13 August 2017

You Can Do This: Promises for the first day of Spanish class

How and why are still probably the most important questions to answer for learning a language, but I forgot a very important question last year. There is one burning question that every novice language learner needs answered before they can even begin to explore purposes and strategies.

And it's a question that no one else can answer for them:

Can I do this?

Of course we've got the 4% who just thrill at the mere thought of diving into a new language, but when they find out Spanish class is not just going to be memorizing lists and facts, even the 4%-ers are bound to have doubts.

It is my job to cast those doubts from their minds, to show them the answer. This means I have to

  1. get them using the language and
  2. assure them that I am on their side all the way.
Now, my idea of what "using the language" means has evolved over the years. So after a little call-and-response to get them simply parroting the language as evidence that, yes, Spanish can come out of their mouths, this year, I tried a card talk to prove that, yes, they could understand when I spoke Spanish to them. 

And because I have decided to chill about the 90% TL thing for the sake of complete trust and transparency, we discussed--in English--how they felt about the activity and how much Spanish they were able to absorb. We even talked about whether or not they needed to speak the language as desperately as I felt I did at first, and decided to revisit the conversation later (over half said they did want to speak sooner rather than later though).

And then I made some promises--in Spanish.

Each promise was on a separate slide, with 3 clarifying mini-promises underneath. I had been careful to use cognates and as few words as possible, but I walked them through exactly what I meant by each. 

Basically, I promised to exercise the 3 basic skills M. Slavic and Mme Hargaden emphasized in the workshop I attended this summer:

I tried very hard to demonstrate doing these things as I went, and boy those eyes said a lot when we were talking about how I needed to watch them and use it! I did ask them to help let me know when I wasn't going "despacito" (see, we got Justin Bieber and Luis Fonsi in there somehow!!), complimenting kids who stopped me to clarify when they needed it.

Overall, I think they were believers by the end of class, but I'm doing three other things to emphasize those promises and keep them at the front of my mind and theirs:
  1. We revisited them Day 2 and made them the first page in their interactive notebooks. I had them match the mixed up mini-promesas to the three main promises with table teams and then discussed again what each promise looked like and why I would do it.
  2. I made posters that will go up Day 3 for us to review again so that they can...
  3. ..grade me on my promise keeping. I made little score cards which I will use as exit slips periodically, hopefully at least once a week. 
I decided to keep the score cards anonymous, too, though I would really like to be able to pinpoint who needs more help. I think it's more important to get an honest overall read, though. But if they want to talk or let me know they need more from me individually, I'll leave the option of signing their names too.

My hope is that these promises will help keep me honest and connected with my kiddos this year.

And that they will continue to answer that burning question the same all semester and after:

Yes I can.

My first day promise packet is now available on TeachersPayTeachers.


  1. I am inspired by your desire to be accountable to your students in such a simple, honest manner! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Beautiful graphic that breaks it down for students...thank you for sharing!

  3. Algo a lo que muchos no nos atreveríamos al comienzo pero definitivamente de mucho valor para aprender conforme avanzamos. Gracias por las ideas.