lunes, 26 de agosto de 2013

Back to School: Ice Breaker Activities for Intermediate/Advanced Students

I like to have students speak Spanish early in my classes, as a way to reinforce to both new students and students that have had me before that speaking is an integral part of class. While not all of the activities listed here are speaking activities, I find them all useful for getting to know the students, and as an added bonus, I can get a sense of students' abilities without putting them in a high pressure situation. I also use my Six Speaking Games that Only Require a Ball as a way to set the tone and get students accustomed to using Spanish first thing in the classroom.

Before I continue to the ice breakers, I think that it is important to note that I always participate with my students. They can get to know me better, and it sets the stage for a positive relationship with them.

Ice Breakers for Intermediate/Advanced Students:
-2 Truths and a Lie: Students say three things about themselves, two of them true, one of them false, and the class guesses which is the false item
- I have never: Students sit in a circle. Everyone holds up five or ten fingers. Everyone in the circle says: I have never ______________. If a student has done said item, he or she must put down one of his fingers. If you want, you can give the students pieces of paper to toss into the center, instead of using fingers, etc. The first person to loose all of his items or put down all of his fingers is the winner!
- Hollywood: Set a timer for two-five minutes. One student stands in the middle of the circle of students, and answers random questions from classmates. You might have to give the students some examples. Such as What would your super power be? Or,  Who is your role model? Any (appropriate) question is fair game. When the two-three minutes are up, a new person is chosen for the circle. I usually start this activity with volunteers, allowing the students who are more introverted to get used to the idea of being in the spotlight prior to tossing them into the center.
- Describe a classmate. Pair students at random, and ask them to learn eight new things about their classmate. Then, without revealing who their partner was, students say what they have learned and the class guesses who they are describing.
- Silly sentences using names: Students write their own name poem using the letters of their name. You could require a sentence per letter, or require that the entire name reads as one sentence. I usually have my advanced students do the second, and I have them do both first and last names. We often hang these up in the classroom.
-Twitter Wall: My school does not allow us to use social media with students, so I use a paper version in my classroom. I place several large pieces of paper around the room with things like #First day of classes, # first impressions of teachers, #today I feel, etc. and have students go around the room and write under each of the topics. Then we read the papers aloud as a class.

In my next post, I will focus on Ice-Breakers for Beginner and Early Intermediate Students. What are your favorite first day activities that encourage students to use the language and help you get to know them?

domingo, 18 de agosto de 2013

Back to School: Meet the Parents

Almost every school has a night or evening when parents can come and meet the teacher. Here are the things that I make sure I have ready prior to this night:
- A self-introduction blurb or speech outline
- A class syllabus
- Course expectations and materials list
- Class  website
- A parent response form
- An explanation of how the parent can help their child in my class
- Any upcoming projects or professional development that is currently being done at the school
- Answers to questions commonly asked by parents
- A newspaper article on the benefits or jobs available bilinguals

Self-introduction: If you have taught at your current school for a long time, the self-introduction may be short and sweet, as many parents are probably already familiar with you. If this is your first year at the school, or you are a new teacher, a self- introduction that sets a professional yet open tone is important. Personally, I like parents to call me by my name, and so I will state this in my opening sentence. I also mention my highest degree (masters) and where it was obtained. If you have taught at other schools, this would be an excellent time to speak about where you taught and what grade levels. I also mention any recent professional development that I have recently completed. FInally, let parents know how and when they can contact you, and your average response time. For example, I tel all parents that I will respond to an email or a phone call within 24 hours.

Class syllabus, class expectations, and class materials list. I like to review these items with parents. I usually don't go into great detail about any of these items, but I do show parents a copy of each of these things on the smartboard, and I show them where to find them on the class website.  I also explain here when I will contact parents. For example, I contact parents if a child receives below a C- on a test or project, and if their child has not turned in three homework assignments. I also contact parents when their child has done something wonderful!

Class website- some schools have websites that only students can access, while others have specific codes for parents, etc. Either way, I show the website to the parents in my introduction, and if I am at a school where the parents cannot access the website, I encourage them to have their son or daughter show them the class website once a week.

Parent Response form- I ask students to fill out a half page questionaire about their child and leave it with me at the end of the session. If the parent turn-out is low, this questionaire can also be sent home with students as their first homework assignment. My questionaire is simple. It asks parents to tell me one thing about their child, One thing they hope their child will gain from my class, and any concerns they have regarding my class.

How they can help sheet or letter- Even if I don't have a meet the parents night, this letter  or handout is extremely important foreign languages. On this handout, I explain to parents of Spanish I and II students that they can best assist their son or daughter by asking what they did in Spanish class, as opposed to asking them to translate words or phrases. I also explain that language learning in the early years can seem slow just as a new musician finds it frustrating that they can only play Mary had a little lamb as opposed to Beethoven. I give parents study tips on helping their child learn vocabulary words: drawing the word, acting the word, saying it aloud together, etc. Finally, I reiterate that Spanish class is an academic class and that just as the child needs to practice math in order to improve, he or she will need to practice Spanish in order to be successful. I also remind parents to contact me if their child is taking longer than the expected forty minutes of homework a night on a consistent basis.

Upcoming projects or professional development- If my class is going to start a project in the next few weeks, I mention it to parents. Also if the school is doing new professional development, which might be evident in their students work, I talk about that as well.

Answers to questions that parents commonly ask: Does my child have to take this class? What type of Spanish do you teach? When will he/she be fluent? My child hated Spanish last year, how is this year going to be any different? Does my child really have to speak Spanish in class? etc.

Newspaper articles on learning foreign languages- I like to have these articles printed and around the classroom for parents to look at as they leave or enter the room.

What else do you have ready for parents?