This year I decided to be more purposeful in creating a sense of community within my classroom.
I previously had this misconception that if I modeled respect and caring and explained that respectful behavior to all members of our learning community was the classroom expectation, all would be well. And I honestly want my classroom to be a safe space where courtyard drama, hurt feelings and disagreements do not enter. I KNOW. But don’t worry, I’m really not that naïve. Ok that’s a lie. I do have fanciful ideas that would make you laugh and shake your head wondering: “Is she for real?”
In years past I’ve even had very cooperative groups of students who are cordial to one another and make it August to May without any discord. But in those instances I’ve noticed a lack of camaraderie. Perhaps this is in large part due to the size of our school. Each grade has more than 300 students and each year, without fail, I’ll have a student passing back papers whisper to me, “Who is ______?”
My plan is three fold and already well underway.
- Use Special Person Interviews and create a WALL of biographies.
This will be my third year doing SPIs but I’ve never had a designated space for student biographies. I’m thinking this will easily lead into playing “Guess Who?” later in the year when the wall is finished. I’ll also be adding the classmate quiz to my weekly activities following SPI. Surely this will guarantee that each student knows every classmates’ name, right? I made this “Todo Sobre Mi” page and my dear friend, Blair Richards translated it to French! Enjoy “Tout sur moi!”
- Amigos Maps for partner and group activities.
My students keep these in their Interactive Notebooks ready to go. I’m thinking the best way to incorporate a weekly opportunity to work with a different partner is to create an activity on their choice boards that requires working with an Amigo.
- Start a Compliments Campaign.
Last year my friend, Jackie had a wall of compliments in her classroom written by her students. I loved the idea and decided we needed this in Spanish class. Since I teach novice level students I created some resources for this activity and learned how to trouble shoot some issues that arose.
First I made a slide show explaining what we were doing. Many of the words are already familiar to my students and the rest are mostly cognates BUT I included the English words just in case. Next semester I’ll include more options or let students work out their own ideas.
Settling on a name for the compliments was harder than I expected. At first I thought Piropos but those are usually flirty and Cumplidos (compliments) weren’t doing it for me either. Then the great Laura Sexton suggested Muyamables, and I loooooooved it! So Muyamables were born (and I have a new password to use).
I also made a document and copied it on colorful paper then cut it in half. Each student was assigned the names of three classmates, received one strip of the colorful paper and was directed to write his/her compliments inside the squares.
Problem #1: Assigning the names on the fly was confusing to me because I wanted to ensure that all students received at least three compliments this round. I also wanted to be sure the assignments were random. Not having this prepared ahead of time resulted in students waiting for their assignments (not a good use of class time-I know). BUT having to pre-assign, as in write each student’s name three times for ALL of my classes was NOT going to happen.
Problem #2: Students needed the opportunity to write “drafts” of their compliments. We ended up using loose leaf which worked out nicely as I was able to point out some grammatical parts of speech they haven’t heard in context yet.
Problem #3: I forgot to tell students to sign their names on the backs of the papers.
Solution to all 3 problems:
I made practice sheets that have three spaces for writing a draft of a compliment, the writer’s class number at the top (my students are assigned the number that corresponds to their number on my class roster), and the numbers of three different classmates. I passed out the papers (referring to my roster), showed the example and directions on the slide show, then put the class roster under the document camera for everyone to see. Each person wrote down the names of their classmates.
This activity went really well. As in BETTER than I had anticipated. My students were actually really into writing something genuine and meaningful, worked together when they got stuck (and I didn’t even direct them to do so) and students were asking right away, “When are we going to read these?!”
I even heard one student tell her friends, “I love how we do stuff like this in here.” WHAT?! My little teacher heard skipped two beats!
We’ll read 3-4 little letters each Friday and anytime we need a pick-me-up. I plan to have students write new letters during the second semester when they’ve learned even more Spanish.
If you’d like to launch your own Compliments Campaign but don’t have a ton of time to make your own documents I’m sharing what I made here. Please give credit if you adapt or share. Blair also translated the slide show to French.
See you at the next Puente.