Frase Secreta: Spanish Passwords

With a new year upon us, now is the perfect time to start a new routine in your classroom. I know most teachers are familiar with the work of Harry Wong, but how many of us apply those practices every day despite their incredible benefits? Let’s take a look at the reasons for implementing a “greeting” system into your class:

  1. We acknowledge and honor a student’s presence.
  2. We model proper social behavior in welcoming someone’s arrival.
  3. It establishes a positive classroom climate in which students feel a sense of connection and belonging.
  4. It establishes a positive relationship between teacher and student.
  5. Research* has shown it increases student engagement in class.
  6. Research* has shown it decreases disruptive behavior.

and if these reasons aren’t enough for you, let’s look at the benefits in a world language classroom who can go a step further and implement a “password” or “secret phrase” where students must respond with a special phrase of the week. The curriculum benefits are:

  1. It allows students to practice high-frequency phrases.
  2. Students engage in culturally-appropriate greetings.
  3. Teacher can listen to pronunciation from EVERY student.
  4. It allows phrases to be used in a meaningful context.

Despite all these positives, many teachers will find an excuse to not engage in this practice.

And while we understand there are some situations that make it difficult, we want to help you find a solution. Teachers that need to use the restroom during the passing period, teachers that have to move to a different classroom, teachers that just need a few minutes between classes to prep.

No more excuses:

  1. Establish a rule that students may not enter the room without permission. Have them form a line at the door and wait in the hallway until you are ready. This gives you a few minutes to do what you need to do to get ready.
  2. During times when you simply can not be at the door (maybe you need to run for a bathroom break), greet the first student and have that student be the greeter. This continues the routine when you are unable to do it yourself.
  3. Make time. Do whatever you can do ahead of time to prepare so that you use the passing period to have a meaningful interaction with your students.

So what do you need to do? Here’s how it works:

  1.  Choose a phrase for the week. I post mine on the board every Friday and students write it in their assignment notebooks. You could post it on your website, class calendar, or Google Classroom.
  2. Instruct students they must say the secret phrase in order to enter the classroom. I stand outside the door and either ask in the target language “(Do you know) the secret phrase?” and they respond or I would ask them a question/make a statement in which the phrase would be the appropriate response.
  3. If students do not know the phrase, they can stand next to me and listen to other students say it.


I also have students say a certain phrase if they leave the room during class and return (for example, when they come back from the bathroom.) Students always must knock on the door to enter.  At the beginning of the year, I usually ask “¿Quién es?” and they have to respond “Soy yo”. Later on, I ask them to say “He regresado”.

The Challenge: #GreetingChallenge

I encourage you to try it out. Give it two weeks. Start with a simple greeting, where the students say “Buenos días, profe” or “Feliz año nuevo”. The question to ask yourself is not whether you can find the time to do it, it’s how can you NOT find the time to do it.

Not only will it pique the interests of other students in the hallways, but I often have teachers stopping in the hallway to try and listen to what the students are saying.

We’d love to hear from you! Are you currently using a Password system in your classroom? How is it going? Do you have other hesitations or obstacles that prevent you? Let us know and let’s see if we can find you solutions/suggestions.

*Research can be seen here.

If you are ready to implement this strategy into your classroom and want to save time on creating signs, plus want a list of 50 passwords, you can check out our “Frase Secreta: Spanish Passwords” product on TpT.


About SpanishPlans

Spanish Educator, with focus on acquisition Educator Enthusiast I love learning about and sharing culture.
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5 Responses to Frase Secreta: Spanish Passwords

  1. Sounds like a worthwhile effort. Thanks!

    Do you often find that opening greetings can morph into conversations, which can turn into more wonderful CI for the students?

    We’re making big (positive) changes this coming semester, and I foresee wanting to start class with more conversational stuff that could easily take on a life of its own if students can understand and follow – a news story, an event within the school, something that another student is wearing, etc.

    • SpanishPlans says:

      I suppose it could… especially in upper levels or for students who have more language ability. At the novice level, I think it’s just a fun way for them to get some practice reps in of a useful phrase and try to use certain phrases in context. But hopefully greeting students does cultivate better relationships and a more positive culture that would allow students to be more open to conversation.

  2. lamaestraglebe says:

    I teach Spanish to grades Kindergarten through 5th grade. I have been greeting my students by name at the door as the enter for 10 years at this school. At my old school, all students would reply. At this school some students don’t reply or even acknowledge that I’m standing there! This occurs mainly with grades 4-5. Is it the age? I try to not take i personally, because other teachers in the school say they experience the same thing. I talked to the kids about how manners are very important especially in el mundo Hispano, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • SpanishPlans says:

      This, I think, is the advantage of having a “password”. You block the door by standing in front of it and don’t allow them to enter until they give you to the password, which might be some type of response to a certain question you ask. When the expectation is that they are not allowed to enter the room until they give the password and they are physically not able to enter the classroom until they do, they have no other choice but to acknowledge your presence.

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