Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


Breaking Down Instructions to Maintain a 90% TL Classroom

DURING A RECENT PRESENTATION I gave, a question that was posed during my talk related to how you can maintain 90% in the target language when you are doing projects, crafts, or activities with multiple steps. My answer: BREAK DOWN THE INSTRUCTIONS into manageable chunks and go step by step as a whole class.

NOW, BEFORE you even head down this road, you should vet your potential activity. Ask yourself: Is this an activity which you can break down into multiple, concrete steps? Can each step be easily and succinctly stated? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, time to reevaluate and either chuck the activity or consider it for a different level of learner.

BEFORE STARTING THE ACTIVITY, do a little prep- plan your steps, keeping them as concrete and direct as possible. I like to show the steps visually as well as share them verbally, so I created a set of illustrated instruction cards which I post on my whiteboard, using magnets on the back of them for easy moveability. These are very useful in a number of ways: they serve to reinforce what I am saying orally, they provide a reference for my students, and support kiddos who have challenges with multi-step instructions. As well, since I use them consistently across the entire K-4 continuum, my students are accustomed to them and the vocabulary. I also frequently prepare various examples of the activity in stages, so they can see what each step looks like. This also supports visually what I am saying verbally. You can grab our printable illustrated instruction cards here:
In English

ONWARD TO THE ACTIVITY! We want to keep this in the target language, so one huge tip, above and beyond the simple, direct instructions, is to go STEP BY STEP. By this I mean, you, as the teacher, state one instruction at a time, allowing kids to complete that step before moving on to the next one. Here's a collage and accompanying text underneath to illustrate what I mean.

AFTER STATING EACH OF THESE STEPS I stop, and the kids complete it before we head on to the next one.

PASO 1: Poner el nombre usando un lápiz. (I also put an 'Alto' sign underneath each step as we go so kids know not to go on to the next step)

PASO 2: Recortar los osos usando las tijeras.

PASO 3: Pegar los osos en los cuadros.

PASO 4: Colorear el primer oso. (Since each square indicates a different season, I break these down, too, into steps, one square at a time.) The first square says 'Este es el oso en la primavera.'  I videoed myself giving the instructions for this square- the video can be found on our Youtube channel here (great still shot lol):

PASOS 5, 6, 7: Colorear el oso. (I do the same question and answer for each box as I did for the first one- in this activity I am not expecting them to read the text, but rather to comprehend it as I read it aloud.)

*A COUPLE OF NOTES regarding the above instructions:

-After giving each instruction (usually I repeat each 2-3 times) I circulate around the room being sure kiddos are doing what they need to be doing, redirecting or reminding those who need a little assistance (in the target language), referencing the illustrated instructions on the board, miming if necessary, etc.
-After I ask them to put their name on their paper, I do a 10-1 countdown, starting once I have handed out the last folder. They don't need loads of time to get this done, and this keeps the activity moving along. Depending on the activity, I might do the countdown again for certain steps if they are quick and simple ones.

INTERESTED in our 'Pepita y el oso' Activity Pack? You can find it in our shop here. And for our Illustrated Instruction Cards, click here!

Tuesday Tips: My Top 13 List of Redirects in Spanish for Classroom Management in the TL

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT is something many teachers in the elementary Spanish classroom cite as a challenge. No matter whether you are a new teacher, or a veteran, adding to your toolkit of strategies is always a good thing. Here is a list of the top 13 redirects I use in my classes to stay in the target language and yet get the point across to remind, reinforce, and redirect behaviors. Some of them are shortened versions of a longer command or sentence; keeping them short and sweet makes them comprehensible and to the point.

A LITTLE EXPLANATION FOR A FEW OF THESE (many are self explanatory):

*NACHOS-SALSA: This is my call and response. I say 'Nachos' and my students respond 'Salsa', my way of getting their attention when I am going to give instructions or when we are ready to transition.

*NO TOCAR: I often have materials, whether they be our crayons, pencils, etc bins or manipulatives, on the rug ready to go, which can be a distraction when my kiddos first come into my room. A quick reminder that we don't touch the materials until permission is given keeps those little hands off!

*TIC-TOC: I use this sometimes during our greeting activities where one kiddo is rolling the ball to another or has to make a choice as to whom to greet next....and there are those who just can't make a decision, scanning the circle endlessly. To keep the activity going, I will prompt them with a 'tic-toc', giving them a heads up it's time to make that decision so others can have a turn.

*MOMENTICO: A few years ago I watched another teacher hold up her index finger in the 'wait a minute' sign for a kiddo who had his hand raised and wanted to be called on. The message: "I see you, acknowledge you have something to say, and will get to you in a moment". Very powerful! I do the same, saying 'Momentico' as I do so.

*ATENTO, CALLADO, RESPETUOSO: These are our three "audience" behaviors... we chant them before any activity where the class has to pay attention to one or a group of speakers, and I use them regularly as reminders when kiddos need it.

*NO ES TU TURNO (or alternatively, Es mi turno.): When kiddos talk out of turn, this is an easy, cognate driven reminder to hold on.

*EN CONTROL: Yup, this one is very obvious- get your body in control.

THE KEY TO ALL OF THESE is consistency- using a small set of redirects repeatedly helps your students to understand expectations, and are predictable. What ones do you use? We'd love to hear!

AND CHECK OUT OUR POST ON HAND SIGNALS and gestures for classroom management that also help you stay in the target language. Read it here!

LOOKING FOR SOME MORE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT TIPS? Check out our FREE download with lots of tips and ideas to make your classes run more smoothly! Click here!

Tips for Classroom Management