No matter the time of year, we can expect that a new student will join our class after the first few days of school. So how can you make a new student feel welcome in Spanish class? It can be even harder in a language class than in other classes, because we are communicating in another language!
I have had many frustrating days when a new student shows up at my doorstep without warning. And I’m going to be honest (and probably embarrass myself!). I often have to hide my frustration. Setting aside the enormous class sizes I have and the worry about how I will meet everyone’s needs, I feel frustrated because if I had some notice, I would have gone out of my way to make this kiddo’s first day less stressful and painful. After all, my frustration has nothing to do with this new student. It stems from my feeling of not doing everything this kiddo deserves to make them feel welcome.
So- if I can count on getting new students, and if I can count on not having notice (at least sometimes), what CAN I do to be prepared to make a new student feel welcome in Spanish class?
Tip #1 For How To Make a New Student Feel Welcome
Be prepared! When I think of how much work I put into my lesson plans for the first week of school, how much time it takes to get all the students signed up for the right programs (Google Classroom, Remind, AP Classroom, Formative, etc etc), it’s no surprise that it takes a while to onboard a student who starts later!
It took me a long time, but I FINALLY wised up and created a “Welcome Packet” for new students. In this packet, I include everything I give to my students at the beginning of a new school year. For me, this includes class codes and log in information, letters to parents, personal interview questions for students, cheating and plagiarism expectations, our grading policy, and things like that. I also include a bulleted list of things a new student must do in order to get up to speed. Things like: add the international keyboard to their device, read X information in Google Classroom, etc. I edit this at the beginning of each new school year to update log in information and class codes. Then I print out about 10 and save them in a folder.
When a new student arrives, with or without warning, I pull out a welcome packet and now I don’t have to stop class to spend 30 minutes onboarding a new student! He/She/They can take their seat and start working on the list of things to do, and by the next class, they are fully ready to participate in class!
Once the very basic logistics are taken care of, now it’s time to find ways to get to know your new student. We know that this can be challenging in the busy environment of our high school classes, particularly when the classes are large.
But one of the things in the student’s welcome packet was the interview questions! We collect that and then use the information to ask follow up questions. During a time when all students are working, maybe you wander the aisles and stop to ask a question about this new student’s favorite sport. A day or 2 later, maybe you can ask the student if they can open their locker yet. I think most teachers know the ways to engage our teens, and a few mini-conversations and extra attention to a new student goes a long way!
Tip #3 To Make a New Student Feel Welcome
This tip is easiest after some time in the school year has gone by and you know your students a little better. You know that kiddo who loves to talk? The one who always volunteers? Or maybe event the quiet one that doesn’t say much, but ALWAYS knows what’s going on and has everything needed for class? Give THAT student the special job of sitting next to the new students for a few days. If you have a seating chart, move a couple kids around while the new student gets acclimated. Spanish classes require a certain amount of peer trust and camaraderie so that students feel comfortable taking risks. Setting a new student up with a “partner” that can guide them well is a really great way to help them feel safe and comfortable during class!