I’ve received a few questions on Instagram about how I do stories in my Spanish class. There is a LOT to this, but I’m going to go ahead and try my best! It’s also something that I think can be communicated really well via video, but I’m not brave enough to film myself doing that just yet. This is actually going to be part of a series of posts, so make sure you stay tuned for each of the parts! We’re going to get started with what is probably the most important part of stories in Spanish class: expectations and student signals.
I think Grant Boulanger has shared what are my favorite expectations for Spanish class. They’re really straightforward and simple but can make a huge difference. Those classroom rules stand at all times, but I have a few additional expectations for during classroom stories.
Student Signals for Stories in Spanish Class
- Statement: If I make a statement, and you understand it, show it. You go, “Ooohhh” or “Ohhhhh”. (Like an “Oh, I get it!” sound.)
- Question: If I ask a question, you answer it, in Spanish. Even if you don’t know the answer, do your best to guess!
This one is a little tricky at first. My co-worker shared a practice run she did with her students and I loved it, stole it, and am sharing it here for you to steal too. She held a travel mug in her hand and asked, “Class, is this water or coffee?” They guessed. “Yes, class. It’s coffee. What kind of coffee is it? Is it Starbucks coffee?” Students answer and guess. “No, it’s not Starbucks. Is there cream in my coffee?” She continued this for a little bit until they got the idea. They couldn’t see what was in the cup at all, but there are no stakes to guessing! Thanks, Kate!
- Repeat: If I say something, and you just need me to say it again, spin your finger in a circle.
- Write: If I say something and you want to see it written out, move your hand through the air like you’re writing with an imaginary pencil.
- SLOW DOWN! If I’m going too fast, move both hands like you’re on a roller coaster that’s going too fast. Whoa!
- I don’t get it!: If I say something and totally lose you, you NEED to tell me. Snap or golf clap to communicate this. If your neighbor starts doing this, then you need to do it too. As soon as someone snaps or golf claps, it should start an avalanche of snaps!
This is another one that can get a little tricky. Sometimes students are shy about communicating what they don’t know. Sometimes students think it’s funny to clap or snap about EVERYTHING. Find the balance. This is another one I’ll practice run. I might test them a few times by speaking way too fast or using words they just don’t know and have no support for. If they show me nothing, I comprehension check and see why they did not tell me they didn’t get it! Sometimes they just forget because it’s new, other times they are being shy. Reinforce that it’s your job to communicate with them, but that a large part of communication is understanding.
Get Your Students to Use Signals
These are a great way for your students to communicate with you, but they can be difficult practices for students at first. Heap praise upon the students that use them! If you do points or tickets or use any sort of reward system, put it to work to encourage them! I love to make a big deal about it and tell the students they are my favorite student. When another student does a signal, they are my favorite student. Anyone who communicates like this is my favorite student because they are helping me be a better teacher for them – and I tell them that. I can be a better teacher for you if you coach me and help me. Want me to be a good Spanish teacher? Want me to be a GREAT Spanish teacher? Use these signals to give me feedback.
My favorite part of these expectations is that they will trickle into your classroom at other times. Sometimes during Calendar Talk or a Picture Talk students will snap, or wiggle their hand in the air to see a word written out. I LOVE this. They are great signals to use all the time! I just don’t include them as part of my classroom expectations at the beginning of the year because there’s always a ton of information then. I like to kind of trickle in the signals. Once they’ve done them a few times in stories, it will become the norm.