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Engage Your Students in Circle Time

The Circle Time segment of the Sonrisas Spanish lessons is meant to be fun and very active. The movement and actions that you incorporate into the music and activities connect Spanish to young learners’ physical bodies and engage their kinetic intelligence. The interpersonal communication that occurs facilitates acquisition.

In order for Circle Time to be effective, there needs to be a high level of engagement with the songs and activities. Engage your students in Circle Time by using the following strategies.

Learn the songs, and the movement that accompanies them, and perform them with your students.

This is one of the most important things to know about the Circle Time songs that are on the Sonrisas CD and the Canciones Culturales CD: they are meant to be used as a resource for you to learn them and then sing them with your students. Every song has movement and gesture that goes with it. As you sing the songs, you perform the movements and encourage your students to perform them with you.

You provide comprehensible input when you do the movement along with the songs. Learners are able to comprehend the Spanish lyrics they are singing by connecting them to the movement they perform. Young learners are especially adept at making these connections with their physical bodies. A key word here is “perform”.

Don’t be afraid to perform.

One of the best ways to engage young learners is to perform for them. This means taking the songs and activities and going beyond simply doing them. It means putting a lot of energy and enthusiasm into every song and every activity. It means using body movements and facial expressions to really bring the songs to life. It also means not being afraid to be goofy. In short it means hamming it up. When you do this, your students can’t help but get caught up in the energy and fun.

Do review in every Circle Time.

We know how valuable repetition is to language learning, and that is why we incorporate review into every Sonrisas lesson plan during Circle Time. Review also has the benefit of facilitating engagement. When students have prior knowledge of a song or activity, they will be less inhibited to engage with that content. Then participation in those activities can really build so that students begin to integrate the interpersonal communication that occurs.

When you continue to review certain songs and activities, day in and day out, students become very proficient in them, and their communication increases. You can then expand on the phrases and vocabulary used in those activities to develop learners’ comprehension and speaking skills even more.

Use calendar activities to connect to students’ everyday lives.

The basic calendar routine in the Sonrisas lessons involves asking the four daily questions:

  • ¿Qué día es hoy?
  • ¿Cuál es el mes? (In Sonrisas Level II this becomes ¿Cuál es la fecha?)
  • ¿Cuál es la estación?
  • ¿Qué tiempo hace? (o ¿Cómo está el clima?)

When you ask these questions during Circle Time, you give students the opportunity to connect their Spanish to their everyday lives and what is happening around them. This is very engaging for students. They love talking about seasons and weather and the different traditions and holidays that occur throughout the year.

The routine of asking the four daily questions also provides you with a basis for extending communication around these themes. The Sonrisas Calendar Time Guide includes many activities that expand on the four daily questions. You can insure a high level of engagement from students by incorporating these activities into your Circle Time.

When all else fails, play a game.

There will be those days when, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your students to engage. Don’t fight it. There are lots of fun games that you can do, in Spanish, that provide a good learning experience for children. Playing a game such as Simón dice, Lotería, or Perrito, perrito, ¿Dónde está tu hueso? can be a great way to engage students. Most games also have opportunities for real world communication.

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