Amy Roe teaches Spanish to young children and sells great picture story books on Teachers Pay Teachers – here is her response to a question about keeping the attention of younger students. I thought it was really helpful.
Amy Roe – This is my tenth year of teaching with TPRS and CI. I have found that my elementary students are the most engaged when I support the story with pictures. I do about half picture stories (which I then print out and add to my classroom library) and half story-asking stories. With kindergarteners, the story asking stories are usually very short. They go something like this:
Papa Bear. Who wants to be Papa Bear? (I call on a kindergarten student and give them a Papa Bear mask to put on.) Is Papa Bear big? Yes, Papa Bear is big. (Everyone shows me the action for big.) Is Papa Bear medium? No, Papa Bear is not medium. He is big. He is not medium. He is big. Is Papa Bear small? No, Papa Bear is not small. He is big. He is not small. Papa Bear has a plate. What size is the plate? (The class decides — big, medium, small.) Oh, Papa Bear has a small plate. Does he have a big plate or a small plate? Right, he has a small plate. So small! Does Papa Bear like the small plate? (The class decides.) Oh, Papa Bear does NOT like the small plate? Does he want a medium plate? (The class decides.) Oh, he does not want a medium plate. Does he want a big plate? Yes, he wants a big plate! He wants a big, big, big plate! Does he have a big plate? No, he has a small plate! Is Papa Bear happy? No. Is he sad or is he angry? (The class decides.) Oh, Papa Bear is ANGRY! Papa Bear says, “I do not like the small plate! I want a big plate!” (At this point in the kindergarten story, I ripped up the small paper plate I had and had Papa Bear throw the pieces — shock and awe from the class!) In a normal story, we would end here, since my kindergarten students have about a five-minute max for how long they can sit and listen to a story. However, ripping the plate was so cool that it gave me another few minutes of attention, so I pulled out my Star Wars masks (my kinders love Star Wars). I had Papa Bear go to Yoda. Yoda had a plate, and the class could decide whether it was big, medium, or small. Then Papa Bear went to Darth Vader. My class decided that Darth Vader had a big plate, but he would not give it to Papa Bear. Then Papa Bear went to R2D2. R2D2 also had a big plate, but he wouldn’t give it to Papa Bear either! At this point, I saw two kids starting to wiggle, so I ended the story. Papa Bear was angry! No one gave him a big plate! We all stood up and stomped our feet and roared with anger. Then we moved to a different activity.
A great question!
Hola grupo! I am off from school now and trying not to think too much about teaching…but there is a problem that is plaguing me and I need some advice!
Every year we have new students, never had Spanish. My students who have been with me since pk are fantastic. I feel pressure to start over for the sake of the new kids but I feel like I am not challenging my other kids. How do I challenge them? How do you all keep the balance between new kiddos and old? Gracias!
Amy Moeller Scott – I just let them listen for the first several months, and don’t expect a lot of output. Sometimes I’ll call on them, and when I do, I give them extra help. I’ll say to the other kids things like, “Wow, wasn’t that great? He’s never had Spanish before this year!” Basically I just try to give them lots of encouragement and give them the easiest questions or simplest roles. I can’t afford to go backwards for them, so they just pick up whatever we’re learning at the time. For them it’s more of an immersion situation than CI. They seem to do pretty well and by their second year with me you almost wouldn’t know they’d never had Spanish. Also, I use spiraling techniques, so that helps, too.
Maria Plupis Sanjurjo – I have a listening center that new students can go to to get caught up. But I tell you its a challenge! I have students that arrive half way through the year!