Getting my classroom designed and ready to go is my favorite Back to School undertaking. It feels like getting a set ready for the opening night of a play. I spend lots of mental time visualizing the classroom, the student desks, the front screens, the walls and other spaces. For what we do as foreign language teachers, the walls are especially important.
Our language students learn by just feasting their eyes on our walls— so use the wall space well. The target language they see, figure out, and eventually read is Environmental Print. Designing exactly which environmental target language to use is so important to your students’ target language experience. But . . . ..don’t clutter the walls with too many words, posters, and wall-decor. You need to Edit and Curate exactly what you put on a wall. Why are you displaying something? For What purposes? For how long?
Learners do pick up and figure out target language environmental print on the walls, screens, or bookshelves, so be sure to include:
- Target Language Use Only Signs. (see below)
- Target Language Question Words or Interrogative Terms
- Target Language Vital Classroom Phrases (see below)
- Current Target Vocabulary- This should change as you move in to different units
- Student Artifacts of Current or Recent Units. (Make sure you rotate student-work; younger students really keep track of which students get display time.)
Spanish Question Words To Post All Year
Target Language Activation Sign
Bon jour– It’s Diane. :) One of my most vital classroom decorations is my French/English sign. When I “activate” my French sign, no other languages are allowed! It’s activated for 90-98% of class time, but I do allow a few minutes in English at the beginning and/or end of class. I need something really eye-catching because I use this technique for assessment–my students receive a participation grade for staying in the target language.
My beautiful laminated sign that I created almost 15 years ago went missing a couple of years ago Once I got over the loss, I had a brainstorm: car door magnets! I love, love, love the ones I created using templates at Vistaprint. They are sturdy and will last me a good, long time. I can simply place one on top of the other, depending on the student speaking requirements. What do you think?
Spanish Target Language Activation Sign
Environmental Print Item 2: Classroom Survival Phrases
We believe strongly in equipping our students with the linguistic tools to speak in the target language from Day 1. The investment of time at the beginning of the school year to present, model, teach, practice and even assess Classroom Survival Phrases pays off big-time, allowing you to successfully conduct your classes almost entirely in the target language all year long. So, how do you put it all together into a 50 minute lesson? The possibilities are endless, but here is one sample for secondary, novice level learners:
1. Greet students in the target language as they enter your room, but begin the class briefly in English to handle any announcements and other nuts & bolts. Prepare your students for the day’s theme . . . Survivor! State the objective: Today you will learn how to survive in your French/Spanish class when NO English is spoken. We will act out what we do to come to class, and you will gesture and say several survival expressions such as “May I go the bathroom?” and “I don’t understand.”
2. ”Activate” your target language time. We often say a chant and flip over a sign that indicates “Français” or “Español.” No more English!!! Use a posted symbol, wear a hat, wave a wand, etc. Do something.
3. Introduce a “Going to French/Spanish Class“ Gouin Series. We put together a series of sentences in a context to act out with props and gestures. For example: I have my pencil, book . . . and all other school supplies that you expect your students to bring to class each day. Then model: I go to class. I sit down. I listen. I don’t understand! I have a question, etc. etc. Demonstrate the Gouin Series, then invite your students to perform the gestures as you say it. The third time through you can begin drilling techniques to get your students saying the lines of the series. Methodically practice and add on one line at a time until your students can say it on their own. Our opening day Gouin is included in our First Week French and First Week Spanish printable materials.
4. Encourage a volunteer or two to perform the entire Gouin Series for the class. Cheer! Offer a bonus point! Give candy! Anything you can think of to reward risk-taking in the target language.
5. Project the written text of the Gouin Series. Up to this point, the entire lesson has been aural-oral. Underline the survival expressions used. Continue to add on more by using the Survival Classroom Expressions Power Poin- French Survival Expressions Power Point and Spanish Survival Expressions Power Point. Show the expression with the image. Say it with gestures and/or lots of expression. Ham it up! Encourage your students to repeat after you. Use lots and lots of creative drilling techniques for TONS of repetition. Say it louder, softer, higher, lower, 3 times, etc. Boys repeat, girls repeat, this half of the room, that half of the room, etc. Say it to your partner, say it to someone new . . . you get the idea!
6. Play games to reinforce the new survival expressions. You can print out the PowerPoint images to create flash cards. Here are some activities to pick and choose from (not necessarily in this order):
- Students work in pairs to match image to written sentence/question.
- Play charades.
- Students each receive one flashcard, then circulate around the room asking classmates to identify the phrase that corresponds to the picture on the card. Students trade cards and continue on to do the same with someone new.
- Form small groups and give each group one set of flashcards. The groups will arrange the flashcards on the floor and try to be the first to hit the card that the teacher calls out.
7. Do written activities in class or as homework to reinforce the survival phrases. Our FREE Spanish and French Classroom Expressions downloads include student handouts and worksheets.
Spanish for Native Speakers Environmental Print
8. Flip your sign back to “English” and answer any questions your students might have about the new expressions.
So, are you done? Have your students mastered the material? Not yet! (Though they are well on their way!) Create a useful expressions “ladder” on your wall so students can see them all the time, encourage students to keep their handouts on their desks to refer to if necessary, review the Gouin Series and Power Points as part of the warm-up every day for the next week or so, play a different game (see #6 above) every day. Practice, practice, practice! Encourage, encourage, encourage! Once you feel confident that your students can SURVIVE, begin to hold them accountable to use ONLY the target language in class. Then watch them soar
Whew. Questions? Feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org; we’d love to talk, and help. :)