Let’s face it: it’s HARD to invest students in Spanish class. We’re competing for students’ attention and we just can’t keep up sometimes. They’ve got phones, friends, sports, video games, and their lives are moving a thousand miles a minute. It can be hard to invest students in Spanish class, and it’s tempting to try anything tech-related to get their attention.
In my experience, we actually need to take it back to basics when it comes to investing students in Spanish class. Sure, we can try all the new tech and mix up our activities every ten or fifteen minutes to stop the boredom, but what we really need is to set and share goals, invest students in us, and let them be awesome.
Set Shared Goals
In order to invest students in Spanish class, I’ve been setting shared goals since YEAR ONE (excuse me while I pat first-year-teacher-Kathryn on the back).
Whhyyyy does it make such a difference? If you share your goals and set goals with students, they know what they’re working toward. Instead of learning for the sake of learning, students are working toward something bigger.
When I first started teaching, I taught seventh grade ELA. My students’ seventh grade test scores directly impacted their high school options (AZ is a school choice state). As a class, we discussed what that meant and talked about what it meant to be an average student, a below-average, and above-average student. As a group, my class decided that they wanted B’s or better because it was above average. They wanted more options for their high school choices, and better grades opened doors. So when it came time to take an assessment, it wasn’t just about “passing the test.” Now, my students were invested in earning a B or higher so they could have more future options.
Looking to set goals for yourself? Check out this classroom vision resource for teachers.
So what does this look like in action? As a class, you can set goals. Check out this AMAZING norm-setting resource from La Maestra Loca. She walks you and your students through sharing ideas and building norms together. I also build in goal-setting by asking students to discuss what success looks like in Spanish class.
Doing this together instead of top-down invests students in your class because they’re a part of the bigger goal. They aren’t just working because you told them to, they’re working because they want to achieve the goals that they set out for themselves.
At the start of the year, I make an effort to check in with my students and determine what they want to work on individually. This could be through a survey, individual check-ins, a worksheet, etc. The options are limitless.
I encourage students to think about their academic strengths and determine what they might struggle with in Spanish class. If they’ve studied Spanish before, they can usually identify their challenges. I ask them to pinpoint a specific communication skill (reading, listening, speaking, writing) and what’s tough about it.
After identifying their challenges, I encourage students to set simple goals. Maybe they want to make five-word vocabulary lists to support them during speaking activities, or they want to use WordReference instead of a translator (read more about stopping translators here!).
Setting goals is great, but the way to invest students in Spanish class is to FOLLOW UP on those goals.
You can remind students of class-wide goals by…
- Posting them on the wall
- Adding them to your slides during independent work time
- Including them in expectations during assessments
- Adding them to the header/footer of your worksheets
For individual goals, I follow up by checking in on these goals when we do grade reflections. After each unit, I encourage my students to reflect on their grades, consider their successes and challenges, and check in on their goals. We use this worksheet for independent and partner reflections. It makes it so easy to follow up with students and check in on their goals.
Be Authentically You
I think I’ve said this before, but your students KNOW when you’re faking it. A little white lie every now and then may be necessary, but you can’t fake your personality. In order to invest students in Spanish class, you have to be your authentic self.
In order to be authentically you, share stories that are connected to the class topic. Sharing them in Spanish is even better! Click here to read more about being a fearless Spanish-user in class.
For example, maybe you’re teaching about ordering food and remember that time you put your foot in your mouth (not literally) at the mercado in Chile. Or you visited a local restaurant and didn’t think to order in Spanish even though the staff all speak Spanish!
This shows students: A. That you’re human. B. That your experiences could be their future experiences. By sharing possible future situations with our students, we can invest them in Spanish class because they see how they’ll use this knowledge in the future.
Invest them in YOU
Honestly, I’m not the best at this with high schoolers, but I crush it with middle schoolers! Sometimes kids just don’t connect with our content area, but they connect with us. By sharing those stories above, you’re sharing classroom-appropriate parts of your life. I’m not telling you to share the story of your most recent breakup (you know, unless it’s relevant to the content), but share your hobbies, share your interests when they’re related to class.
By sharing these pieces of yourself, you might find unexpected connections with your students. I have a student who LOVES fish. All fish. Fishing, studying fish, eating fish… You get the picture. If I share that I went snorkeling in my city recently and saw a tropical fish, I’ve got him hooked. Does he love Spanish? Maybe not, but he is interested in my fish story!
Let Them Be Awesome
The biggest way to invest students in Spanish class is by building their confidence. If they feel confident, they’ll not only use Spanish, but they’ll keep advancing without even knowing it. They will feel empowered to participate and share their ideas, and they’ll start their work because they feel ready to do so.
Support Them Left and Right
When students feel supported, they feel confident. There are SO many ways to support students, but my favorites are rescue phrases and word walls.
Rescue phrases are go-to phrases to support student understanding. I like to keep rescue phrases on students’ desks, but this printable card can also be stapled or glued into notebooks for easy reference.
Word walls are my next favorite way to support students. I keep the top 50 frequently used words on my wall, and I recently added the Super 7 Verbs for “yo” and “él/ella” to my walls. Students can use these resources in class to quickly find the words they’re looking for instead of asking me or feeling stuck. This helps them participate, write, and grow.
Opportunities to Succeed
Lastly, I want all of my students to have multiple opportunities to succeed. I’ve always worked in really diverse schools with a variety of student needs and I developed this freebie checklist to help me differentiate and support all of my students in class. When students feel successful, it’s easy to invest them in class.