I have received 24 (I counted) emails in the last six months with a very simple question. How/Why do you name your classes? Each of my classes is named a different Spanish speaking country. In previous years I haven’t had any rhyme or reason to which countries I choose. This year I named all of the fifth grade classes countries that start with the letter P. 4th grade, countries that start with a C and 3rd grade E.
SO rather than calling them 1st period, 2nd period, 3rd period, or Ms. Clabeaux’s class, Ms. Densen’s class, etc… I call them “Panamá, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador”. Below are the some of the many reasons for doing this.
- It keeps ME organized. Years ago when I didn’t do this, I could never keep straight which teacher went with which period and it used to drive me nuts. Now, for some reason, having a country assigned to them helps me remember.
- It acts as an immediate engagement tool for the students. They walk in on the first day of “ACTUAL” Spanish (I spend several days norming and creating the rules with them all in English) and the board has their welcome screen with their country name. It is a fantastic hook! This is what they see ALL year at the beginning of class. It is the first slide after the do now every day so I greet them ALL year by saying “HOLA, Perú”!
- After that introduction they become IMMEDIATELY attached, almost enamored with their class country. Seriously, day one, kids in la clase de Colombia are so obsessed you’d think they were Colombian. What is special about this is it goes a LONG way to starting to build our classroom community, and all it took was a pretty slide at the start of class.
- Once you have that student interest, it is such an easy way to start introducing that rich culture in the TL. It often starts with just discussing the images in the intro slide. We do a picture talk and compare whatever the image is to what we see and know about here in the US. As the year goes on it is so fun to integrate lessons about their class’ country into the curriculum. As much as they LOVE their own name, they’re also interested in other classes so if there is a hit lesson about Chile, I will teach it in Argentina and Guinea Ecuatorial, it just goes over best in la clase de Chile.
- Students become invested and interested in the country and its people. A few years ago, one of my kiddos who had lots of troubles in his other classes (but was wildly successful in Spanish) came to me very concerned. He said “Maestra, Venezuela, muy triste, no es bueno” (“Maestra, Venezuela, very sad, it’s not good”) then he asked to speak in English. He told me he watched the news the night before with his Mom and he had heard about the crisis in Venezuela. Then he told me he looked up what was happening online and had found an article that he wanted to share with the class, but it was in English. HE ASKED ME IF I COULD TRANSLATE IT AND TURN IT INTO A COMPREHENSIBLE LESSON FOR HIS CLASS! This is a student who rarely did homework for any teacher and for Spanish class, he went through all of this trouble just because of his connection to his class name and his concern for the country and its people. His research then led us to this POWERFUL, incredibly comprehensible 20 second video.
- Now, with the current crisis, several years later, many of the students who were in my Venezuela class are very aware of what’s happening and eager to raise other’s awareness too. ❤
- It makes it really easy to create healthy class competitions with class points or the amount of time they can stay in the target language. Students will ask, each other, “how many minutes did Colombia have? Well, I am in Nicaragua and we had 17:00 minutes!”
- It makes your classroom more colorful! I have the flags hanging in my room (paper ones) and they’re also taped down where students turn in their work!
- If you teach 6th grade, the social studies teacher will love you because students will be able to recognize and identify at least 6 flags (depending on how many classes you teach) and name the capitals of those countries! (My opening slide always includes a picture of the capital city)
- I’ve had students come to me and say that they’d never been interested in travel before my class and now not only do they hope to travel when they grow up, the first place they want to go is Panamá or El Salvador or Uruguay! (I think that this is due to my passion for teaching about culture and other people in general, but naming their class helps!)
- It is another excuse to use that Google Maps feature I love so much!
- Every now and then you meet (or already know) someone from that country and you can do AMAZING things like Skype them into class one day or even better, have them come and visit! Little Memphis came 2 weeks early, but that Thursday after he was born I was scheduled to have a guest from Cuba come and speak to my classes. Everyone was excited but NO class was as elated as Cuba!!
- I have to come back to classroom community here at the end. Honestly, by the end of the year, the kids all identify themselves by their class name. They go to bat for each other (even when they’re not close friends outside of my class) because they’re part of a community in Spanish class. Would this happen without that class name?? Probably, but I am not certain it would be as strong. It is the sweetest thing to see at recess or at lunch when students of different friend groups are playing together or teaming up for a basketball game and naming the team “Guatemala” or “Costa Rica”. I love it so much!
Now if you don’t teach Spanish and you’re wondering if you could still do this, YOU CAN! I’ve had French teachers name their classes various islands that are still governed by France. I’ve had Latin teachers tell me that they were going to name their classes various ancient Empires or for the Emperors who led them. The possibilities are endless! I used to name my classes Disney characters, which was SO much fun because I used all of the lesser known characters like Heimlich, Bageera, and Meeko! Since then though, I’ve found it is much more fun, engaging, and culturally rich to title them country names.
So, there you have it! You simply MUST name your classes! (if you want to of course!)
Until next time,
La Maestra Loca