Students that struggle to learn Spanish is something that any teacher encounters every school year. Here are some tips from Spanish Teacher Success Academy online conference speakers that can help you deal with this issue.
“I high-five them every single chance I get.”
Sam finds small but meaningful ways of connecting with her students and offering them encouragement. Even the simple act of putting their names on their papers in the correct space is an opportunity for a compliment; gradually, Sam finds that her students gain confidence with every small accomplishment like this one.
Allison Wienhold (Mis Clases Locas)
“One of the biggest ways is to catch them before they are struggling.”
During a schoolwide intervention time, Allison pre-teaches students who need extra help in order to give them an academic “heads-up.” She also tries to be mindful of students who are struggling in classes in their first language, as this can be a sign that Spanish will be difficult for them.
“I look for opportunities to highlight what they have done well.”
By meeting and greeting students at the door, Bethanie finds that she is always able to find something positive to say to her students. This method allows her to start every student’s experience in her classroom on a positive note. She also likes to give students advanced warning before she calls on them so they have time to prepare their responses. As well, when Bethanie goes over answers to a series of questions, she asks students to select the questions they would like to answer. Positive notes home and other celebrations also create a positive atmosphere.
Emilie del Risco (Island Teacher)
“I pull them aside… I offer extra help sessions [and] let them know that it’s okay.”
At the top of Emilie’s list of priorities is letting her students know that she is approachable when they are having a difficult time. She talks to students individually, giving them plenty of opportunities to talk openly with her about what might be going well and what needs attention.
“I give them a job in the classroom or ask them to sit with someone who will encourage them to pay attention.”
Laurie customizes her response to struggling students according to what is behind their difficulty. If a student feels incapable of doing well, she manages that situation by doing what she can to improve that student’s confidence. If the student is struggling because of inattentive behaviors, she creates situations where paying attention is a rewarding experience, or in her words, “a wonderful thing.”
“For students who are struggling, the task is usually either too easy or too hard… and the relationship has to come first.”
Meredith finds that her students who are struggling are often telling themselves that they are “bad at school.” Worse, students often tell themselves that they will find language learning difficult, and she seeks to undo the stories they tell themselves. Meredith also makes sure that she offers her students lots of options so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
“A lot of one on one conversations, a lot of extra attention from me.”
Jen takes her approach beyond her classroom and looks for students in the halls and during after-school study sessions to offer them encouragement and support.
Erin Gilreath Carlson
“I try really hard to be very intentional with everything that I do in class.”
When Erin knows she is giving students an IPA, she is careful to prepare them well for that specific IPA. She looks for feedback from her students and offers them feedback as well, while encouraging them to try tutoring and attending office hours if they need extra help.
“Sometimes students can get frustrated… so I do a lot of differentiated activities.”
Albert is flexible with his expectations around academic activities when he is working with students who are new to his class. By differentiating his approach in this way, new students can gradually become more confident and comfortable in his classroom. He goes slowly during storytelling activities and uses a lot of gestures and comprehension checks as well.
“It really depends on the student.”
Kristin customizes her approach to the different needs of every student. Making sure that her students know that she cares and that she has high expectations are important to her.
Jeremy Jordan (Señor Jordan)
“When I changed my teaching style to TPRS, I found that less kids struggled.”
Jeremy has found that the repetitive nature of the TPRS approach allows him to do more with less of the language, which enables him to repurpose elements of his teaching that are already familiar to his students. Jeremy tries to prevent his students from struggling by using TPRS, and he has found that many students are able to do well within the TPRS teaching model. He also notes that students who do struggle are often having a hard time due to things that are beyond his control as their teacher. In these cases, Jeremy focuses on making sure those students know that Jeremy cares about them as people, not just students of Spanish.
“I’ll bring in their advisor… the witness to their teacher saying ‘your Spanish is much better than you think it is.’”
Michaela is aware that struggling students often bring issues of confidence to class with them, so she tries to make sure that they know she appreciates their efforts at learning. Having another supportive adult witness her voicing her support is helpful as that other adult can reinforce Michaela’s message to the student who is having a difficult time.
“Sometimes it’s personal issues… sometimes it’s that they have poor language skills in their first language, and that can hinder their second language acquisition.”
Jodi tries to seek the origin of the student’s struggle before addressing the problem, and in her experience, the reasons behind the difficulty can vary. She also focuses on more visuals and kinesthetic activities to make the language easier to access for everyone. Providing extra input and practice time is also helpful.
“This one strategy called ‘Write and discuss’… and then doing some reading activities.”
Tina acknowledges that students will struggle with grammar so she employs various teaching techniques together and checks in with students about their experience. She scaffolds her teaching extensively in order to minimize struggle for her students. As a success-oriented teacher, Tina also likes to offer students multiple pathways to success, as well as opportunities to re-do or re-take an assessment.
Learn more about the Spanish Teacher Success Academy online professional development sessions that brings together 25 world-class experts who will share with you the best strategies for teaching Spanish.