Building Community in the Classroom – 9 Awesome Activities for High School Spanish
I was bullied from third grade to eighth grade and school was a nightmare for me. “Ooh, Torre! Cooties!” is branded into my brain. I don’t want that for any of my students and I know you don’t either. When teachers work to build classroom community, they create an environment that discourages bullying and creates goodwill among students.
In this blog post, I’ll show you activities for building community in the classroom for back-to-school and the entire school year. It’s important for teachers to connect with students but it’s equally important for middle school and high school students to connect with each other, particularly at the beginning of school.
Once students have a sense of belonging, they participate more enthusiastically in the learning process AND they have more fun learning.
I will also give you SIX FREE resources in Spanish and some in French to help you build community in your classroom.
BUILD COMMUNITY IN THE CLASSROOM WITH BACK-TO-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Here are a few back-to-school ice breakers I use on the first day of school:
Spanish One and Two: After teaching students how to ask someone his or her name, students are instructed to do the following:
1. Ask your partner’s name in Spanish and write down his/her answers.
2. Then, ask him/her, in English, why s/he is taking Spanish.
3. Ask him/her to tell you something interesting about him/her.
4. Be ready to introduce one of your new friends to the class and to tell the class something interesting about that person. Write down the phone number of at least two people with whom you would like to study.
As you can see, students MUST find a study buddy, someone whom they can call to ask questions.
Click the following link for the free download of this activity: Spanish One Day One Ice Breaker
Spanish Three, first week of school: After reviewing the preterite tense, ask students these questions, calling on raised hands. Then, model how to fill in the boxes. Students ask each other what they did over the summer. If a student says he did not do that activity, they ask another person. If that person says yes, they write the person’s name and say they did that activity, using the third person.
Click on the link for the free Spanish download of Spanish Three Preterite Tense Review and Ice Breaker
Click on the following link if you wish to modify the activities: Spanish Three Preterite Group Activity
Click on the free download of the activity in French: French Passé Composé Ice Breaker
Click on the free download of this activity if you wish to modify it: Editable French Passé Composé Ice Breaker (Formatting is a little off)
BUILD CLASSROOM COMMUNITY WITH ACTIVITIES DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR
TEAM COMPETITIONS AND SMALL GROUPS:
Another way to encourage strong relationships is by giving students the opportunity to compete in teams or small groups. When students work toward a common goal, they form a bond. Most of my lessons end with a team competition of either Team A against Team B, or girls against boys (their favorite).
I number students on each side so two kids have the same number. I ask the question, pause (so they are all alert), and call a number. For written tasks, students use white boards.
There are two ways to set up team competitions: individually or collectively. During the latter type of game, all students must complete the task before the team is awarded a point. When we play, THROW THE BALL, students help each other so they can be the first team in which all students have correctly written the answer, resulting in team support and collaboration.
Students also improve their social skills when they work in groups. A great way to develop a strong classroom community and student collaboration is to randomly place students in groups of three to five (I count off students and pair them by number) and have them compete with the other students. Each student has a number. If there are six groups of five, for example, students will be numbered 1-5. Students are allowed to help each other while staying in the target language.
I say the sentence or ask the question, wait, repeat the question, wait, then call a number from 1 to 5. The first student who stands and answers the question, either orally or by writing on a white board, gets the point. Often, I give the first two or three fastest groups a point.
RANDOMLY PAIRED ACTIVITIES
An effective way to build a supportive classroom community and encourage personal connections is to have students frequently work in pairs. I have several ways of pairing students. At the beginning of school, I give students a table with animals. I teach them how to ask, “¿Quieres ser mi jirafa?” / “Est-ce que tu veux être ma girafe ?” and then they go around the room asking who wants to be their giraffe, writing the name of the person under their giraffe. Then, when it is time to pair them, I say, “Get together with your giraffe (other other animal) in the target language, of course, Spanish or French.
I do not allow students to say, “No.” We talk about how that would feel and how we all want to feel included.
