31 January 2017

Bellringer Toybox: 5 fun ways to start Spanish class

So my master plan to improve listening through music and the  coros bellringer pretty much fizzled. Music is still THE number one way to hook students right off, but it kind of loses its magic if I do it every day of every week, ALL. SEMESTER. LONG.

As I've been going through this bellringer breakup, I've realized a few things about myself:
  1. Routine bores me really quickly.
  2. I'm not good at assuaging others' boredom when I'm bored.
  3. I do kind of need routine to be able to organize myself.
  4. Having routines organized before the school year starts increases my chances for success like a million fold.

Sra Wienhold has a cycle that works well for her, and my plan WAS to set up a cycle that would keep me organized, but I think I'd rather have my own little toybox (not toolbox, because really this is about entertaining me) that I can dig around in before class starts and suit it to what we'll be doing and, well, how I feel. I think it'll just keep things more connected overall. I'll still have a whole bunch of starters ready to go, I'll just have more options getting started.

So here is my toy collection to keep things fun for me (and, you know, maybe them).

One student's take
on Axel's "Somos uno"


Mostly I think I'll stick to the Instagram Challenge type activities, although sometimes a little call & response can be fun too. I do want something a little more immediate than the collage or even Spark creations, though. So instead of a collage, students can upload just one one photo acting out one line to Seesaw, and instead of a full Spark video, we do an infopic on Nearpod, where they can doodle or search for a photo to match the message of the chorus.

Free Voluntary Reading (FVR)

This works best with the novice set when the "reading" time is only about 3 minutes, as Michelle Kindt taught me at CSCTFL last year. Also as Michelle taught me, it works best if they have just a really quick and easy task, like finding cognates or questions or new words they figured out, either out loud or on Nearpod so everyone can show what they got. Alternatively snapping pictures of pages with a good description or dialogue or something relevant and uploading to Seesaw for interpretation with the new labeling function is also kind of fun.


Duolingo is a lifesaver when I just need a few minutes to get my head together! Plus the kids LOVE it. It's nice to change things up every once in a while with Verba or Manzanas con Manzanas and get a little community building. Either way I think it's a good idea to follow up with a Nearpod or Classroom question about the funniest sentence they made during the game. This is also a good time to pause and award some points on ClassDojo for winning a game, getting 200XP in Duolingo, or maybe getting an assignment in early or a parent to interact with their work on Seesaw. Then if anybody needs to invoke a privilege they've earned by reaching 20, 50, or 100 ClassDojo points, they can formally request it (in the TL of course).


The first time I just did it for 3 minutes, no recording, and they had to work the word divertido in every time it was their turn. The conversations really seemed to flow! After they start feeling more comfortable doing this, I'll have them record using Adobe Spark, so they have something for their portfolios. I still need to get a master list of "claves" I want them to work in for this to be ready to pop out of the box, but I'm thinking some high-frequency chunks might be handy like tienes que or creo que. (Maybe this deserves its own post...)

Meme battles

Using memes in Spanish class is not a new concept, but it has become increasingly apparent that I can avoid it no longer. These kids live for the meme. I'll need to have a stash of funny memes, both classic and current--excuse me, spicy--that they can update, most likely with Seesaw labels. I'm thinking Drake could help with some common grammar mistakes, for example...

Now, I had contemplated mixing in some other activities like blog commenting or interpreting LAITS  or AudioLingua clips, but where's the play in that?

No, the bellringer has to set a tone for the class that not only dunks the learners headfirst into the language, but also that gets us all ready to enjoy our time together.


  1. Can you explain the Password activity a little more?

    1. Basically they have a conversation (which they record in turns, using Adobe Spark), and the only requirement is that they have to use a word that I assign them every time it is their turn.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing these ideas - I'm always looking for ways to break out of the boring routine and the same-old, same-old of the activities I've used for ever. I am looking forward to plannin some of these activities and setting the tone for fun and compelling input in class.

  3. Could you explain password more? I am unfamiliar but it sounds great! :) - Kassy Miller, Middle School World Languages

  4. Great ideas! With a textbook, minimum # of grades, etc it's easy to get into a rut. I also like the reminders of memes. There are so many good ideas out there, that I forget them.I'm using the Drake gusta one tomorrow!