Episode 13 - Power of Prioritizing Community and Connections

brain breaks student community Aug 09, 2022
Student Community

I am SO excited to give you  a little PREVIEW of the dynamite I'll be sharing this Sunday in my FREE workshop: Setting the Stage: Solid Strategies for Starting Strong! To Register and save your spot, click here! I'd love to see you! I have resources for everyone attending LIVE!

To learn more about how to set goals and build norms WITH your students, click here! There's a free resource built into the blog too!

Here is a blog on Hachi Pachi!

Here is a video of Hachi Pachi in action! You'll notice we added the rejoinder ¡Qué lástima! What a SHAME! (I have rejoinders available in Spanish, French, and English in my TPT store!)

Donna Tatum-Johns Blog

Here's the blog, The First Week of School, I did YEARS ago on how I start the year with Elementary vs. Middle vs. High school! Keeping in mind, I've grown a LOT since then but still important to notice the emphasis I have on L1 (English) usage!!!

Don't forget to register and join me on Sunday! I am SO excited to share with you and get you set up to start strong with your students! Just click here to save your spot!

Connect with me:

My Blog

My YouTube

My Instagram

My Website 

My TPT store

This episode is available on Spotify and Apple podcasts! Subscribe so you're notified of new episodes!



Welcome to Teaching LaVida Loca, a podcast for World Language teachers seeking inspiration, unapologetic authenticity and guidance in centering joy and facilitating language acquisition for the people who matter most, our students. I'm your host, Annabel, most people call me La Maestra Loca, and I'm an educator just like you, and inspiring teachers is what I do.

My Voxer Conversation

Hey, welcome to episode 13 of teaching La Vida Loca. On my drive home, I had a very solid idea of what I wanted to come and talk to you about tonight. And all of that changed during a Voxer conversation. Oh my god, I'm so obsessed with Voxer as basically like walkie talkie back and forth. But during a boxer conversation with a dear friend and colleague of mine, we don't teach in the same state. But we were talking about how we've been really alarmed by the amount of posts out there, really pushing, not even just encouraging, but pushing lots of target language usage in the first week of school. Because of the need to set the tone for this class is going to be a Spanish class, we're going to speak Spanish in here and really help the teacher establish the expectation that it's going to be 90% target language usage, and we want you to use it. And I just felt so alarmed. 

Prioritize Community 

Discussing this with her and talking about how there seems to be this pressure on many teachers who are even newer to the idea of using acquisition driven instruction in their class, that if you're going to use 90%, target language and facilitate acquisition through acquisition driven instruction, that this is the bar you need to set and I'm here to tell you I completely and totally and utterly disagree with this. Boom. I couldn't disagree with this more. In fact, in fact, when I was listening and having this conversation with my friend, I felt like my chest literally tightened. Look, I can't even speak right now. Because I'm so like, amped up about it. Y'all, the only thing that matters in the first couple of weeks of school is prioritizing community and connection. 

 Use L1 

And the easiest, most sure way to do this is through the use of L1, through the use of English and our world language classrooms. Because not all of our students first languages is English, I know. But it is also, most of the time, the common language in our world language classrooms. And it is essential that we are using it. I'm not even suggesting I'm saying it's so important. And this episode, for that reason, is titled The Power of prioritizing community and connection. I'm so happy you're here and joining me today. Thank you for being here. 

Several years ago, not even several gosh, I feel like six or more years ago, I posted a blog about like what I do in the first week or two weeks, I can't even remember I'm going to have to find the post and link it here. I never delete old posts, even though I've grown tremendously over time. I always keep it because it's important, I think to show your growth and continue to grow. But I'll have to find that post. Even way back when, when I was a baby teacher, if you want to call it that. I still recognized the absolute importance and essential nature of using lots of target of, of Sorry, L1 in the first weeks of school. I today just finished my first full day with all students. I had students on Thursday and on Friday. Today, I had everybody in the same class Thursday and Friday. They were split, so I saw half of my classes on each day. So today was my first full day of school. And I think today, my target language percentage of how much I used it was probably two or 3%.

Focus on Routines 

Let me say that agin, two or 3%. It was probably only when we were playing Uno, dos, tres Dally. And when I introduced one rejoinder que lastima, What a shame. Y'all. The reason for this is I am spending loads of time focusing on procedures, on routines, establishing what my expectations are for entering the classroom. for exiting the classroom, what my expectations are around transitioning from activity to activity, what my expectations are for voice levels for different activities. And you might be thinking, Oh, well, that's cute. You switch to elementary. No, this is literally what I did when I taught middle school too. Today, we worked on our hopes and dreams and on creating community norms, or classroom expectations, of each other. Rather than me spitting out rules to my kids, I want us to be a partnership in creating the classroom norms. Some people might call this a social contract, especially if you teach in middle and high school, it might be better to call it a community contract. But, honestly, this sort of thing I'm not going to do in Spanish, because it's going to take me six, seven times as long to do it. First of all, because I'm teaching novices. And second of all, it's too important to make sure that we're all on the same page with this before I move into Spanish. 

