How to Begin Teaching Spanish - First Day of Class Activities
Prepare the classroom for the first day of class
Starting the first day of the school year in a Spanish class can be anxious for the teacher, as well as the students. How do you get started on that very first day? How do you engage a roomful of anxious faces that are staring at you?
First, make sure your classroom is inviting, with maps of Spanish-speaking countries and perhaps flags from some of them. Introduce culture immediately by having colorful pictures on your bulletin board of such events as Cinco de Mayo or Day of the Dead, the running of the bulls or flamenco dancers,
Having an inviting environment is the first step in making students feel comfortable the first day of class. As many people experience fear of learning a foreign language, making students feel less anxious is doubly important in the Spanish class.
Spanish Class Pictures and Labels to Put in Your Classroom
Label everyday objects with Spanish words
Another preparation is to label common objects in the classroom with brightly colored signs. Label the door, the windows, the walls, and the floor. Label the teacher's desk, the clock, the bookshelves, the globe--whatever items are present.
Surround students with these visual reminders. Many students will learn some of these words just by looking at them every day in class.
Pick a Spanish name
Now it's time to welcome your students into Spanish class. One thing my students always seemed to have fun with was to pick out a Spanish name. Generally, their Spanish textbook will have a list of names from which they can choose. Some students will choose the translation of their own name while others opt for a name that is totally different.
Instruct your students to address you with Señora, Señorita, or Señor before your last name. Just using and hearing everybody's Spanish names in the classroom will help to create a positive environment--and a good vibe--for learning the Spanish language.
I still run into students who were in my classes fifteen years ago. Sometimes I remember their Spanish names--they usually remember, too--from class before I remember their real names. Many of them still call me Señorita, a name I allowed them to call me without use of the last name.
Learn Key Spanish Phrases
Meet and greet with Spanish phrases
After the students have chosen their names, let the class meet and greet their classmates. Teach them how to say "Hello. My name is ____." Put the class in pairs and have them introduce themselves to each other.
Ex. "Hola. Me llamo Pablo."
There is no need to go into any kind of grammatical lesson at this point about the structure of the phrase. For the first day, just get the students used to hearing and speaking the language.
As the teacher, you can assess how the students are doing by walking around the classroom. After the introductions, you might also ask a few students "¿Cómo te llamas?" to get them used to the question "What is your name?" and thus give the response that they have already practiced.
After this exercise, add a few more common Spanish greetings such as:
¿Cómo estás? -- How are you?
Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú? -- Very well, thank you. And you?
After asking each other how they are, the students can then add that it was a pleasure to meet the other person by saying "Mucho gusto." The other student can use something different. "El gusto es mio" says that "The pleasure is mine."
Now students have a short introductory conversation they can practice. Have the pairs practice the conversation with each other. Then call on two or three--or more--pairs to volunteer to role play the conversation for the class.
Get students engaged with music!
If you have time that first day of class, introduce students to music they have heard with Spanish words, such as La Bamba or La Cucharacha. They might be surprised to learn that a cucharacha is a cockroach! (You don't have to go into other meanings behind the song.)
Show a video with both Spanish and English lyrics. Talking about what the song is saying may get the students more interested the next time they hear the song. Looking at the translation of lyrics is another way to get students to learn phrases in a foreign language.
La Bamba with Spanish and English Lyrics
Have students keep a learning journal
Something I found helpful for me as a teacher in beginning Spanish classes was requiring students to keep a journal. The purpose was for students to share their thoughts about their own learning, which was very helpful to me as the teacher. Students should keep a separate notebook for this purpose.
Most students are not good at regularly writing in journals on their own, so at least once a week, it's a good idea to give them a few minutes to write. You might ask them to write about how they are feeling about their progress in Spanish class so far and in what areas they are having the most trouble. You might even ask them to write a paragraph response to their first day of Spanish class as their first assignment. This will give you an idea as to how the class is feeling as a whole.
These journals can be taken up once a month or so. Give students points for just completing the number of required entries. Leave feedback on their entries that warrant it. The journal can be helpful to both student and teacher, as it provides a venue for students to share their anxiety and issues in their efforts to learn a foreign language.
Have Fun in Spanish Class!
- Fun Activities in Spanish - Spanish Class Activities
Fun activities for Spanish class? Making piñatas, authentic foods, and learning culture! Spanish Bingo, Cinco de Mayo party, plus fun academic activities such as skits and describing photos.
Get your Spanish class off to a good start!
With these activities, you will engage students and get them speaking the Spanish language the very first day of class. There will be some nerves out there but also some laughs as students try to pronounce new phrases with each other.
As the semester goes on, you can bring in topics on the importance of learning Spanish. Knowing a second language helps one to be more marketable in the career world. It makes people more well-rounded in their education. Learning a language is also healthy in that it challenges the mind.
At the beginning, though, just get your students engaged and interested. Another positive thing about learning a foreign language, as your students will see, is that it can also be a fun experience!