This blog post will provide a glimpse into my management plan for the Elementary Spanish classroom. I outline routines, procedures, structure of my lessons, and organization of work spaces. Because students participate in a combination of partner, small group, and whole group collaboration, it is crucial that I set up an environment that is comfortable and effective for larger class sizes. I welcome your comments and hope that we can start a dialogue about routines and structures that have worked in your foreign language classroom.
I have set up a routine in my classroom so that students know when and how we complete tasks and activities. The first routine consists of entering the classroom. First, students must enter quietly and in a straight line. Once they are in the classroom, they must immediately find their assigned seats. Students in grades third through sixth must stand behind their chair and wait quietly until their teacher greets them. Students in grades kindergarten to second grade sit in their seats quietly until their teacher greets them. Usually, the greeting reads, “Buenos días/tardes clase” (good morning/afternoon class). Students then respond, “Buenos días/tardes Señora Deyamport” (good morning/afternoon, Mrs. Deyamport). At that point, the teacher tells students to sit down in the target language. Next, the objectives for the period are given. The teacher may also remind students of her expectations for behavior and draw the class’s attention to the behavior/star chart. Sometimes the teacher may count the stars with the class in Spanish. This serves as a reminder of what students need to do to earn their star for the day.
For the most part, instruction is given in a large group. Most independent practice is done in small groups. When I want to present a new topic or decide to review concepts, I use the interactive whiteboard. During this time, all students’ attention should be directed to the activity. For independent practice, I usually assign small groups to a specific center. At this center, students are to complete interactive tasks related to the content. Some sample activities include playing a concentration game to review vocabulary, listening to an audio book in the target language, playing online games that reinforce vocabulary, or labeling manipulatives with their appropriate Spanish name.
I also have a certain routine every time I need to get the attention of the class. I use this signal when students are working on different tasks at the same time. First, I stand in the front of the class and hold my hand up. Next, I start counting to five in Spanish and hold up each finger as I count out loud. Once students see me doing this, they must stop talking and look at the teacher. I practice this signal with students at the beginning of the year and throughout the year. The first group or table to follow directions usually gets fake cash. This technique is one recommended by Harry Wong (1997) because it redirects students’ focus and attention in a calm and structured manner.
The classroom is organized to create a kinesthetically supportive environment (McIntosh & Peck, 2005). McIntosh and Peck (2005) suggest that teachers create work spaces that are clutter free and allow for comfortable movement. I have set up four to five work areas in my room to promote this notion. First, my computers are located in the back of the class and face the back of the class in order to diffuse any distractions. Near those computers, I have set up a round table with accompanying chairs. At that round table I keep my radio and headphones or other small manipulatives needed for particular tasks. Next, the center of the classroom houses six long tables which I have arranged into a U-shape. I have organized my tables this way to promote a collaborative environment and to save space. Lastly, my interactive whiteboard is at the front of the class and visible from all parts of the room.
Distribution of Materials
Classroom helpers assist in distributing and collecting materials. Every month three students from each homeroom class are selected to perform these tasks. Helpers also assist in cleaning up the room by straightening chairs and collecting folders and placing them in the appropriate cubby before the class is dismissed. I explain to students that my choice is based on exemplary behavior and whether or not that student has shown responsibility. I also like to post the names of these students on my helper bulletin board as recognition. Once the month is up, I also like to reward these students with a small prize. To the students, being a helper is something they strive for. Involving students in helping manage the class helps create a sense of ownership and community (Chapman & King, 2008).
Chapman, C. & King, R. (2008). Differentiated instructional management: Work smarter, not harder. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
McIntosh, E., & Peck, M. (2005). Multisensory strategies: Lessons and classroom management techniques to reach and teach all learners. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Wong, H. (1997). First days of school. Mountain View, CA: Harry Wong Publications.