Posted in #My500Words, Learning and Development

Reality Setting In

I am beginning to see more and more “Back-to-School” advertisements.  A  teacher on Twitter tweeted that today was a great first day for his fourth grade class.  August is in its third day. Summer vacation is beginning its fast descent.

Every year at about this time, I begin to get that slightly queasy feeling in my stomach: Reality is setting in. There are lessons to plan. At the very least, I would like to have intact lesson plans for September in place by the time I return.  Spanish 4 is always my greatest challenge. There is such a range of abilities and levels of motivation amongst the students at that level, and the year to come will be no exception.  I was spoiled by the Spanish 4 students I taught this past year: it was the most consistent group of students in terms of work ethic capacity for language, and steadfast intrinsic motivation.   Add to this is the fact that I will be teaching Spanish to sixth graders for the first time since 1999. The youngest to-date I have taught is fifth grade.  For the first time in several years, I will not teach Spanish 2 – my beloved Twosies.  my department chair wants for the language teachers to have as few preps as possible. Technically, I will teach Spanish 1 and Spanish 4.  However, teaching the first year of Spanish 1 to sixth graders is different than teaching the second year of Spanish 1 to seventh graders, which is vastly different from teaching what is essentially crash course in Spanish 1 to high school students.  At my place of employ, teaching Spanish 1 is a delicate dance.  Many of the students have had negative experiences with language learning previously.  So, much of my efforts, in addition to completing enough curriculum to allow them to be successful in Spanish 2 the following year, but also to renew their confidence.

My strategy for teaching Spanish to middle schoolers is two-fold: instill good habits of mind for learning a foreign language, and, to expose them to as much comprehensible input for acquiring language. Hopefully the time the students have reached Spanish 4, the habits of mind are usually firmly established, although some degree 0f re-learning in this respect is needed.

Been thinking about my classroom’s decor, which has become uninspiring to me. I posted a link of a video of my classroom on Twitter recently, with the hopes of crowd-sourcing advice from my PLN – Personal Learning Network.  However, the task evidently didn’t capture anyone’s imagination, and I subsequently deleted the tweet. But, no worries; Dear Brother came to my rescue.  He’s not a teacher, and yet, he has some of the most perceptive insights and bright ideas regarding teaching and learning.  He made some wonderful suggestions, including:

  • An updated world map, complete with maps of the countries. I have such a map hanging in my classroom currently, and, it is an attention-getter.  The thing is, the world has changed dramatically since I purchased it.  So, it’s time for a new one.
  • Posters of cities of Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Commonly-used vocabulary.  I have had mixed success with so-called classroom “passwords”, such as, “May I go to the bathroom?” and, Can I get a drink of water?” to name two.  I may post the most essential of these again.  But, what Dear Brother suggested are words connected to travel: words for modes of transportation; items used for travel, such as ticket and passport; and the like.  Brilliant!

Are you a teacher? How are you feeling as you prepare for a new school year? Tell me about it in the Comments. Thank you!



I teach. I cook. I write. In that order. Along the way, I learn many things, especially about myself.

2 thoughts on “Reality Setting In

  1. I’m actually about to go in today to set up my classroom. I am cautiously optimistic about this year. My schedule is more or less the same, but a few things have changed (nothing I can’t handle).

    I personally don’t like the beginning of the school year. I don’t like icebreaking aND much prefer the fall when things are cooler and I have settled in. But that’s just me.


    1. Hi, Tom! Thank you for visiting my blog, and reading my most recent entry! I, like you, approach the year with a cautious optimism. And, like you, I am not a fan of icebreakers and the “get-to-know-you/community building”activities. I just like to begin with teaching and learning; there are things I do, from the first day, as well as throughout the year, that build community, as I am sure you do as well. Not just a “first day’ thing.


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