Effective Routines for Lower Elementary L2 Learners

Routines are…

  • …a good way to help L2 students feel more comfortable in a TL immersion setting.
  • …a great way to repeat target phrases enough times to enable acquisition.
  • …a teacher’s best friend.  It keeps kids on task and cuts down on the amount of original material teachers have to come up with.

Here are some examples of effective routines for lower elementary L2 learners.

1.  Before class starts, line up outside the door.  My students do this routine every time they come to my class.  After their teacher drops them off, the students must stand quietly and look at me.  (Insist on this.  It sets a good tone for the beginning of class.  It tells the students that you expect their attention; that serious learning will take place in your classroom.)  While they are lined up (and before they walk into the room) I have my students repeat these phrases after me in the target language:

“I don’t speak English.”

“I DO speak _______ (name of L2).”

“English: NO”

L2: Yes”

“Goodbye, English!” (and we wave goodbye in the direction they came from down the hall)

“Hello (L2)” (and we wave hello in the direction of the L2 classroom entrance)

And then I give some commands in the TL.  “Important: Silence.  Important: Attention.  Aidan, open the door.  Isabella, follow me.”  And then we walk into the classroom.

2- Tip toe around the edge of the reading rug area.  Once everyone has entered the room and is tip toeing, I say (in the TL), “Count to ___.” (pick whatever number is appropriate for your students.)  Count in the TL together.  When you’ve finished counting, tell the students to sit down.  You should expect the students to sit down with their hands folded and looking at the source of instruction.  Watch me tip toe, and count, with students in this clip.

3- Sing a welcome song or a greetings song.  Make up your own words to the tune of a well known song.  I sing two songs with my students at the beginning of class.  The words (which we sing in the TL) go like this: “Quiet, Quiet. Don’t talk a lot.  Don’t talk a lot.  Quiet, Quiet.  Don’t talk a lot in this class.”  (The purpose of this song is not to discourage TL use.  It’s to discourage speaking L1 at inappropriate times.  You know how little ones can get.)  We also sing, “Hello Class.  We are going to have a fun time learning (L2).”  Pick songs that students can echo.  Avoid wasting time making them memorize words to L2 songs that they’ll never understand.  Keep it simple.  Lot’s of echoing is good.

4- Lights ON lights OFF game.  I show lots of short video clips in my class.  Before and after the video clips we play the Lights ON/OFF game.  Watch me play this game in this video.

5- Analyze ClassDojo.com data.  The classdojo screen is great for foreign language teachers.  Use the number bubbles by each student to review numbers and ask L2 questions like, “Who has more points?  How many points does Aiden have?”  You can also point to the numbers and have students practice identifying them in the TL.  Watch me analyze data with students in this clip.

There are so many more things you can do with lower elementary L2 learners in routines.  Subscribe to this blog to have the latest posts sent to your inbox.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

Link to “Effective Routines for Upper Elementary L2 Learners.”

Do’s and Don’ts for Handouts in the 90+% TL Classroom

This post contains a link to a handout that Sr. Howard uses in his 90+% TL classroom.

It seems to be programmed into our foreign language teacher heads: we MUST give vocabulary lists to our students.  However, teachers that hand out lists of L2 vocabulary mostly end up providing L1 translations for the words.

Students need lists.  They need reference sheets.  I’m not saying that you should never hand out any paperwork.  But when you do:

Try to avoid writing down vocabulary in the target language on your handouts.

In fact, it may be helpful not to include ANY words on your handouts.  Use pictures instead.  Your handouts should have lots of pictures with corresponding blank spaces that students have to fill in once they decipher the meaning of new L2 words.  Make the students write down vocabulary in the target language.  Don’t write it for them.

Try making your handouts look like this.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

Effective Routines for Upper Elementary L2 Learners

Routines are…

  • …a good way to help L2 students feel more comfortable in a TL immersion setting.
  • …a great way to repeat target phrases enough times to enable acquisition.
  • …a teacher’s best friend.  It keeps kids on task and cuts down on the amount of original material teachers have to come up with.

Here are some examples of effective routines for upper elementary L2 learners.

