How to Survive the First Day of Heritage Spanish Class

Stepping into your first high school heritage Spanish class can feel like entering a whole new world. No worries, we’ve got your back! Here are some battle-tested tips to help you conquer day one and make your high school heritage Spanish journey a fiesta, not a siesta.

The first day sets the tone for the entire year, so it’s crucial to create a warm and welcoming environment. However as you well know, there is a balance, as it’s equally important to clearly establish your authority.

Reduce Student Anxiety

If you, as the teacher, project a nervous energy on the first day of school, you can be assured your students will sense it too. One of the biggest ways you can reduce the stress levels as students enter your classroom on the first day is by giving them very clear direction, taking charge, and getting off to a quick win. 

Emoji grouping cards

For instance, a good place to start is to knock out the seating chart. A fun way to do this is with Emoji grouping cards. It is especially great for classrooms where desks are arranged as pods. Simply place the larger emoji cards on the grouping of desks or tables and then as students enter the room, they select a small emoji card from you as you fan out the cards facedown to them. This directs them to where they should find a seat. 

Other ways to reduce student anxiety are the simple and small cues they get from your body language. Oftentimes we transmit things as teachers without realizing it. Our minds can be computing a million things at once, and remembering what your face and body posture are up to…well, sometimes that unfortunately falls down the pecking order. Make a mindful effort to be there at the threshold of your classroom smiling and greeting them at the door, already knowing their name, and playing upbeat music before class begins. A great start can get a positive wave of momentum generated for your students, and can start a positive framework in which you lift them up, as they uplift you in return.

Sometimes it can be nice to have a task-list for students to work through on the first day. You could include these items: read over the syllabus, fill out this student questionnaire, learn the name of the people sitting to your left and your right, etc. 

Assess Student Placement

Assess Student Placement

Many times heritage Spanish class has students that are misplaced in the course. If your school doesn’t have an established way to place students, you will want to prioritize doing mini-interviews with each student during those important first couple days of the new school year in order to check that they indeed comprehend Spanish. We don’t expect students to be entirely fluent, but they should definitely be able to understand spoken Spanish in order to be in the course. 

If you get on this early, administrators will have their best chance at realigning the student’s schedule to their needs and abilities. Worst case scenario would be not catching it soon enough and realizing that your student is drowning in the class schedule, and it’s too late to do anything about it for the time being!

I have a free digital comprehension assessment you can use to get a baseline idea of your students’ skills.

digital comprehension assessment

For this digital comprehension assessment, I consider a 7 or higher to be passing. This demonstrates the student can understand spoken and written Spanish. There is also a writing prompt at the end that the teacher can collect to examine their writing skills. 

It’s important to remember that proficiency is not a prerequisite for heritage Spanish class. This class is designed for heritage Spanish speakers not native speakers. It is expected that they may not be extremely proficient in reading and writing in Spanish yet. The purpose of the class is to challenge them with more written input in Spanish. Equally important is the cultural content and identity exploration in the curriculum. 

You will have students with many different ability levels in the same class, so you will need to modify for them by requiring less output. 

Student Surveys

Student Surveys

Getting to know basic information about your students is a must. In the Ascendencia curriculum we use a variety of student surveys to do this. My favorite is the Todo sobre mí digital assignment included in the Ascendencia Year Two Curriculum. The survey allows me to easily refer to the information they turn in to me at anypoint in the year and it serves as a reminder of what activities they are in, who they live with, etc. 

With many students, in order to gain engagement, you have to find out who they are, and what they are about. I’ve had so much more success when I remember to meet and greet the student that I have in front of me, where they are at, that day. Rather than just assuming everyone is showing up to school ready to learn and improve. Each student starts each day from a different place, and with the Ascendencia curriculum, we set educating the whole student as a goal. Every student can learn, some will just need a little extra investment and guidance; but we can all come forward when remembering the human factors at play on any given day!

This one is a Google Form you can download for free that asks students basic details about their life.

Free Download:
Digital Get-to-know-you Survey

Have Some Fun

Icebreakers exist for a reason… in awkward social situations like the first day of school, you can’t go wrong with breaking the ice!

Check out these ideas for icebreakers you can use that first day. 

And don’t worry, there are a ton of conversation starter resources available for members inside the Ascendencia curriculum.

Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. Join the Heritage Spanish Club today to get immediate access to hundreds of Heritage Spanish resources with a clear scope and sequence. 

¡Ánimo y buena suerte!

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How to Survive the First Day of Heritage Spanish Class