We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For life.™

by Erica Fischer on Aug 19, 2014

Review Strategies to Get Students Moving Forward Quickly After a Long Break

The 2nd graders getting ready for the da by Barely, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Barely 

Welcome back to #langchat! The first day of #langchat saw the return of lots of familiar faces, along with many fresh faces. Participants gathered to brainstorm review techniques to “start the year with a bang” (@SenoraWienhold). @dr_dmd reminded instructors that, “When we start the year right, it can affect the whole year.” Langchatters shared advice for a successful transition into a new school year. In case you were soaking up the final days of summer and couldn’t make it last Thursday, be sure to check out the summary of their comments below!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the conversation last week. We extend a special thanks to Don (@dr_dmd) and Amy (@alenord) for moderating #langchat’s first session of the school year!

Tips to Create a Classroom Community

@dr_dmd started off the conversation by asking instructors how they start building relationships and foster a fun, stress-free environment: “What do you do to start building relationships? [This is key] to [a] low affective filter! How do you help [students] relax, have fun and get to know each other and you?” Instructors highlighted the need to learn students’ names and interests early on in the school year.

  • Learning Student Names

Participants agreed that getting to know one another early on was crucial, and many instructors emphasized the importance of learning student names. @andrearoja said, “Learning kids’ names is so important! I do some name game the [first] week – [example:] Me llamo ___, me gusta ___.” @MmeFarab echoed this point: “One thing I do actually want to review is [students] learning each other’s names! My kids are SO bad at knowing the other [students] in class!” Some instructors use name games to engage students and introduce them to their classmates. @SenoraWienhold said, “I love name games for [level 1]! The freshman are nervous and need to learn names as much as I do.” She provided one example, in which “each [student introduces him or herself] holding a ball. [The second] round [they] toss [the ball] across [and introduce themselves] again. [Students have] to remember [the] order [and] do [it] again fast.” @AHSblaz shared another name game: “We play Find Someone Who (got a new haircut, met someone famous, etc.). They interview each other [and] sign their sheet if they did it.”

  • Learning Student Interests

In addition to learning student names, games can also make students aware of their classmates’ interests. @SraB_C wrote, “I have students create a [get-to-know-you] slide to share with the class.” @SenoraWienhold offered a less-intimidating alternative to self-introductions: “I have done partner interviews where students then present about new friend. [It’s easier] to stand [with a partner].” @AHSblaz offered another suggestion: “Use a ball of yarn. Say, “I like pizza” and have [students] who do raise their hands; toss [the yarn] to one [of them], they make a statement, and toss [the yarn again], etc.”

Review: Dusting off Last Year’s Concepts

Many instructors pointed out that it’s important to figure out which concepts seem to have stayed with students over a long break and which ones are rusty in order to determine where review is needed. Some instructors give students a short assessment in order to probe for weak areas. Instead of investigating what students have forgotten, @SenoraWienhold prefers to highlight what students remember: “I do not plan a review right out but I plan on starting with lower level novels to remind them of what they know.” @CatherineKU72 also likes to acknowledge and build on retained knowledge:
[I plan] on starting [with] new topics that relate to and build on [those] from last year.”

  • To Review or Not to Review?

Although a couple of instructors insisted on setting aside time for review (One instructor advocated for “Lots and lots of review!”), the majority of participants did not favor review sessions at the start of school, preferring to integrate previously studied concepts throughout the year. @MmeFarab said, “Personally, I hate review! I’m thinking that this year we’ll review as we go.” @alenord wrote, “Rather than ‘review’ old concepts [or vocabulary, they] become [comprehensible input] for [target language] teaching. [There is no] need for review.” @dr_dmd questioned the value of isolated review sessions in foreign language acquisition, asking, “What REALLY IS review? Do we expect [students] to ‘have it’ and ‘know it’ when natural [language] acquisition is NOT like that?”

  • Review Can (and Should) Be Fun!Participants offered a myriad of ways to embed review in fun and interactive games. Their suggestions centered on integrating technology, getting students up and moving, playing games, and using stories to recycle material.
  • Integrate Technology: Some instructors use technology to make review more engaging. @CatherineKU72 wrote, “We might start off with an Instagram challenge in the [first] week to ‘review’ Categories [taught] in pictures.” @profetech115 turns to Kahoot!, ‘a game-based classroom response system,’ writing, “no review is complete without Kahoot!” In this ‘game,’ instructors ask students questions, they respond on electronic devices, and their scores appear on a leaderboard. For more technological resources, check out the summary of the May 1 #langchat, “Technology in the Classroom: the Right Tool at the Right Time.”
  • Get Students Up and Moving: Some participants encouraged instructors to get students out of their desks to move around and interact with others. @AMor3liana said, “Stations simplify the [review] process. Get those kids talking!!!” @dr_dmd suggested incorporating “[a] QR code scavenger hunt. [Students] scan [codes] and reply in pairs to solve the puzzle.” @alenord recommended ‘Interpersonal Blitz’, a kind of speed-dating that gets students up and talking to their classmates.
  • Play Games: Instructors observed that games are a great way to review old material while fostering relationships among students. @CatherineKU72 shared a game that she uses in class: “We play a scattegories type game with categories instead of letters: [example:] Name an animal that can’t swim. [This is a] Great review, [and form of] team building.” She added, “ I like these game ideas for the beginning of the year. It gives a sense of confidence, yet a reminder that there is more to learn.”
  • Use Stories to Recycle Material: Participants acknowledged the value of stories that reinforce old material and incorporate new concepts. @MmeFarab said, “I’m thinking that a few good embedded readings can recycle old language while focusing on new.” @crwmsteach added, “I love using children’s books! Especially if they are familiar stories, it allows more focus on language.”

@dr_dmd reminded instructors to seek out authentic materials when looking for stories: “PLEASE #langchat peeps! Make your stories culturally authentic! […]
We have access to more [authentic resources] than ever before in the history of humanity. It takes little time to find them.” For more on #authres, or authentic resources, have a look at this summary! @crwmsteach commented that stories with images can facilitate comprehension, sharing this example:, and added that students can also draw and narrate their own stories. Finally, @dr_dmd suggested that students make ‘travel journals,’ student-created textbooks, which serve as good review and facilitate community building:

No matter what approach you take, @SenoraWienhold reminded Langchatters of the importance of getting students excited about language learning from Day 1: “For me it is not so much about review, but getting them excited about Spanish with music, dance [and] high energy.”

Setting Goals: New school year resolutions? Consider setting goals with your students. @alenord said, “I am thinking a lot about goal setting. I have heard lots of teachers talking about it the last few months.” @AHSblaz commented, “I have [my students] fill out a Can Do chart for that year: it helps them set goals [and helps] me see needs.”


As #langchat and the school year get back in swing, instructors are eager to get language learning up and running again. While they provided a variety of review strategies, most participants felt that “review is continuous, not just at beginning of year [and] before tests. Language builds!” (@MmeFarab). They also touched on the importance of reminding students of what they already know and encouraging them to expand on their knowledge. @alenord summarized this point, encouraging instructors to “get kids thinking about what they CAN DO.” Finally, in the words of @SenoraWienhold, participants were urged to “start the year with a bang! Find ways to sneakily review while moving forward in a fun way.”

Thank You

Thank you again to Don (@dr_dmd) and Amy (@alenord) for moderating an engaging return to #langchat! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share with the #langchat community, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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