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Tips for Staying in Spanish in Your Class

The most effective learning experience for your elementary Spanish students includes creating an immersion environment in your class with lots of opportunity for interpersonal communication. This means staying in Spanish at least 90% of the time in your class. This is the recommendation of ACTFL, and the Sonrisas Spanish lessons were designed with this recommendation in mind. But doing this is still a challenge for many teachers. The following tips will help you stay in Spanish in your class.

Remember to Use Comprehensible Input

Each segment of the Sonrisas lessons utilizes comprehensible input (CI). This allows you to stay in Spanish as you engage your students in Circle Time activities, read stories in Story Time, and do art projects in Art Time. In Circle Time, the gestures and movements that you (and your students) perform, as you sing, provide the CI. In the lesson activity, the context of the activity and the physical materials provide CI. As you read the storybook in Story Time, CI is provided by the illustrations in the book, the context of the story, repetitive text, and familiar themes. In Art Time, the physical art materials and the context of the project itself provide CI.

If you feel it is necessary you can proceed these activities with a brief explanation, in English, so that students know what is going to happen. But then when you go to do the activity, you want to use CI and stay in Spanish. When you establish this behavior as the norm in your class, your students become accustomed to engaging in Spanish. It is then, when you have an established an immersion environment, that every moment becomes a teaching opportunity.

Rephrase English Responses

It is easy to slip into English when your students respond to you in English. A more effective way to handle this situation is to rephrase students’ response in Spanish. We can’t expect our students to respond to all of our conversation in Spanish while they are still learning. But we can provide the model of how we say things in Spanish by simply rephrasing whatever English students use.

You also want to be careful about forcing students to use Spanish before they are ready. This can contribute to fear and inhibition about speaking in Spanish. This is why rephrasing can be so powerful. You encourage open communication while also providing a model of the language being learned. Over time, especially with repetitive phrases used in class, students will begin to use Spanish in place of English.

Make Speaking Spanish Fun

This may seem obvious, but when you impart excitement and joy about speaking in Spanish, it increases students’ motivation and enthusiasm for using Spanish. If using Spanish the majority of the time in your class becomes a point of friction or frustration, students will pick up on this, and their motivation to learn will decrease.

You also create a positive connotation about learning a second language. This goes a long way toward creating life-long language learners. It really is a joy to watch children learn a new language, so demonstrate this with a positive attitude and excitement as you teach.

Check Out These Other Resources

We have written a lot about staying in the target language in the Sonrisas blog. Check out these other articles:

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