Grab This Resource 

If you're interested in doing community norming, with your students, and norming with the class, I have a fantastic resource that you can use for elementary, middle, and high. It's called My hopes and Dreams resource. And it's, it's a great resource for for norming your class, there's a blog and a resource, it's free. I'll link it in the show notes. But I know I am confident in my ability to deliver highly compelling contextualized comprehensible input and facilitate the acquisition for my students of the Spanish language. I am not worried because once I jump into Spanish, I'm going to be at least 90% target language. In fact, most of the time, I'm at 95 96%. Once I get going, I'm confident in that I feel great about it. I've spent years and years getting to the point where I can confidently say that I'm, I'm there. But I know that the only reason I can get there is the time I spent in the first two weeks, not speaking in Spanish, building relationships, finding connections with students, creating that classroom community that I need to be there as a strong foundation so that kids feel, okay enough to take risks and use the target language. I had kiddos come in today, who were brand new, who didn't come on Thursday and Friday, and literally say, Oh, I was so scared you were just going to start speaking in Spanish, literally voiced their fear, and then immediately their relief that I wasn't bombarding them with the target language. And I said, Oh, no, we have to build our classroom norms. We have to like set up some expectations. Don't worry, when we get to Spanish, you're gonna love it, don't even worry about it.

Affective Filter

All of this is essential in lowering that affective filter starts with an A, affective filter, so that they feel comfortable in her classroom, building that connection, and that community in your room is priority and there's so much power in prioritizing that. It's so important. I cannot say it enough. The affective filter is basically I like to think of it as a brick wall that's literally in everybody's head. I know I use the word literally a lot. Sorry, not sorry at all. But it's a brick wall in our head. That when I'm speaking in Spanish, if that affective filter of a student is high, it means that it's going in one ear and it's not even able to pass out the other, it's literally hitting that, there's that word again, literally, it's hitting the brick wall and bouncing back out again, because the student is too stressed, too nervous, too anxious, too overwhelmed, too upset, too angry, too hungry, there's a million different things that can affect the affective filter, affect the affective filter, we're going to have to be careful in the transcript with that one. But there's so many things that can affect it, that it is essential that I'm doing everything within my power to lower that brick wall so that my students feel comfortable, they feel welcomed, they feel seen, heard loved, cared for valued and empowered, as who they are in my space before I'm like "Okay, hello, here we go Espanol, Class A", because when I hit it, I hit it hard. I am all in for Spanish. I want to make sure they are not only are they comfortable but then Spanish class is fun. 

Deliver Basic Instructions 

In one of my classes today, I had a lot of wait time, I had a lot of wait time, wait time meaning. I'll, wait, you know the expectation, I'll remind you that expectation just to be able to give instructions for a game, all that I told you all of this was in English today. And yet I still was like, meet my expectations. These are my expectations. I know you can meet them. First time listeners, you know, just basic things for me to deliver basic instructions, high expectations from the beginning, I am determined to wait until I get 100% engagement, 100% meeting my expectations before I move on, right. And, it was a little bit challenging class. It was fun. We still had fun. But I definitely didn't play as many brain breaks as I wanted to. I didn't get it introduced hace paci like I wanted to. If you don't know about Hachi Pachi, we're about to introduce it as a brain break. Why not? That can be our brain break of the episode. But I was like, No, I'm just gonna wait because this is more important establishing these these expectations, this classroom routine, my expectations. I can't do that in Spanish with novices. I'm going to do it in English. And at the end of the class, I had four kids in my exit line say, This is my favorite class of the day. And I'm thinking Dang, this was my most boring class today, because we did half of the fun things I wanted to. So, even when it feels super boring, and you just want to get to the Spanish, you just want to dig in, don't spend the absolutely essential and important time establishing those routines, establishing your expectations. And holding them to those expectations, building in those brain breaks, teaching brain breaks as procedures. All of these things are essential. And I'm going to be talking a lot more in depth about it this Sunday, if you want to join me for a free workshop, on setting the stage, where I'll be providing you with strong strategies, or really solid strategies for starting the year strong, stronger than ever. I want to invite you to sign up for it and save your spot. I'll link it in the bio, not the bio, whatever the thing is called, What's the thing the show notes, I'll link it in the show notes. But for right now it's definitely time for brain break.

