As back-to-school season approaches, we think about our new students. Who are they? What will they be like? Will we have a good class vibe? High school teachers get this feeling about 5 times (because that’s how many different classes we typically teach each semester!) Creating a good classroom climate where students feel welcomed is very important. Wondering how to make connections with your Spanish students? Try one of these ideas!
1. Share Who You Are
Did you know that the brain is hard-wired to learn best through story-telling? Consider starting the school year by presenting yourself to your class. I use a Google Slides presentation to share images, but I tell short stories about myself. I tell students how learning Spanish has enriched my life. Then tell them a little about my personality and likes and dislikes. Next I share what’s most important to me in my personal life. Last, I let them know what to expect from me as a teacher. I try to share something funny or quirky so that the presentation is interesting!
Everyone is different. Some teachers will feel more comfortable than others about sharing personal information. Always remember to know your audience. Be authentic, but pick things to share that your students might relate to. For example, share a sport you like to play. Inevitably, there will be a student who also likes that sport, and many others who love another sport. Bang! An instant connection!
Feel free to ask students questions during the presentation- like… raise your hand if you play a sport! Or use an interactive software like Peardeck to ask them to vote. For instance, I show pictures of my 2 children, and tell a little about their personalities. Then I ask my students to choose the child they are most like. Make connections between you and your students, or even between peers by finding out what you have in common!
It seems to me that sharing myself with my students, being able to tell funny stories, and making myself seem human to them really helps ease some of the nervousness that everyone has at the beginning of a new school year.
2. Learn Students’ Names
This may seem like a no-brainer, but let’s face it. Nothing makes a someone feel more anonymous than when the person in charge doesn’t know your name. Has this happened to you? Ugh. Another equally discouraging problem is when a person does not pronounce your name correctly. My maiden name was Slavic and hard to pronounce. I would DREAD the beginning of a new school year when I had to teach my instructors how to say it. But worse was when months later, they still didn’t say it correctly and my peers would giggle.
So- how can we learn names fast? This is not easy for everyone. Here are my tactics. Maybe one might work for you!
*Use a seating chart. Once the student names are in there, ask them to sit in the same seats for the first 2 weeks. As they work on different activities, push yourself to learn one area at a time. For example, row 1 = Sara, Beth, Jake, Dennis. Look at the student and say their name in your head. Repeat. *I usually let kids know that I’m doing that so I don’t look so weird talking to myself!
*Play some name games. One idea is to take students into the hallway or outside. Have them line up in alphabetical order by first name! Take the straight line and have them move it into a circle. (This will get students talking to each other too!) Then, start with a volunteer. That student will say their name. The next student says the first student’s name and then their own. So- whoever is at the end of the line has the most difficult job! But the teacher and the classmates can help.
The first days of school can be very boring for secondary students. Playing a name game each day for the first week will not only get them up, moving, out of the classroom and engaged, but it it will help you to make connections with your Spanish students as you learn their names and share some laughs!
3. Ask Students About Themselves
At the secondary level, we have many students to get to know. One way to do this is to ask them to share some information about themselves. I give out a paper called “Entrevista personal” each year. Sometimes I have them work on it in class, and other years I assign it for homework. Ask questions that can give you some clues to a child’s cultural perspective. Inquire about their living situation, their likes and dislikes, their attitudes about learning. What goals do they have? What pronouns do they use?
I read through these papers during Week 1, but often I will go back and re-read them a few weeks later. Once I can put a name with a face it is easier to remember some of the important details that make each student who he or she is. I use this information to continue to form connections with them. Hey Javier- did you go camping this weekend? (Because Javier wrote down that camping is one of his favorite things to do). Hola Jess. I was wondering if you could help me decide how to design this learning activity for next week. Here are my ideas. (Because Jess wrote down that she likes to help in the classroom.) You get the idea! What an easy way to make connections with your Spanish students right from the beginning!
Here are the Entrevistas I give to my students. I hope you will find them helpful!