It’s the second day of Spanish class and students are freaking out about their Spanish teacher speaking only Spanish in class. It’s a change for them, as they are not accustomed to being immersed in the language for nearly all of class. But at the end of this lesson, students will understand that despite the teacher speaking only in Spanish, they are doing exactly what they need to. Here’s how I implemented my plan to stay in the target language for, the ACTFL recommended, 90% of class:
The lesson today was to organize students’ notebooks. I had bought Post-it TABS from Target. They were a bit expensive, but I used money from our parent organization. For cheaper, you can also buy Page Markers. The entire lesson was conducted entirely in the target language. I told the students we were going to organize our notebooks in five sections. I first made sure they all put their names on the front of the notebook. Then on the first page, we wrote at the top of the page and on the tab, the word “ENTRADAS“. I explained to them what an entrada was; essentially it is my term for bell work. While talking, I also took a notebook and labeled it myself, showing the class exactly what I was doing, so that they had visual reassurance. Even though some kids may understand exactly what you are saying, some need that visual assurance that they are doing it correctly.
I then told them to count ahead 20 pages for the second section and handed out another set of tabs. We marked this section as “APUNTES” and I explained that this would be the section for grammar or cultural information.
Jumping ahead another 20 pages or so, we labeled the section for “VOCABULARIO“, 20 more pages for “ACTIVIDADES” and then I told them to close their notebooks. We then started at the back of the notebook and counted 5 pages back. For the fifth section, we labeled it “VOCABULARIO ADICIONAL” on the top of the page and wrote “adicional” on the tab. I then instructed them to draw a line in the middle of the page to create 2 columns. The first column we labeled “Palabras Nuevas” and I told them that this is where we put vocabulary that isn’t from the textbook but important words we come across in class activities, from reading or listening. The second column we labeled “Cognados” and using a brief listen of a song and a quick reference to a book, we wrote an example for each.
I then told them to close their notebooks. In English, I told them I had 2 questions for them. The first:
- Did you understand everything I said today?
They, of course, responded with “no”. And I told them that I did not think that they would.
- Did you all organize and label your notebook into 5 sections?
They, of course, responded with “yes”, to which I responded that they had accomplished exactly what I had intended them to do.
My next discussion was to tell them that they did not need me to speak in English for them to be able to accomplish the task. That even though I spoke Spanish the entire time, they were able to get done exactly what I had intended. Some may have understood more or less than the person sitting next to them, but it did not matter; they ALL met the goal of the lesson. I told them that with the help of previous vocabulary they have studied, with cognates, and with visuals, they can get out a lot more than they think, so that when they hear all Spanish, they should not immediately shut down and not try, but to use those methods to get the main idea.
I think this explanation opened up their eyes and will hopefully alleviate their anxiety (and lessen the number of parent e-mails complaining of me speaking only Spanish). I told them that this year we will be working towards a goal; and be completing tasks. That we would not just be studying lists of vocabulary words, but working towards an objective to apply those words.
If a student studies a list of 30 vocabulary words and knows all 30 words, that is fine. But if they can not actually use those 30 words to communicate, it is not worthwhile. But if a student only learns 5 vocabulary words, but can apply them and use them to communicate, that is much better. It is not about quantity of words, but quality of conversation.
I’m really looking forward to this school year and reaching my own goal of speaking a majority in the target language.