Passwords, passwords everywhere

Now, for the uninitiated, a password is a useful phrase or expression that students announce on their way into the classroom, sort of like the password to get into a treehouse or exclusive club. I believe the practice is credited to the one and only Alina Filipescu. At least, that’s who I learned it from, way back at NTPRS, Reno in 2016. Now, this year, in addition to the beginning of class password, and an end of class password, I’ve been building in “passwords” routines throughout class. Stick around and I’ll tell you all about it, but first, a bit of background:

It’s become a beloved class tradition, and each and every class I great my Little Darlings on the patio of my Sweet Trailer, they announce the “Palabra Secreta”, then are admitted into the classroom. This year is especially fun because Jared and Julie, two of my fantastic colleagues, are also out on the patio between class, doing the same. It creates such a great vibe as our Spanish students stream into class.

Disclaimer: We did not do passwords last year. Last year I could not trust them to enter the classroom quietly and hangout without losing their minds while I was at the door, greeting the rest of the class. Certainly they would have started a mosh pit, burned down my trailer or worse. I really missed the connection with each and every one as they came into class, but last year was about survival, and I survived, but just barely. The reason I’m telling you this: I love passwords, they’re so fun and I’m going to share with you how we’re using passwords throughout class but it’s not for everyone and it’s not for every class.

Before Class Passwords:

A few nuts and bolts: Pick a phrase or expression that would be useful for your students to know. Something weird happens with passwords, they get etched on their souls and will remember them forever. Teach them something you want them using in real life, and they will! In Spanish 4 this year, our first password was ¡Qué gusto verla! (What a pleasure to see you!). Not only did it bring me such joy to hear it before class…the first few weeks of class a student saw me in Trader Joe’s and greeted me with a cheerful “¡Qué gusto verla, Señora Chase!”. It melted my heart and impressed her mother! Here are my password brainstorms for Spanish 1 and Spanish 4, as I think of new ones, I’ll add them to the list. We stick with one until just about everyone has it down, then it’s time to switch to a new one.

We’re also doing passwords in AP, and I am being very strategic about the ones I pick. So far, our passwords have have been related to the Email task. For example, their first was, “Estimada Señora Chase, He recibido su mensaje y se lo agradezco.” The only change I do with my AP emails is that after they get good at saying it on their way into class, I stand at the door with a stack of mini whiteboards and ask them to write it. (Spelling “recibido” and “mensaje” and “agradezco” is tricky for my Heritage Little Darlings!) Here’s my AP Password brainstorm. I just graded a set of emails and dang! They included 3 passwords in their emails and they really help elevate their writing!

Since we have block scheduling, we have a pretty good chunk of time for passing period. Between classes I lock students out, run to the bathroom, get the slideshow and music cued up for the next class, then head out to the patio to welcome my Little Darlings, usually while I’m munching on my snack. One at a time, they tell me the password, then head on in. After the bell rings, if I have a whole mess of kids who still need to say the password, I just announce 1-2-3 and they all say it together in unison.

Once nearly everyone has the password down (usually about 2-3 weeks since I see them every other day) I give them a new one and they jot it down on this paper. I encourage them to snap a picture of it, so they can check it on their way to class. (The majority of my students leave their binders in my classroom, so they can’t check their password paper if they’ve forgotten the password!) It’s not a big deal if a kid can’t remember the password, they just hang around listening to other kids say it (or I’ll call another kid from inside the classroom and say “¡So-and-so necesita ayuda! ¡Ven! ¡Ayúdale!“) Once we’ve got everyone squared away, I head inside and class begins. Always we have late comers, and I don’t really worry about the password for them…kids who get to class on time acquire a bunch of language from their passwords, and the ones who don’t, don’t.

Mid Class Passwords:

Recognizing the power of the password (I’m telling you, they really do get etched onto their souls!), I’ve been playing with ways to give my students more conversational chunks of language to use in real life.

Often we partner up in class, usually using their Animal Sheets, or using Flippity’s Random Name Picker. In the past, they’ve partnered up and we get started right away on whatever the task is, whether it be a quick brain break, a game, a conversation, story retell…whatever. Finally it dawned on me: What do we do in real life when we sit down with a friend?! We greet each other first!! Why are they not greeting each other every time we partner up?! The answer is because it was not part of our partner routine. So now it is and now they do!

I have posted on the wall a few greetings (Start with one or two and slowly add to the list!). When I instruct them to find their partner, I remind them to pick a greeting off the wall, greet your partner, then take a seat.

Similarly, when we finish up with their partner, they take a look at the poster again, choose a despedida, say goodbye to their partner and return to their normal seats.

The secret is not to start with a zillion options. Start with one or two on the wall. Use them. Make sure they understand them. Then slowly, every few weeks or so, introduce a new one. If you overwhelm them with a ton of suggestions from the start, I have a hunch that they won’t acquire them. ¡Poco a poco, se va lejos!

In my level 4 class, I wanted to get even more bang for my buck. I added: Ha sido un placer trabajar/ platicar/ jugar contigo. (It’s been a pleasure working/chatting/playing with you) When we wrap up our partner time, before they head back to their assigned spot, they tell their buddy it’s been a pleasure, then say goodbye and then head back to their seats. (My High Flyer Spanish 1 Little Darlings have noticed the poster and are working it into their goodbye routines and it just tickles me!)

Things were going so good, I added a few more expressions that are useful to tell your partner when we’re chatting or playing. We’ve been playing a lot of Palmada Patty Cake Style Games, so don’t worry, “No te equivoques” is said in jest 🙂 (As you can see…I’m running out of wall space, so I just stuck the saying over a poster!)

What I’m noticing is that, this year, more than ever before, they’re really pushing themselves to converse with each other in Spanish (and not just when I’ ask them to!) It just delights my little teacher heart!

End of Class Passwords:

To wrap up class, 5 seconds before the bell rings, I wish them a good day. I say Que tengan un buen día (or buen fin de semana o felíz Día de Acción de Gracias o…you get the idea!) and they respond, in unison: ¡Igualmente, nos vemos el lunes! (or martes, or miércoles…) Then they go on their merry way and I collapse into my soft chair because teaching is exhausting (but at least this year it is fun and exhausting…Praise Jesus!) Next semester I’ll swap it. I need to think of a cue for them to wish me a good day, and then I’ll respond before they leave my classroom.

I was hesitant to jump on the password bandwagon years ago. It wasn’t until my alma gemela Rita Barret told me, “The Passwords are so much more fun than I was expecting!” that I tried it out. If you’ve been on the fence, give it a shot! They are so much fun!

I hope you’re doing well and have a lovely Thanksgiving break ahead of you with lots of rest and family time and food! Be kind to yourselves, my dear teacher friends! Happy Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you!

4 comments

  1. I’ve used passwords on and off. I game some students that do not want to be in class and barely even acknowledge me at the door. What do you do for those who refuse to say the password ?
    Thanks for all you share !

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  2. Yay for Alina teaching us to use passwords! They set such a positive vibe. I love greeting students as they come to class, as it gives me a chance to make eye contact with each one as an individual and perhaps comment on a new haircut or check on how they are doing. Students who aren´t even in my class will often say the password as they pass my classroom on their way to physics!

    I find password inspiration from songs, books we are reading, holidays, etc. Last year a class wanted to create their own and they voted for “Tarde o temprano, todos morimos.” (Sooner or later we all die…. certainly not OK in every situation, but it worked for that group.) And almas gemelas we truly are–I had almost the same password to start the year: ¡Qué bueno verla!

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