but reserve the right to veto any contract ideas that don’t work for you, for your department, and/or for your school at large (just make sure you can explain why). Look out for ‘carrot’ opportunities rather than ‘stick’ opportunities; keeping rules and expectations positive rather than punitive is a much more motivational approach to discipline.
Commit the contract to paper or a poster board and ask everyone to sign it to promote a sense of community spirit; then post to a prominent place.
Use our free Class Procedures and Syllabus Editable Booklet included inside the begining-of-the-year materials set.
3. Write letters of introduction.
Asking students to introduce themselves without a specific question in mind is risky; they may write more about their summer exploits than their actual strengths and what they find challenging, which is information much more useful to you as their teacher.
Here’s an idea that might work for you and your students; assign the task as in-class writing or homework and collect.
In April 2018, Spain was revealed as the 2018 international student study abroad destination of choice. More students want to study there than other country in the world! Competition is high—write a letter selling yourself as the best international student out there so you get your chance to enjoy all Spain has to offer. What makes you such a great Spanish student that you should get to go? Be honest about your strengths, and present your challenge areas as areas of untapped potential.
After the first day of class
1. Distribute a student survey.
Within a few days of meeting your students, create and distribute a survey that enables them to share a little more information about themselves and their interest in Spanish. The information you gather from these surveys may inform how you customize your Spanish Class Booklet, or they may simply give you a place to further your rapport-building with your students.
Share the survey and check with your department to find out if there are any new and noteworthy department-wide or school-wide policies that belong in your Booklet.
You can download a survey with 30 example questions inside the beginning-of-the-year materials set.
2. Debrief with teachers who are trustworthy and have the students’ best interests at heart.
This suggestion may not work for everyone as a debriefing of this sort can quickly devolve into a toxic gossip session; however, if productive note-comparing is actually possible, you may be able to save some valuable time and needless stress trying to figure out what sort of drama is taking place within the confines of your classroom.
Learn what friendships exist in your class, who used to be a couple (and therefore incompatible when it comes to group projects), etc.
3. Write down a few observations.
Take notes on how everything went, your own positive first impressions of students, and what you want to do differently the next time the class meets. The practice of writing down observations can help a teacher figure what was actually important and memorable about class that day.
You could write for a few minutes in a journal or just on a piece of scrap paper if you don’t have a regular writing habit. As well, you might find it interesting to review these notes in a couple of weeks’ time, when you’re fully in the swing of things; what is different and what is the same?
Take care not to write down anything you would be embarrassed to have discovered, unless of course, your journal is a private and protected document. And consider making a habit of writing down how things went for you in class on any given day; careful reflection makes for an easy way to do your own professional development.
Good luck as the first day approaches, let us know how your first few days go, and be in touch with any additional ideas that you’d like to see on this list!