Click on the following link to get my animals table for Spanish: Animal Pairs Table
Another way to pair students is randomly. I number students in both teams and then tell all the ones to work together, all the twos, all the threes, etc. That way, no one is left out, and students get to know each other. Some even become best friends.
GROUP ACTIVITIES FOR BUILDING COMMUNITY IN THE CLASSROOM
A student writes a question at the top of the page and poses the same question to each person in the group, recording his or her answers in the third person. After he/she has asked everyone in the group the question, a different student asks and records the questions. Since student work is graded collectively, students work hard to help each other and create a superior product.
I have used this activity for many grammatical and vocabulary concepts, like the preterite, present tense, preterite vs. imperfect, future tense, food, clothing, etc. Click on the following link to get the free activity for the preterite tense: Preterite Tense Group Speaking Activity
Click on the following link if you wish to modify it for another concept: Spanish Group Speaking Activity
Click on the link for the free download for French: Le passé composé Group Activity
Click on the following link if you wish to modify the activities: Le passé compose Editable Group Activity
Paired activities are great for speaking practice, too. If you’d like to build your repertoire of paired and group activities, click on the following link: Spanish One, Two, and Three Speaking and Listening Paired and Group Activities
HOW DO YOU BUILD COMMUNITY IN YOUR CLASSROOM AND STILL SPEAK THE TARGET LANGUAGE ALL PERIOD?
8-Stations is a great activity for building rapport among students and for ensuring students speak Spanish or French the entire period. Students go from station to station answering questions and collecting points for correct answers. They get repeated opportunities to succeed and are aided by listening to their classmates’ answers.
Below is a simulation of the activity practicing the topics for Spanish One in the present tense:
Click on the link below to get a FREE 8-Stations Activity for the future tense: 8-Stations Speaking Activity Future Tense
Click on the following link to get the Spanish 8-Stations Activity for the Preterite Tense: Eight Stations Preterite Tense in Spanish
Click on the link to get the French Present Tense 8-Stations Activity
Click on the following link to get the French Passé Composé 8-Stations Speaking Activity
INTERVIEW: SPEED DATING
Another game for building community in the classroom is Speed Dating, an activity kids love. Students move from person to person asking questions and recording answers. The benefit of this game is that students get to know students they would not have otherwise met while improving their speaking proficiency and mastering the concept they are studying.
Click on the link to see it: La cita rápida Spanish Speed Dating
BUILD POSITIVE CLASSROOM COMMUNITY WITH REWARDS
Are you sick of me talking about Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching? I learned much of what I know about classroom management and how to set clear expectations from him. At the beginning of the year, I teach and test my classroom rules and procedures, I tell students how they can earn FUN FREE TIME (called PAT time by Fred Jones) by saving me time and helping to maintain a positive environment for student learning. I live my days with a stopwatch around my neck.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:
We practice how to turn in papers, get into and out of groups, and other daily protocols. I give them a certain amount of time to follow through, generally more than they need, and stop the clock when they have finished. (In my room, that means all are in their desks, quiet, and have their desks ON the Xs I have marked on the floor. I know, OCD. Works for me. LOL)
When they have reached 20 – 30 minutes of time, we play a game or do a competition I know they like (usually one I was going to do anyway, like the competitions above, or Tic-Tac-Toe, Bingo, etc.)
All class members are invested in the process because they all benefit.
Building a strong foundation of values and expectations from the first day of school contributes greatly to a sense of classroom community.
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL LESSON PLANS
It’s always such a nuisance to figure out what to teach the first day of school. Should I teach the rules? What review activities should I use? How much Spanish or French should I use?
You can get the lesson plans and curriculum that go along with the ice breakers mentioned above for the first day of school for Spanish One, Two, and Three. Click on the following link to get them: First Day of School Lesson Plans and Curriculum
What do you do to build classroom community? I’d love to hear! Write your ideas in the comments section.
Don’t miss out on freebies! Make sure to follow my STORE in order to get notified of updates on products, free resources, and new products. Happy teaching!
If you would like to receive these blog posts with teaching tips and freebies in your email, subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Click on the following link: Best PowerPoints and More for Spanish and French , scroll down to the bottom and click, “Sign up.”