Introductory Spanish is challenging. By the time students reach high school, they are already at a point in their brain development where becoming fluent in a new language promises to be far more of a challenge than it would have been even a couple of years before. However, the first day will go a long way in making Spanish seem like an achievable goal.
Make certain that the students know the rules. A handout is ideal, but this can be accomplished orally. Odds are good that the students will be getting more or less the same speech in each and every class, so focus on how your rules differ from those they are likely to hear in other classrooms.
Have students choose a Spanish name for themselves. Some of them might think themselves above such things, but never underestimate a teenager's ability to have fun. Another reason is so that the student becomes more comfortable with Spanish pronunciation: being forced to say a name like "Leonardo" properly will help that student to remember vowel pronunciation and keep from trying to read Spanish words in English.
Introduce the students to familiar Spanish phrases. Many teachers will start with numbers or letters, which would be useful later, but the first day should introduce the students to the Spanish language. Phrases like "Buenos dias, me llamo Leonardo" and the like, the student will remember tomorrow. "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro y cinco" memorized by rote is less likely to stick.
Have the students introduce themselves using rudimentary Spanish phrases. Not only does it make them slightly more comfortable with their "Spanish" names, but also familiarizes the student with the concept of speaking in a foreign language and makes the language that much less foreign.
Make an introduction into Spanish and Spanish-speaking cultures. This can be accomplished in many ways: a discussion about bullfighting, a lecture about Aztecs, a reading about South American soccer. In addition to (ideally) making the students become interested in the culture, it will create certain touchpoints that will stand out in the mind later: "toronado" is easy to mispronounce as "tornado," but less so when the mind is already comfortable with the correct pronunciation of "toreador."
- The students may be more comfortable speaking Spanish if the environment is one where it seems Spanish should be spoken. If you don't have money for decorations or Spanish/Latin American/South American flags, simply take to having the students refer to you by a Spanish name as well, such as Señor or Señora.
- Don't burden new students with too much information on the first day. It is fine to teach them the phrase, "Me llamo Leonardo," but it overcomplicates things to add, "'Me is a reflexive pronoun that translates in this case as 'myself,' and in Spanish word order precedes the conjugated verb if there is no infinitive. 'Llamo' means 'I call' due to the conjugation in the 'yo' form which implies a first-person singular subject, thus the actual pronoun is unnecessary, but can be added for emphasis." This will only confuse students.
Joshua Miller has been a writer for seven years. Aside from the various Demand Studios publications, his work has also appeared in literary magazines and newspapers. Miller holds an Associate of Arts in French and is working towards a Bachelor degree in the same field. He is currently an IT professional.