Samantha Chaney, Elementary Spanish Teacher, Maumee Valley Country Day School, Toledo, Ohio, OFLA ELL Committee Member
The day has just begun when a Spanish teacher enters her classroom. In her room, you don’t find textbooks, workbooks, and mountains of worksheets. However, you do find playdough, puppets, toys, and children’s books. On the walls are a fiesta of posters, weather and calendar sets, and sight words. This is an elementary classroom…a Spanish elementary classroom.
The first prep for the day belongs to the tiniest of the tiny…three to five year-olds. We sing, dance, play “Simon says”, and stick sticky notes all around the room– sometimes on each other! We have chants and actions for almost everything. It’s loud, but it’s also in Spanish! Whether we are listening, speaking, chanting, or playing, Spanish is happening.
Instead of teaching kids from a textbook, we rely on skills that were introduced in the regular preschool and kindergarten classes. By first and second grade, for instance, the students can run through the weather and the calendar at the beginning of class all “en español”. After calendar, they dive into their folders and read with partners a TPRS story. This is wrapped up by the teacher recording the students acting out the story. Out they go, singing in Spanish!
The next to come are the third and fourth graders! Their task is to take the characters that they have learned through many stories, lessons, and videos and create their own story. Yes! Bring on the markers, crayons, and poster board. Each student over a period of time goes from ideas to the rough draft to the final poster. Those are then placed around the school for others to admire and absorb vocabulary.
Fifth graders, the top dogs, end the day. They’re starting to understand conjugation. Oh, the grammar! Oh, the boredom! Oh, the song parodies! These fifth graders are taking excerpts from story books and analyzing the characters. We’ve skimmed over the concept of “who is doing the talking about whom” a thousand times, but this is where the mini lessons and focus groups are formed. The groups are set and students have the task of teaching their classmates the power of conjugation, all within a more interesting context of characters in the storybook. Chants are sung, posters hung, and the bell has rung.
The day has flown by, emails are answered, copies made, books have been bookmarked and stacked up for another day. All of the accommodations and learning plans are updated. The stickers are brought out and incentive charts are filled. Two stickers for Charlie because he took risks today, one for Zoe because she met expectations. All of these are logged in the notes after each class. After housekeeping items are finished, the teacher turns to her plans for the rest of the week, adjusts, and continues on.
Onward goes the teacher to Pinterest, blogs, and various websites for inspiration. Working with the concept of content-related instruction, the Spanish teacher tweaks the “regular” classroom teachers’ plans and translates them for future use because textbooks and the like don’t do the job for a six year-old mind. After pinning, saving, and jotting down ideas, the teacher is ready to go home. It makes for a long, high energy day, but it’s worth it.