Extra Credit: What We Can Learn From Elementary School Teachers - Free Resources for Spanish Teachers
When I was an undergrad, I could spot those El-Ed majors very easily. Their socks, sweaters and hair accessories where exactly the same shade (and in the 80’s that was no easy feat). They had clothes with holiday and/or season motifs: pumpkin sweaters, turkey earrings, and let’s not even talk about apples on everything. They tended to be very perky, always enthusiastic, and spent their time reading things like The Pokey Little Puppy or Johnny Tremain while I was slogging through Cervantes, Borges, Moliere, and Sartre. Later, once I was a middle and high school teacher, I remember marveling at the enthusiasm and alertness the elementary school teacher showed at the district-wide in-services. We secondary teachers were sitting in the back and constantly getting another coffee. We sure weren’t as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as our elementary counterparts. Don’t get me wrong—I do have an enormous respect for the important work they do. I know I would not do well teaching little ones. I prefer those snarky adolescents. At least they get irony and sarcasm and they give it too. I don’t mind. But honestly, there are some things that those elementary teachers know and do that secondary school teachers can use too. Even with those jaded teenagers who are just too cool.
Some text book series have photo cards as part of their kits. Santillana is no exception; we have some photo cards that go with our Descubre series. Now that the shameless plug is over, back to the message. No matter how wonderful the manufactured sets may be, you will still need more. Collect photos you can use to present vocabulary, generate a writing exercise or dialogue, or a variety of review activities and games. Look for interesting, funny, strange, or ridiculous photos as well. File them according to category or unit, however you like. It’s a great way to get one last use of those magazines before you throw them away. A big picture file is an excellent resource that doesn’t take a lot of time or energy to maintain.
My roommate my freshman year had to keep a book file of hundreds and hundreds of children’s books. She had the title, author, illustrator, and brief synopsis of the story. We can modify this to include any readings our students will see in any year of Spanish class. Instead of a synopsis and the illustrator’s name, you can include themes, uses of figurative language, key words, even activities to do with the work. When it comes time to teach the piece, you will have the most pertinent information at your fingertips. You don’t need to keep rereading the piece each time you teach it. You can certainly add new activities to your file. You might even note any challenges students may have had when working with the piece so you can better address them the next time around.
Games and Songs
I’m always amazed at how willing even the “coolest” kids are to revert back to things they did when they were, as they say, young. Many learning games or even non-learning games can be modified to fit the needs of your secondary class. My kids lose their mind when we play Simón Dice. Who knew? If you can’t remember any of these games or songs, make friends with an elementary or kindergarten teacher. They are usually more than happy to help. And they sure are creative, you might pitch them a topic and have them come up with a game, song, or rhyme that may just work for you.
So think of your elementary colleagues and friends as a resource. You may find some fresh ideas and you and your students can channel your inner child. It’s pretty fun and works really well. We would love to hear any elementary school-ish techniques, activities, songs, etc. that you have used and have been a success. Please share them with us at Plaza. We want to play, too!
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