1- Students find their seat by matching numbers.  Each desk should have a different number written out in the target language.  Each student receives a number when they walk into the classroom.  Students match the number to it’s written form to find out where they sit for the day.  Make the task more challenging by replacing low numbers for higher ones as the year goes on.  This routine allows…

  • …students to walk around the classroom.  (rather than having to sit in their seat for the whole class)
  • …students to practice L2 numbers. (helpful Spanish numbers review videos)
  • …students to practice reading in the TL.

2- Attendance and greeting routine.  Take attendance at the beginning of every class.  Ask students to respond to the sound of their name with appropriate phrases in the TL.  As the year progresses, introduce more advanced ways of responding.  (i.e. start with ‘Present’ or ‘Here’ and move onto ‘Here I am.’ ‘I’m here.’ ‘I arrived.’ ‘I made it on time.’ etc.)  Teach students to say, “He’s not here,” when an absent student’s name is read.  Once students are comfortable with the routine, a teacher can take extra time to ask students target questions that have been previously introduced. (i.e. “How are you, today?”  “How are you feeling?”  “How is your brother?” “I like your shirt.” etc.)  The possibilities are endless.

3- Write the heading on top of paper work.  Whenever my students receive a new paper they copy down a heading.  I use the TL to instruct volunteers to pass out the papers.  I have the class write the following in the TL:

My name is ________.  My classroom teacher’s name is _________.

Today is ______ (day of week) the ____ (#) of _________(month) of the year 2014.

Once students have copied the heading you can:

  • ask students to come to the board to fill in the blanks.
  • ask students to read the heading out loud.
  • read the heading out loud as a class.
  • ask students to make any corrections to mistakes on the board.

4- Calendar/Weather routine.  Click here to see how I do my calendar/weather/greetings routine at the beginning of class.

There are many other routines that can be helpful for teaching L2 to students by only speaking in the TL.  What are some that you find useful in your classroom?  Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward

Instructional Strategies: Targeted Repetition

My youngest brother grew up in the public school system in which I’ve been teaching Spanish for the last 10 years.  I gave him a quick Spanish quiz this morning as we were hanging out on vacation.  I said:

  • If, “I have internet.” = “Tengo internet.” and
  • “I don’t have internet.” = “No tengo internet.”
  • …how do you say, “I sometimes have internet,” in Spanish?

He thought about it for a while and, after getting a hint, he was able to say “A veces tengo internet.”  Our family congratulated him, for his demonstration of L2 retention, and he immediately said, “That’s one thing that the Vineland Public Schools sure did: REPETITION”

If you were familiar with my district’s L2 program two decades ago, you would know that he wasn’t necessarily complimenting the curriculum or instructional methods.  The curriculum (through grade 8) was basically the same set of thematic units repeated every year.  He implied that the program wasn’t inspirational, innovative or effectively structured.  However, he admitted that the repetition of the same content each year DID contribute to his ability to retain some things.  In short:


Why is repetition a helpful instructional strategy in the 90+% TL classroom?

1- Repetition creates a familiar environment in the L2 classroom.  For L2 learners, L2 is a very unfamiliar thing.  Unfamiliarity can cause some students to be uncomfortable, intimidated, and vulnerable.  Teachers can make ‘the feel,’ of an L2 classroom, more comfortable if they consistently recycle content and activities.

2- Repetition enables L2 acquisition and retention.  Sometimes I ask my students to teach me the language they speak with their family.  IT’S HARD!  If I ask them to teach me a Turkish greeting phrase, I can’t produce it the next day until I’ve heard them repeat it to me many times.  The syllables sound so unfamiliar.  The progression of sounds just doesn’t stick in my head.  It seems like I have to hear it a thousand times (over a series of days/weeks) before I can produce the phrase without reading or repeating it.  These experiences have helped me be patient with L2 learners in my class.  I say the same basic things over and over again knowing that my students need to hear it a thousand times before they’re able to produce L2 content on their own.

3- Repetition makes lesson planning less complicated.  Lesson planning is very important.  However lesson planning can get overwhelming if a teacher feels like the students need to experience new content and fresh activities every day.  Instead, create meaningful and targeted routines that allow students to repeatedly encounter target vocabulary in meaningful, focused and comprehensible ways.  It will help students feel more comfortable and help teachers feel less busy.

Señor Howard – www.SenorHoward.com – @HolaSrHoward