Imagine with me..it's Day 1.
You're ready to meet a new group of kids and get them started on their journey. You're prepared. The environment is perfect: the music inside the classroom is on (for me it's usually Maná on the first day) and kids are coming down the hall en masse. Even with all that positive energy, there is still 1 thing that all language teachers worry about on Day 1...
The BIG Question
How do I get them to not freak out completely when they realize I speak in Spanish...all the time...?
Comprehensible Input with Instant Gratification:
Make something together in the target language.
My colleague Michele introduced me to the Name Card years ago...and I am forever grateful...
1. The initial shock
I greet my new students at the door with “Hola. Buenos días. Lee la pizarra.” I get dumbfounded looks and sometimes an “Hola” back but “Lee la pizarra”? Really? Yes. Point and make sure that your whiteboard has the word “LA PIZARRA” labeled on it. The Daily Slide on said "pizarra" says “Necesitas: una tarjeta y unos marcadores”. The supply station has those items on it and labeled so they know what they need to pick up.
The Daily Slide and Supply Station are critical for this to work because it challenges them to think in Spanish, but gives them all the support they need to be successful.
They ask me in English what to do and I repeat in Spanish “Lee la pizarra, agarra los materials y siéntate." I don’t break into English, just gesture and repeat. The trick is, if 1 of them gets it, which 1 always will, then the others follow like little lemmings.
Now they're sitting down with materials they heard about and read about in the Target Language...let's see how it plays out...
2. Levanta la tarjeta
“Levanta la tarjeta” (I raise up the card and wave it...) Then I repeat the phrase and the action…”Levanta la tarjeta”(Action again) The light flickers in their minds and they recover from the shock of hearing Spanish…a few cards go up….then a few more…the Wave breaks out in my classroom with index cards.
Then I switch it up: “Baja la tarjeta” My card goes down, and 1 kid’s card goes down. The rest of them are still waving. I repeat “Baja la tarjeta” and drop the card down further and more dramatically.
Almost all the cards drop, except that one kid…can you see him still blithely waving his card in the air because he spaced out after having accomplished the first task? The other kids fix that with an excessively loud “Bro, she said put your card down!”
Ok, all of them are on the same page now, game on. “Levanta la tarjeta…Baja la tarjeta…Levanta la tarjeta…Baja la tarjeta…DOBLA la tarjeta”
3. Dobla la tarjeta
WHAT?! DOBLA?!? Yes.
I do the action, and follow with “Dobla la tarjeta” You’re gonna fold this card many times, my friend, but they’re gonna get it.
Then one kid asks “Hamburger or hotdog?” and you know you’ve won.
“Dobla la tarjeta cómo una salchicha. NOOOO cómo una hamburguesa. Dobla cómo una salchicha.” and you are folding while you speak...over and over while you speak. When everyone’s card is folded, you start in on the markers.
4. Levanta un marcador y escribe tu nombre
“Levanta un marcador” (Act it out just like you did the cards) “Levanta un marcador…baja un marcador…levanta un marcador.”
When you have them moving with you, add “con un marcador, ESCRIBE tu nombre” and you use your marker to write your name on the card.
Then point at them and repeat “ESCRIBE tu nombre muy GRANDE”. They’ll get it.
You have modeled it, and you’ve made an artifact all in the Target Language!
5. Pon la tarjeta en el pupitre
Last step, putting their new name card on their desk.
“Levanta la tarjeta…Baja la tarjeta…Levanta la tarjeta…Baja la tarjeta y PON la tarjeta en el pupitre” Gesture, tap, demonstrate. Show them what you want them to do, and speak in Spanish.
They’ll get it. It’s comprehensible input. Even when they swear they don’t get it, or act confused or give you blank stares…they will get it. Don’t break.
When everyone has their name cards on their desks, there's only 1 thing left to do...
6. Celebrate like crazy!!!
They just did an Interpretive Task! They're amazing and brilliant and don't "suck at Spanish" like they've always thought. They just understood SPANISH within the first 10 minutes of Day 1 and you know they understood because they have a thing to show for it!!
Now they know that your class is going to be in Spanish, but that your Spanish is going to be something that they understand! They’ll get used to it and learn SOOO much more than you’ve ever thought possible.
Then you can switch your English/Spanish signal to the English side and do your first day housekeeping. See how easy it is now to take attendance with big bold name cards on desks?
Everything you do sets the tone. Everything you do gets them moving on their language journey. Keep it up! You’re amazing!!