Saturday, September 16, 2017

Yoga in the Spanish Classroom

Our students are stressed. We are stressed. It seems that everyone is stressed these days, and with school becoming more competitive (college applications, AP courses, etc.), it seems only natural that we should implement some calming techniques into our classrooms. It helps us slow down our crazy days, and more importantly, it helps students cope with the stress of their day.

For the past couple of years I have been practicing one yoga pose with my students - the tree pose. Watch the 2 minute video below for a brief explanation of this easy pose. 

The pose itself is pretty easy to do, so it shouldn't take long to teach your students how to "find their trees."

I tend to do the tree pose in my class at different points depending on the mood of my class:
1) If students are not participating and seem really disconnected from the class, we will do the tree pose for 30 seconds. The tree pose brings awareness back into the classroom so students seem to focus better afterwards.
2) If students are talking too much and can't seem to begin class or an activity efficiently, we will do the tree pose. 30 seconds of calm and quiet definitely slow my students down so that they are ready to begin class. 
3) Finally, if my students are stressed with an upcoming test or other events, we will do the tree pose. Deep breathing for 30 seconds and focusing on balance seems to allow us to forget about the outside world for a few seconds. 

You may be thinking: "There is NO way I can get my students to do yoga in my classroom." I promise you that it's possible. I have done this for the past 3 years with all different types of students, ages, and levels. My 8th grader love it, and my 11th graders enjoy it. I have gotten the captain of the basketball team to do yoga as well! With a little practice and convincing (at least the first time), students will be asking to do yoga within a few days. 

To recap, doing 30 seconds of the tree pose is a phenomenal way to bring focus back into your classroom and lower stress. Try it out sometime soon!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Two Fun Icebreakers for Spanish Class for the Beginning of the Year

Happy start of a new school year! I don't know about you, but my summer flew by...all for good reasons! My summer began with a trip to Spain with a group of my high school students and ended with my wedding and honeymoon to Hawaii. Every part of the summer
was fantastic, but now I'm relieved to be back in some sort of a normal routine. More importantly, I'm excited to get my creativity back in the classroom. 

To start the year off on a positive note, I adapted an icebreaker we did at a faculty meeting for my classroom. This icebreaker allowed students to share something about their summer vacations and learn about their classmates while also practicing the preterite verb tense. The students had an absolute blast and I can't wait to tell you about it below!

Paper Airplane Icebreaker

The concept is simple. Students write their name on a blank piece of paper. Then they write a sentence (or two) using the preterite tense to state what they did this past summer. I prefaced this activity with a quick review on forming the preterite tense since I knew my student brains were a little rusty from the vacation. 

Once students wrote their sentence on a piece of paper, I asked them to fold it into a paper airplane. Many were shocked that their teacher asked them to make a paper airplane. I was shocked that many didn't know how to make a paper airplane :)

As the students finished up their airplanes, I asked them to stand in a circle around the room. On the count of 3 we all carefully threw our airplanes. Then, students grabbed an airplane that was not their own and sat back down in their seats. 

Here is the cool grammatical piece: Instead of simply reading aloud what their classmate wrote, I asked the students to convert the sentences from the "yo" form as it was written to the "él/ella" form. Therefore, instead of stating, "Yo nadé en el mar" the student would read aloud "Juan nadó en el mar." We tossed around my stuffed animal to share out each response. 

Despite it being the third day of school and first time producing Spanish in a few months (for most), the students were all engaged, excited, and enthusiastic to be working with paper airplanes and the preterite tense. This also allowed students to hear about their classmates' summer experiences and learn more about each other. I highly recommend completing this activity at some point, even as just a review on grammar! It doesn't have to necessarily serve as an icebreaker. 

Skittles Game

This next icebreaker also stems from an inspirational faculty meeting activity. I have yet to try it within my classroom, but I can't wait to try it next week! For this activity, it works best if you give your students Skittles or a different colorful candy. However, with many schools sticking to "healthy food only," it can be adapted to be completed with colorful blocks or pieces of paper, puzzle pieces, etc.

For this icebreaker, each student receives an individual bag of Skittles (or one colorful block, etc.). The students then remove one Skittle from the bag and depending on what the color is, they must share the following information with the class:

red = favorite superhero

yellow = favorite food
orange = favorite outdoor activity
green = favorite vacation spot
purple = favorite thing about the school

Of course these categories can be adjusted for whatever interests your students may have. 

Students can share their responses aloud with classmates in Spanish. This activity can even be utilized at the lower levels of Spanish since most levels can articulate their favorite items in Spanish (ex: Superman es mi superhéroe favorito). 

Overall, these two activities are a great way to ease back into the school year while also having fun, sharing summer experiences, and getting to know your students. What better way to start the school year?

Happy teaching!