Since I’ll be teaching Hebrew supplementary school starting on Wednesday (Oy!! That’s in 4 days!!), I’ll refer to my Spanish teacher day job as Public School from now on.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, during the day I teach Spanish as a ‘special’ class to 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders in suburban Chicagoland. I see each group 3 times/week, for 30 minutes per class. We just closed out our first week back at school.
I was delighted to see how much Spanish my 3rd and 4th graders have retained even after the 2-month break! We eased into Personalized Questions and Answers (PQA) around the topic of summer vacation. My students are fortunate enough to have some pretty spectacular experiences, including European jaunts, hiking the national parks, and accompanying their parents on trips to Asia, Australia and beyond. To extend our Spanish discussion and incorporate literacy, I typed their fabulous summer destinations into a simple table. Next to the student (Spanish) name column sits the “I went to….” column. After hearing the info orally for portions of our first two classes, the class helped me fill-in the table in real time. I asked; they answered, I typed it into the table which was projected onscreen. Once complete, I asked questions about who went where, I compared students’ trips, and even allowed a tiny bit of English to creep in if the student simply HAD TO share something special. “I saw Old Faithful!” “I went to Hamilton on Broadway!” “I saw the changing of the guard!!” I hope to use these fabulous tidbits and locations in our story-spinning this year, as they are important and compelling personal details and help each child feel known and honored.
My second graders were the most challenging. Classes are larger, and the kids are exhausted by the end of the day. We (adults) often underestimate the effect of the transition back to a full day of school for young children. I was sure to revive familiar routines (i.e., greeting/goodbye song) which provide much needed structure for the wee ones. But alas, my classroom is sweaty (no air conditioning); the chairs are hard (transitioning from the rug and plenty of stretching and movement can only help so much!) and the kids are tired, hungry, need a Band-Aid, want a drink, have a tummy ache, just lost a tooth…in short, they find it hard to stay focused. This will change as they grow accustomed to the new school year and schedule, but it means that I can’t expect or push too much…yet. Limited language input, no full-on circling, lots of movement (we did some modified yoga poses) and plenty of props. We picked our favorite (plastic) snacks and using “want” and “looks for,” we pretended to eat them.
First graders were mesmerized by their first week of Spanish. The groups are tiny, and I’m visiting them at the rug in their own classroom, at least until the groups ‘gel’ and they’re ready to transition to my Spanish classroom. THIS MAKES A HUGE & POSITIVE DIFFERENCE! They’re beyond excited about their new Spanish names. It’s like they’re in a trance when they hear me speak – you can hear a pin drop!
Takeaways for my upcoming Hebrew lessons:
•Start slowly and don’t push too hard. Don’t expect (hardly any) output.
•Limit the input. Short, in-bounds sentences and questions.
•Predictability and structure, especially important for younger groups.
•Inject humor with props, funny images, costume elements, etc. This lowers anxiety (i.e., The Affective Filter).
•Observe closely: Change it up when attention flags. Outta the chairs and Move, Move, Move!