Operation Welcome to Spanish Class

It must be hard being a new student. And really tough starting a new school mid way though the year. And downright terrifying to land in a CI class after months (or years) in a tradition language classroom.

I want to be the teacher who drops everything, welcomes in the Newbie, puts them at ease and assures them they’ll be OK. But in reality, I usually don’t know I’m getting a new kid until they walk-in the door and I see an unfamiliar face (and I pray it’s a new kid and not someone I’ve been teaching all year that I don’t recognize!!!). And then there’s the mad shuffle…figuring out an empty seat, wanting to chat with our new friend but 32 other little darlings will start climbing the walls if I turn on back on them and looking for materials! Where the heck is the syllabus?! I know I made a zillion extra copies!! And then I dive in to teaching, starting class with our small talk routine and I watch the panic spread over our precious new kid’s face because they’re not used to a teacher speaking Spanish, and they have no idea what’s going on… and to make matters worse, every other student is responding and laughing and knows what to say!!

In teaching, new kids are going to happen. We don’t know when but we know they’ll turn up. So… a few years I came up with a system (oh, how I love systems!) Operation Welcome to Spanish Class and it’s all about being proactive.

Operation Welcome to Spanish Class, Phase 1:

My kiddos all have a folder where they find their returned work and make up work (details here!) and at the beginning of the year, I create a few extra folders that I leave in the back of the file box. In each one I put the class essentials: the syllabus and student interest survey, bathroom passes and a stamp sheet.   And I add a New Student Form right on top.

On to Phase 2:

My students have classroom jobs for all sorts of tasks to make my life easier and class run smoother! And one of my favorites is New Student Ambassador. It’s important to assign this job early in the year, before you get any new students. (Remember, proactive is the name of the game!) And choose wisely: ask the class who’s ever been The New Kid at School and pick a kid who’s kind, responsible, organized and is pretty good at Spanish.

Then explain their job description:

New student ambassador.png

Tell me more about your other Classroom Jobs, Señora Chase! Here are my job descriptions, feel free to make a copy and edit away to work for your little darlings.

So, that takes care of where the Newbie will sit (right next to the New Student Ambassador… the NSA’s previous partner will move to an empty seat, to make a vacancy for our new friend) and gives him someone to show him the ropes.

Phase 3:

New kid walks into class. You smile because you’ve been waiting for such a time as this! Greet them, introduce yourself and confidently stroll over to get an extra folder, filled with The Class Essentials. Introduce them to their new partner (the New Student Ambassador) and show them their seat. Ask if they’d like to be introduced to the class or if that would embarrass them and direct them to start filling out the New Student Form and the Student Interest Survey. Now that they’ve got something to do, turn your attention to the class…

Get class started and then give your little darlings something independent to work on… maybe reading or singing a song… something to keep them engaged to give you a chance to chat with the Newbie and the New Student Ambassador.

Tell Newbie:

I’m so glad you’ve joined our class! It might be a little different than you’re last Spanish class, but you’ll be fine. If you’ve got any questions, your partner will be able to help you! And if I’m speaking Spanish and you don’t understand me, your partner can fill you in, just ask! I’d like to chat with you more before next class… can you come in a few minutes early? Before the end of class today, please give me back the New Student Form, filled out. Thanks!

And to the New Student Ambassador:

Thanks for helping out So and So. Check in to make sure they’re following along and help out if there’s confusion. And as we move through class, if there are any handouts your partner needs, you know where to find them, right?

Teach your class, do your thing.

Phase 4:

After class, read Newbie’s form to prepare for your meeting before next class. Think about ways you can calm their nerves and make them a part of class. I’ve found that after a few weeks, with the help of a good partner, they settle in just fine. It takes a while to get used to hearing lots of Spanish but they’ll be OK. And exempt grades and adjust assignments during the Settling In period… there’s no reason to make transitioning to a new school any more stressful than it already is!

A word about transfer grades:

If they came from a traditional grammar class with not so good grades… I don’t want their transfer D haunting them, especially since it tells me nothing about their language proficiency! I am required to enter their transfer grade… but no one has told me how to weigh it!! So …I put it into the Practice Category (only 10% weight!). If you’re using my ACTFL Quick Quizzes, those will soon outweigh the Transfer grade, and everyone can get a C or a B on the quizzes, even if they’re coming from a Grammar class. And it shows them right away that this class is different! It tells them they don’t need to memorize irregular verbs or vocab lists to do well in class. It’s just as Susie Gross says, “Nothing motivates like success!”

Be proactive! Plan now for your New Kid who’s coming next week. Or next month. Or tomorrow! You’ll be glad you did!!

Oh! And did you hear?! We’re celebrating www.senorachase.com’s blogiversary with presents! You have until Monday January 14 to enter to win fabulous prizes!


  1. Well thought out. I am in a mimitary town and low income, so between the two there are shifts at quarter and semester. Your system fits right in with our CI approach and using ANATTY. As a veteran teacher I enjoy learning new things!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hadn´t thought about having a folder to put papers for the potential future student. We don´t get transfer students often, but when we do, I scramble to make copies of everything. How easy to just make an extra copy and put in the folder. Love it!


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