Brain Break

Okay, so my favorite brain breaks to do at the beginning of the year, or anything that has a strong community sense to it. Something that has all of us playing togethe, something that has students interacting with other students, lots of other students. So I'm really trying to establish that strong community early. One of them is called Hachi Pachi. I'm going to link to a video of it, a blog of it in the show notes. You're going to freaking love it. Basically, you get everybody in a giant circle in the room. If you have desks, get rid of the desks. Don't worry, we'll talk about that later. If you can't get rid of the desks. Then that's okay. Make a circle around the desks. One student gets sent out of the classroom. That's the detective. The rest of the students are in the classroom. Once you know that student is out, like they cannot see anymore and they are out of earshot. You choose a designated Hachi Pachi, The Hachi Pachi is the person who is the rhythm keeper or the sound maker. This person can start with any sound they want to, for example, patting their legs, so you're standing in circle, the Hachi Pachi is patting their legs. The rest of the class, their job is to just copy the exact same action that Hachi Pachi does and anytime Hachi Pachi changes that action, for example, if they switch to snapping their thumbs, or if they switch to patting their head, or if they switch to rubbing their tummy, or if they switch to jumping up and down, or walking really slow. Obviously, in place, every single time their action changes the whole class has to mimic that action. The important piece is that they're not staring right at Hachi Pachi, because when you invite the detective back in, they're standing in the center of the circle. They're trying to find who Hachi Pachi is and they're trying to do it in three guesses or less. Obviously, you can flex this you can be different in one class today, I gave him six guesses because he was guessing very quickly. Some of your students are going to guess so slowly, it's like molasses like oh my gosh, just pick somebody who you think it is. So those you might just limit it to two yeses and you need to remind them Okay, make a choice and make a guess sometimes you have to make sure that Hachi Pachi is changing their action frequently. It's a fantastic game. I think it's easiest if you see it. So I'm going to go ahead and link a YouTube video for you. And I'll link a blog that explains it slowly and clearly for you. Definitely a fantastic community builder for the beginning of the year. I know you'll enjoy it. Make sure that if you're sharing anything, or you're sharing about your experiences, tag me, let me know, email me if you don't have social media, let me know if you're loving it. Same with this podcast. If you love it, share it, please take a screenshot right now. Share it on your social media, email it to somebody, let them know that you're listening and loving it. Share these brain break ideas, share the love, love it, love it, love it. Hope you enjoy that very brain break again. It's called Hachi Pachi and I learned that one from Darcy Pippins in Oklahoma. Yeah, my Darcy, Memphis calls her Tia.

I Start With English 

Back to this idea of using, not like unabashedly, unapologetically using English those first couple weeks. Tomorrow, I'm going to start with tons of English, we're going to finalize our community norms, we're going to sign a social contract committing to those norms, because the kids are the ones who came up with them. Again, you can, if you're interested in doing this with your classes, I have linked a resource and a blog for you to do that. And then beyond, once we've done that, we're going to ease into a little bit of language. I'm going to show them a song by Senor Willie. Right. I'm going to show them that can I go to the bathroom song on Senor Willie, we're going to play a couple new brain breaks. We're going to review the expectations for leaving the classroom. What does that look like? What does that sound like? I'm focusing so much on the how our classroom is going to function because I know when I'm jumping into Spanish, I want it to be a well-oiled machine, well-oiled machine, I also am going to introduce things like voice levels, what my voice level expectations are, I have a poster for that. I have an expectation for my calm zone, my Sona de Calma, where they might have to go, if I've given them all of the supports needed to meet my expectations. If they're stalled, still not meeting my expectations, they might be asked to go to the Sona de Calma. So they could fill out a reflection, right. So I'm going through all these classroom procedures that are essential to have in place before I jump into the Spanish. 

The Spanish Will Come 

The Spanish is going to come, I get all year with these kids all year. Now if you're an elementary teacher who maybe sees your kids only once a week, it's even more essential that you're taking the time, to the first two classes that you've seen them, hit all of your expectations, and then have loads of grace and empathy every time they come to you. Because it's, their you know, it's your space is not something they visit common, like a lot. So it's really important that you give them the grace to remember those expectations and practice them with a little more time. And I know time is precious to you, but it's just so important. And I am confident y'all, I'm confident that if you take the time to do this, you won't regret it. Another resource I want to give you is a three piece or three part blog that my dear friend Donna, Donna Tatum Johns has just finished specifically on community building, I believe last year, I can't remember how much it was. But I believe last year, she spent six weeks focusing on community building in her high school French class before really digging into the French. And you might think six weeks. Are you kidding me like that is such a loss of time? No. Because what it resulted in was incredible growth. Because when she was able to jump into French, that's all they did all year, and it was in such a close tight knit community. I mean, her results, she did like a survey of results with her high school students. It's incredible. So it's just another resource I want to give you but if I'm really honest about my target language usage in the first couple of weeks of school, I would say it's the opposite of 90% target language, 10% English, it's more like 90% English, 10% target language, because I know that there is so much power in prioritizing community and connection and lowering that affective filter for my students because once I'm going into Spanish, whoooo, there's no turning back.

Thank You!

I adore you, Teacher, thank you so much for joining me. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. Please don't forget to like it, follow it so you're aware of other episodes, share it with a friend who needs to hear it. And definitely spread the message and the word that you do not have to speak 90% target language the first few days of school. Please, for your kids sake, for my sake, trust the process, Speak that L1 and know that the rest is going to come, because it will. Till next time, I'll be teaching la vida loca. Please make sure and register for my event on Sunday. I cannot wait to share more incredible powerful strategies like these ones that I've shared in more detail at this workshop on Sunday. It's going to rock!!! Sunday August 14.

Stay connected with tips, tricks, and inspiration!

Join my mailing list to receive tips, tricks, strategies, activities, and inspiration straight to your inbox!

Get inspired!