I’m definitely a believer that classes get off to a better start when there is a routine that everybody knows. Spanish students are fabulous and I find it a real pleasure to teach them. The vast majority of students are usually, in my experience, enthusiastic and relatively keen to participate. This means that rather than use the beginning of the lesson as a  time to raise energy,  I like to get everyone settled and ready to work. I also think that starting in a controlled way gives us more time to have fun later.

The routines I use vary depending on age. For example,  the younger learners in my current academy are used to coming in and putting their books under the chair before coming together on the floor to do the usual welcome song. This is then followed by some other short activities which have been tried and tested over time.

With most groups from age 9-10 upwards, I follow a standard start to the lesson. A student writes the word GAME on the board which is used as an incentive for good classroom behaviour. If everyone has their notebook out ready then game becomes GAMES

My board is usually prepared with a short list of the day’s objectives and any reminders. The board will have a space for the date, weather and mood. However, this is adapted to meet a group’s level and needs.

I will ask students for the date and weather and maybe tell them my mood/status (I sneakily try to link this to any recent grammar and vocab). Once students are well-rehearsed in this the students themselves can lead this part of the lesson.

Routines

All students write the date, weather and their own mood in their notebooks. In practice, the mood is kind of like a status update. I love doing this at the beginning of the lesson for the following reasons.

  • Students are quiet and focused
  • It ensures they have the tools they need and are ready to work.
  • Students are practising micro-writing in every lesson which I think is indispensable.
  • Students get to think about how they feel and write about anything which is important to them, therefore, it allows for personalisation.
  • I get to know how my class are feeling and I get to know them.
  • The information I learn can be used to help build rapport (i.e how was the exam you were worried about? Did your basketball team win the championship? Did you have a nice weekend in Granada?).
  • It builds the vocabulary they need to talk about the things that really interest them.
  • Through repetition, they become more confident writing.
  • I can focus on eliminating frequent errors, such as a lack of subject or inaccurate tense.

 

These are just some of the benefits I’ve found.

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An example where a student has been asked to focus on past simple.
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An uncorrected text.
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A typical response from a Spanish student.

 

There are issues of course. Some students are likely to be unambitious, writing ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m sad because it’s Monday’. You can always tell them to invent something or be more specific in your prompts.

It is a routine that I’m inclined to keep as it’s opened my eyes to things going on in the classroom and beyond. For example, a quiet student who I thought wasn’t really trying, once wrote that she was worried about a family member who was ill. Another time a student I had separated from his friend wrote: ‘I don’t want to be in class’. On the other side, a very timid student who seemed disinterested in everything wrote: ‘I’m happy because I have English class today.’ I’m also aware of how much Spanish children and teens are affected by exams and homework but that’s another issue for another day.

This process could become stale and not challenge the older learners so, for example, you can vary the prompts and instead of weather and mood you could write

The best film I have ever seen and why I love it:

Three things to remember in Speaking Part 2:

Something I used to do, that I would like to do again.

After we complete our status updates, students talk to their partner and ask follow-up questions. This allows them to speak with more confidence as they have already had time to think and plan what they would like to say. Obviously, students are only expected to talk about things they feel comfortable sharing.

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