18 July 2014

First Day Fun Stations

The first day will be a day of PIRATE stations this year. After Tuesday's #TLAP chat, I'm all revved up to start the year with choice and activities that get students engaging with the target language from the start. I got some ideas from some whiz-bang kickoffs from colleagues who Teach Like a PIRATE, and I want to try them ALL. I also had some more language-specific ideas myself along the way. And so, due to available resource constraints and general matters of classroom management. and just general greediness on my part, stations seem the way to go. Some may have timed elements, but I'd like to let kiddos go with the flow, as long as they hit all stations.

And I think they will want to hit all of them.

Structures to introduce: Quiero/Me gusta
Tools needed: Phones/iPads
Finished product: Labeled photo
Sandy Otto is a genius. The idea of first-day selfies was bandied about the #TLAP chat, but primarily in the name of "getting to know" kids in the class. I could put a name with a face for 95% of the kids I'll have next year last January. But what I could not tell you is what could motivate them to learn a language. Sure, a goodly number were my Art Club, Creative Writing, or Focus Friday babies already, but let's face it: language is a whole new ball of wax. Setting them loose on my cart 'o authentic resources Day 1 and picking out, say, 7 things they'd want to explore this semester would A) give me a hint as to what makes them tick even before we kick off the pasión, B) suggests how much they think they can--or want to--handle, and C) makes them dig into their options and get a hearty preview. Plus they can get as creative with their selfie presentation as they choose!

Then they could either hashtag them on Instagram or email me with descriptions that include "Quiero leer...porque me gusta..."

Torre de Silencio
Structures to introduce: Necesito
Tools needed: Marshmallows, spaghetti, butcher paper, markers
Finished product: Brainstorm poster
Creativity, innovation: awesome elements to mix into any class. But where does language fit in? They can build their towers, see how tall they can build them, but they must do so in silence. Maybe they'll be able to figure out some gestures to make their points--maybe they'll even figure out they could write notes. But then when they're done, they'll need to add any language they wished they'd had available or any language they snuck in to the class brainstorming poster that says something like "Necesito decir..." at the top. This is way more awesome than my plan for developing an essential class language list from last year--more fun and more engaging. Still, it gives me somewhere to start with a class discussion perhaps later in the week.

Google Translate
Structures to introduce: Soy
Tools needed: Laptops
Finished product: Google Doc with paragraphs in L1 & L2 + new vocab list

It makes sense to get my philosophy on Google Translate out in the open early on, slip in the Commandments. It makes sense to let students see what they can get out of the translator and evaluate its worth rather than pretend it doesn't exist or elevate it to some sacred taboo status. And, you know, I'd kind of like a starting sample of how they write in the L1, just as a base for comparison for my own personal understanding and reference for helping them simplify their expression. So I'll have them describe themselves--something anyone can do without a great deal of research--thus satisfying the adolescent need to talk about "me," giving me--and them--some more essential vocabulary to start with. They'll get to play with the pronunciation feature and figure out some words and structures by comparing. And they'll think they're getting away with something.

Sock Puppets
Structures to introduce: Puedo/sé?
Tools needed: iPads, list of cognates/loan words/basic vocab
Finished product: 30-second videos

What can I say? I'm in love. Plus there is so much Spanish that kids already know (or can easily figure out) coming into Spanish I that they don't even realize they know. Between cognates, loan words, and the most common 100 words, I just want to see what kind of conversation kiddos can cobble together just for laughs. Hopefully it'll establish a risk-taking environment, get a pronunciation baseline, give kids a starting point they know they can improve on, and get some sillies out. Plus I had this idea...
Yes, deleivered. You get the idea.

Thinglink Syllabus
Tools needed: Laptops
Finished product: Comments on syllabus with questions

This one's in English. I link them to the class syllabus infograph on Thinglink and have them poke everything then post their questions. I don't have to read them every word, they know what they need to know, and we can clear up any confusion the next day.

Build Your Own Playlist
Structure to introduce: Me gusta
Tools needed: Desktops
Finished product: Pinterest board

When more than one hard case mentions that they come to class to find out what the week's song is gonna be and you catch others singing the songs in the hall, it seems advantageous to harness the musical angle as soon as possible. Having loosed the young ones to select songs in the past, I think the most effective method for collection was music videos on Pinterest. Accessing Spotify was a pain, and YouTube is so...linear.


  1. Here are some cute pirate pictures for you to use: http://preschoolpowolpackets.blogspot.com/2014/07/free-pirate-patterns-preschool-packet.html

  2. Feeling inspired! Thanks for the ideas! I think I will try to develop first week stations for my French classes!

  3. Laura, what awesome ideas. Makes me want to join your class!

  4. These are some great ideas for the first day back after winter break! I Now if only I can get away with hogging the Macbook AND iPad carts...