4 Ways to Beat the Back-to-School Blues for Language Teachers

Every summer seems to go quicker than the last, and as a teacher there is always an endless checklist of to-do’s. Whether it be updating current curriculum, creating fun activities, writing formative assessments, or evaluating the past year’s data, even on breaks our job is never done. So, how do I make the most of the first few weeks of school, when I am not ready to put down my beach towel and romance novel quite yet?

Here are four reminders that have helped me get back into the swing of the school year. 

1. ONE new, big idea 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Start with one great idea that you can try and share with your colleagues. This may be the way in which you introduce grammar, how you hold your students accountable for speaking in the target language, or creating real-life experiences where your classroom learning can come to life. If each of us comes up with one idea, as a professional learning community, we will have an entire toolbox.  

2. Student voice and choice

The first few days of school should be devoted to icebreakers, course objectives, and goal setting. Students should have the opportunity to showcase what they already know (I’m thinking a fun game of Scattergories or Password with their groups) and plan for this year’s purpose. Listen and learn as they give you information on their needs. Provide an introductory questionnaire in the target language, or let students interview each other about their language goals and achievements. The more you know about your students, the easier it will be to modify lessons and adapt the curriculum to fulfill your students’ interests throughout the year. 

3. Create routine

Set up routines early that your students can depend on each day. This year in my Spanish class, I decided to create a special warm-up for each day of the week. For the first 10 minutes, students will be engaged in a fun, low-stress bell ringer. Some examples I use in my Spanish class:

  • Librito lunes will allow for a journal entry or independent silent reading.
  • Martes/miércoles will be devoted to maps, music, or memes.
  • Jueves brings some giggles and <<jajas>> with jokes, rhymes, and riddles.
  • Video viernes will incorporate short films, soap operas, commercials, or music videos.

As mentioned above, giving students different options will be a part of these activities. Why not have them share a song or a meme that they find enjoyable?

4. Love of the language

How can we get our students to feel the same excitement and passion that we feel? What can we do the moment they step into our room to spark their enthusiasm for language learning? This is not an easy task, and one I have struggled with throughout my 20 years in the classroom. The best feedback I have received is from former students who have divulged insight such as “digging deep into the culture behind the language” and “feeling comfortable speaking and making mistakes.” I take all of their suggestions into consideration when my classroom opens. Perhaps those are the best lessons learned; the information we get from an audience that pushes us to grow and develop our craft.

 As we begin another school year, let us take pleasure in every new face, every new lesson, and every new day that will bring us one step closer to sun and sand. 

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Looking for Spanish-language activities that will get you and your students off to a great start for the school year? Learn more about HMH’s World Languages programs for Grades 6–12

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