Whenever I assign a project, students get choices. Sometimes, they can choose to work alone or with a partner. They can do their project on an app of their choice or create something on a poster board. Their favorite projects are the ones where they choose the topic as well as the method of presentation. Because projects take time, I try to be as flexible as possible and use and more general grading rubric that would work with a variety of project outcomes.

3. Take Brain Breaks

After taking a few courses on mindfulness, I decided to add some Brain Breaks to my lesson plans whenever I can. Even though my primary job is to teach Spanish, I believe that teaching my students how to deal with stress and anxiety is important. Many of my students have multiple quizzes, tests, and projects each week. Taking a few moments out of class to breathe or do something fun are ways that I can help them to focus on themselves and relieve some of those stressors.

The most popular brain break in my classroom is music. I introduce my students to at least a dozen Spanish songs each year. Some are on the radio, some are decades old, and some are silly Spanish nursery rhymes or YouTube videos.

Another break from Spanish is current events. With so much going on in the world, it is simple to find an article and/or video of something important that is occurring in a Spanish-speaking country. Sometimes I will ask students to find articles to share with the class as well. Often, they can earn extra credit doing this.

Every couple of weeks we practice mindfulness. We breathe, listen to sounds we hear in the room, and talk about what gratitude means to us. There are so many mindfulness activities you can do in any classroom. Mindful Schools and MindUp are great tools; both have been instrumental in teaching me how to work with middle school students and mindfulness specifically.

Related: 8 ways I practiced mindfulness this year

4 ways I make learning fun in the classroom #k12

4. Give rewards

Twenty years ago, I observed one of my professors teaching and it had a major impact on the way I decided to set up my classroom. She handed out paper microfonos (microphones) to each student every time they participated in class. It was a way for students to earn extra credit points on tests and quizzes and encouraged them to participate as much as possible. I loved this method and applied it to my classroom in the form of Boca Cards. Students earn 1 extra credit point for every 5 Boca Cards they turn in on test day.


About the Author:

Korey Barkley teaches Spanish at Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, Mass. You can find her on Twitter at @KoreyBarkley.