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It’s Time to Challenge Your Elementary Spanish Students

By this time in the school year your elementary Spanish students have had many months to develop their comprehension and speaking skills. They probably know a lot of vocabulary and phrases by rote and are accustomed to routine interpersonal interactions from the activities in class. This is good. This is the foundation upon which they will build Spanish proficiency. Now, it’s time to challenge your students. True communication comes from the negotiation of meaning that occurs in interpersonal interactions that go beyond rote routines. Following are some suggestions as to how you can challenge your students in their Spanish communication:

  • Stay in Spanish. Hopefully you’ve been staying in Spanish at least 90% of the time in your class. If not, start to do it. If you have been doing it, maintain the practice and try to integrate it into all your interactions with your students, whether in class or outside of class.
  • Start asking the question, “¿Por qué?” For example, the “Buenos días” song from the Sonrisas CD gives you the opportunity to ask students, “¿Cómo estás?” After they respond, you can follow up by asking “¿Por qué?” Then you can circle with their response. Even if a student answers in English, simply switch their answer to Spanish and then circle with it. “¿Por qué?” allows the student to enter into a higher level of communication where they are sharing information, feelings, and opinions.
  • Focus interpersonal conversations on your students’ personal lives. For example, if you are doing the lesson on Mi casa, ask your students about their houses. What are they like? What color? How many rooms? Are they big or small? What shape, etc? You can do this throughout the different segments of the lesson. Lesson activities, shared reading, and art projects can all be a starting point to extend conversations that focus on your students’ lives.
  • Encourage your students to read the instructions for Student Portfolio activities in Spanish. You can model how to do this and/or you can have students take turns doing for the whole group.
  • In Sonrisas Level II insure that your students are staying in Spanish during the Partner Time activities. You might need to model this or provide a small incentive for them when they do it.
  • In Sonrisas Level III there is ample opportunity during the TPRS story of each unit to extend conversations to focus on students’ personal lives. Almost any detail that emerges in the storytelling process can be compared to a student’s life and then used in circling. You can also challenge your students to stay in Spanish for the entire class, not just the story.

I always like to end the school year with a combination of challenging my students in these ways while also providing lots of review of vocabulary and concepts learned throughout the year. In this way, students are able to use their prior knowledge and comfort level with known concepts to extend interpersonal interactions so that they begin to truly communicate.

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