Last June my colleague and I went to a TPRS conference in St. Louis. One of the things the presenter did was give us an example of his first day of school and it was RIVETING. We were all so into it, laughing and having a great time – we walked out that day and said we HAVE to try this in August!
So what did he do, and how did we do it?
The First Day
I don’t know about you, but our first day of school is NEVER normal. It’s actually super weird. Some classes are less than half length, some are full length, class periods are out of order, we do a code red drill, a full evacuation of the school AND an assembly. Yep. It’s a lot! Because it was so weird, I really just wanted to let the students feel comfortable and welcomed in my room, while starting to get to know them.
All of my Spanish I classes wound up being the shortened length (20 minutes) so we made name tags to get set up for the next day!
Here are my name tags! This also includes a student information sheet that they could do if they finish quickly.
I always tell them to make their first name BIG and their last name more normal size off to the right. I love having both first and last names on the name tag so I can start putting it all together. The back of the name tag has space for them to draw some things about their likes. While they’re working, I turn on my Pandora station and I walk around looking at faces, names, and illustrations, chatting and trying to get to know them!
If the whole class is finished, we play some simple name games – my favorite is tossing a ball around asking “¿Cómo te llamas?” and responding. Easy, low prep, and low stress!
The (Real) First Day
Our crazy first day almost always feels like a dream. The next day we come to school and it’s like, “Oh! HERE’S the first day of school.” Day 2 for us is normal schedule, normal length class periods, so it’s more like our “real” first day.
The demo from the conference used a technique based off of Ben Slavic’s Circling With Balls activity. This link has videos, and a full explanation! We decided to go with something similar to Circling with Balls, but not quite the same.
First, we dug through closets and sent school-wide emails requesting balls and gathered up a collection. I wound up with a volleyball, baseball, football, soccer ball, golf ball, and a tennis ball in my bag. I think next year, as I’m planning ahead of time I’ll keep my eye out at garage sales, dollar stores, and maybe even check out something like this variety pack!
Students cleared EVERYTHING off of their desks, and had the slide below projected. I made a big show of digging wayyyyy into the bag (I used a laundry bag so it was HUGE) and pulling out something but I didn’t show it to them just yet.
Using the slide as a support I pointed, paused, and said, “Este es una pelota de….” then I revealed the ball in my hand and said, “tenis”. Some students laughed. Others just stared. Several of them went, “Ohhhhh” when they figured it out. YES! OH! I restated the whole sentence, pointing and pausing, then as a quick aside in English I “whispered”, “If you understand go, ‘Oooohhhhhhh’!”.
From there I built to some circling – yes/no, either or, using cognates with sport names (tenis o béisbol). I used LOTS of comprehension checks and questioning. I introduced more balls. Once I had about three balls out, I picked a student and asked if they played the first sport. I used the info on their name tags to help me, but I also intentionally picked a few kids who would say, “No” to include them in that way.
From there I just kind of let the conversation flow. This person plays this, but that person doesn’t. Does this person play that sport well? OF COURSE. Does that person play that sport well? No…they don’t play that sport, silly! They play the other sport! And they’re AWESOME at it! Wait, who plays what again? Help me remember!
We have a soccer player who plays better than Ronaldo (of course) a football player who plays better than the Eagles (yes, all of them) and a tennis player who is better than the golf player at tennis (surprise!). Don’t worry, that golf player is the best golf player ever.
You get the idea.
It was super fun, and they were surprised and how much they could do.
First Day Reflections
I had a lot of fun and so did the students! I’ll definitely do something like this again next year.
The nice thing about circling with balls and sports is that you know you have cognates with the sports and you can come prepared with visuals. Especially since this was my first time trying this on our first day of class I really liked feeling like there was a plan in what we were going to talk about, and visuals with the slide and props.
Cassie (aka @miss.maestra) and I were chatting about how it could be nice to just use gustar and the images students draw on their name tags to make sure all students are included, not just the ones who play sports! While I felt like all students were included in the conversation, it could be nice to make sure it’s open.
One of my class periods had students who weren’t super sporty, and a student volunteered “Billy (not his real name) juega Fortnite!” (translation: Billy plays Fortnite!) WHOA! I was blown away. They volunteered that, sharing a WHOLE SENTENCE in SPANISH, after about 15 minutes of the Circling with Balls activity. We definitely spent the next chunk of time talking about who does and doesn’t play Fortnite, and who plays it well. BOOM.
Following Up the First Day
On the third day of class we did some reading activities that used the same structures. Super short, but man, did they feel amazing being able to read and understand all of it. Such a great way to start off the year!
If you’re looking for other ways to incorporate this activity, Magister P shared this post about another way to use it for student discussion!
What do you think? Would you try this activity out on your first day of school?