When holidays are approaching, I find that creating in-person and online classroom events helps maintain student interest and boosts learning. Here are some activities that teachers can implement to promote student engagement during what sometimes can be a difficult time.
At the end of the semester, I always have my world language students give a final presentation in Spanish. Speaking in front of an audience is one way they stay involved in the learning process because it gives them the opportunity to show what they’ve learned all semester long.
This is a reminder of their hard work and how much growth they’ve achieved over the course of the semester. The stakeholders I invite—parents, grandparents, local government leaders, other teachers, and district personnel—also enjoy seeing and hearing from my students. Hosting visitors in the classroom adds value to the culture of our classroom.
The day before we leave for break, my students and I host an elf market, where students “sell” small treats and arts and crafts they’ve created. Our guests receive fake money to shop. The students really enjoy this project because they get to be creative in making their items and gain a little experience with how to make money.
When I invite colleagues, families, and community members to come to our classroom, I find that my students are excited and tend to behave better.
Bring your family member to class
Another classroom event that’s easy to plan is hosting family members in class. Students can invite anyone who is an adult to come visit our classroom. The guests participate in the learning, and they play Quizlet and Kahoot and do other fun classroom activities. They get firsthand experience with how the class operates and learn a little bit of Spanish with their students.
The visitors also gain insights into how their student is learning the language and what the classroom experience feels like. This helps build rapport among the families and strengthens relationships between the students and me as I invest in the whole child. The more opportunities families have to be present in the classroom, the more positive contributions to the classroom community there are. I try my best to extend an open invitation all year round rather than just for open house and end-of-the-year activities.
Hosting local, state, and national guest speakers in person or online is a way to positively promote student engagement and enhance the academic content. For example, our local mayor visits our classroom on a regular basis. Students prepare questions ahead of time and have the unique opportunity to converse with him one-on-one. This provides insights into how local government operates and lets them meet their elected officials up close and personal.
I’ve also created Flip videos for guest speakers to record messages about their careers. Students listen to these videos at their own pace. We’ve been able to listen to authors and computer programmers and even to converse with other Spanish classes across the country.
Partnering with neighboring classes
I asked the kindergarten teacher at my school to bring in her students, and they and my students all read short stories together. This was a wonderful experience for both the younger and older students. It’s an easy and quick way to interact with other learners because all we have to do is walk down to the other side of the building and meet the students.
Sometimes my older students will have younger siblings/relatives in the elementary classroom, and they enjoy visiting with their family members. I also believe that providing opportunities for middle school students to serve as leaders to the younger generation is a powerful way to develop their leadership skills.
One important aspect of planning these events is getting your message across. I use Evite to invite parents, community members, my colleagues, and, of course, the students.
There’s a lot of buy-in when students see visitors in the classroom—it seems to help students stay engaged when they know a parent, another teacher, or an adult is in the room supporting them and the event. This also breaks up the monotony of regular classroom routines.
If a family member is unable to come to school in person for an event, I provide virtual options for them to connect with me and their students, such as Flip grids, which I also use to let parents record introductory messages to me at the beginning of the year, talk about their family traditions, and even introduce their pets to me. This gives parents flexibility and opportunities to connect with me virtually from the comfort of their home and at their own convenience.
Additionally, I’ve also integrated Padlet by sending virtual Padlets so students can answer a prompt from me. For example, I asked the students to write to me about goal setting. Another successful idea was sending out surprise Padlets for parents to write their child a quick message for the first day of school, which also works after a long break.
My students are very excited to read these messages, and this helps boost their confidence and calm their back-to-class jitters. Also, parents can interact with me by asking me questions, and I can quickly respond to them via Padlet throughout the school year.