Teaching Reflections

The class where your lesson falls flat

Today was my second day back to school at a new job. I’ve been using Sara-Elizabeth Cottrell’s first fourteen days of Spanish 1 lesson plans.  I used them for the first time last year and really enjoyed them, and was also impressed with how much my students learned those first few weeks, and retained throughout the year!


So the class that flopped: it was the hour after lunch. It was my third time through the lesson that day, and my morning classes had gone well.  However, in fifth period, there was just a lack of energy. I was losing them, or felt like it anyway. I stopped my storytelling with 20 minutes left in class, switching gears to numbers, letters, anything. I showed them a list of Spanish names (which my morning classes loved! they were fascinated!), and offered to pronounce names for them – nope, not interested, or too shy to be the first to start. I was floundering, grabbing at anything to fill the time (can’t be the teacher who ends class early the second day of school!) So I went back to the alphabet, and then started spelling words for them to write down, until mercifully the bell rang.

My sixth and seventh periods went better, thankfully. I have some big personalities in those classes that drive the story telling (and keep the class entertained!), but I was also able to make some changes based on my experience in fifth period. Here are two simple changes I made to keep the energy up:

  • I had them copy a short list of vocab at the beginning of class. They were in quiet mode (disengaged mode? #tlap). I wanted to recapture their energy (their engagement?) for story telling, so I had them stand up and we did some simple TPR to review some of the words I had introduced yesterday – toca la boca. toca los ojos. toca el pelo. ok, repita (point), ojos. pelo. nariz. (point at eyes and wait expectantly until they say it….si, ojos! muy bien).  ok. una chica?  un chico? muy bien. Este marcador es rojo o negro? etc.
  • I used my list of “Top 100 Hispanic Names” differently than I had in the morning. Rather than pulling out as a separate activity after story telling, I integrated it with the story. We were drawing a second character in the lesson, so I drew her, did circling questions throughout, but left out her name.  When the character was finished, I passed out the lists of names and asked each group to nominate a name for the character (they took this very seriously!). It gave them a break from listening to me speak Spanish, let them talk to each other, and gave them a reason to read through the names. Also, we voted on the names, which gave me an excuse to count out loud in Spanish (counting votes).
    • Side note – I really enjoyed talking about Hispanic names today! I printed the list primarily because several students wrote on their interest inventory that they wanted to learn about Spanish names, or how to say their name in Spanish. However, once I had it, I found that it was a good bit of culture (the list was from 2013), interesting (compelling?) to students, and also worked well as a jumping-off point to talk about  the sounds of Spanish and pronunciation – the vowels (some names are spelled the same, but just pronounced with a Spanish accent), j, h, ll – even accent marks – SaloMÉ. Do you hear the accent mark? CrisTÓbal.  Do you hear the accent mark?

Thinking about it now, I might have had more success trying the name game or another quick speaking activity in fifth period, rather than continuing teacher-led instruction. It would have switched the focus from me to them – and aren’t your classmates so much more interesting than your teacher?? Ha!

What do you do when your lesson falls flat? How do you manage class energy?  How do you drive up interest in story-telling when you have a shy or sleepy class?


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