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How Elementary Spanish Classes Prepare Your Kid for College

Classroom Management in Spanish Class

After our last post about engaging students in Circle Time, teachers wanted to read more about how to keep students attention and how to do classroom management in Spanish class. These strategies have worked well for us during our 27 years of teaching Spanish to children. Of course you may have to tweak or modify some of these to make them work for you in your elementary Spanish class.

Useful Phrases for Classroom Management

It is important to note that when you are using Spanish for your classroom management, you want to make it comprehensible. You can do this by incorporating movement and gesture, or TPR, with the phrases you use.

  • Ojos aquí. Do the “I’m watching you” gesture by pointing at your eyes with your index and middle finger.
  • Pon atención. You can use the same gesture as above or point to your head with your index finger.
  • Escúchame. Place your hand behind your ear.
  • Silencio por favor. Do the “quiet” gesture with your index finger in front of your lips.
  • No es hora de . . . This one is useful if a student is doing something out of turn. For example if a student is eating something in class you can say, “No es hora de comer. Es hora de escuchar al libro.”
  • Levántate. Put both palms facing upward and raise them as you stand up.
  • Siéntate. Put both palms facing downward and lower them as you sit down.

A big factor with using Spanish for your classroom management is doing it consistently. When you use these phrases in every class, your students learn them with fluency. Then you can expand on them and use similar phrase when you need to. Remember to do the TPR and to not translate.

Use Physical Proximity to Calm Unwanted Behavior

When you have a student who is really acting up, many times this can be handled simply by moving close to the student. Go and sit or stand right next to them and then continue with your routine. If the behavior continues, it may help to have a side conversation with the student and set expectations and consequences.

Use Positive Reinforcement

If you are worried about keeping your class in Spanish, just remember: You are teaching Spanish! One of the most effective ways to do this is simply to provide a model of using Spanish for everything you do in your class. Then, when your students use their Spanish, reinforce that behavior by showering them with praise.

When an individual student uses Spanish in class, you can praise them by saying:

  • ¡Muy bien! Hablas el español muy bien.
  • ¡Me gusta como hablas Español!
  • ¡Clase, mira que listo/a es ___!

Use an External Reward

Sometimes you just have to cut to the chase and use an external reward. We would do this during the Art Time segment of the lessons with a game we called La mesa de Español.

First, we would brainstorm with students about different vocabulary they might need to use while they are doing the art project, such as the names of the different art supplies and phrases such as “Pass me the crayons” or “I need the glue” or “I’m finished.” We would review this vocabulary, in Spanish, each class before Art Time.

Then we would tell students that the table where they work during Art Time is called La mesa de Español and that when they are working at la mesa, we challenge them to speak only Spanish. Each time they spoke English, they would receive a “golpe” or strike.

If they made it through Art Time with fewer than three strikes, then they would each get one (yes just one) skittle at the end of class (which we would turn into a mini-lesson by asking them “¿Cuál color quieres?“, and they could only get the skittle if they answered in Spanish). With some groups, we would expand this routine to include the whole class time, not just Art Time.

A Consistent Routine is Very Effective

It can’t be underestimated how effective a consistent routine is for maintaining student engagement and positive behavior. We know that elementary learners thrive with routine and structure. This is why we designed the Sonrisas Spanish curriculum with the consistent structure of Circle Time, Story Time and Art Time.

Essentially what happens with routine is that students feel safe. When students feel safe, their brains are in a more receptive state for learning. And when students feel safe, they are less prone to acting out.

As with classroom management in any class, it is important that you set expectations and communicate consequences in your elementary Spanish class. This is something that you may have to do in English when you start with a new elementary Spanish class or as a reminder every now and then. Then remember to follow through on the expectations and consequences, use management strategies consistently, and have fun.

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