March 21 | #EarlyLang

“Magical Moments in the Elementary Classroom”
from March 21, 2018

On March 21, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly #EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed the use of imaginative play and how to connect with students. Other topics were how to avoid issues when incorporating magic, white lies, and how the magic changes as students get older. They also mentioned favorite brain breaks such as: hand games (Pikachu and Chocolate), yoga, “Go stand by something _______ (shiny, blue, etc), mindful minutes, and GoNoodle (

Q1: In what ways do you see “magic” being a tool in your elementary classroom?

Magic is defined here as tricks used to increase student engagement, participation, and enjoyment of the earlylang classroom.

The main theme discussed was the use of imaginative play. Young learners especially connect with the use of imagination as “magic”, it’s an integral part of who they are. Make believe is alive and well, which provides a great opportunity for teachers. @lamaestraloca mentioned using a magic wand (a pocket clicker) to change presentation slides or telling students that a crocodile ate a story that they have to put back together for sequencing. Other than academics, play also allows for negotiation, which makes students talk—the goal in any language classroom.

Q2: @burgessdave says one of the most powerful things we can do for our students is let go and really “be” in the moment with them. How do you do this in your elementary classroom?

Most participants mentioned having fun and not taking themselves too seriously. @kidworldcitizen “I am super dramatic with silly voices, I sing, dance, laugh”

@srtacoulehan “I make silly mistakes on purpose.”

@nathanlutz “I just let go- and sing and dance and tell goofy stories – no affective filt3er when I’m with my Ss”

Other participants discussed showing interest in the questions students ask. Explore their interests along with them and allow them to be themselves in order to foster genuine interaction and a love of learning.

Q3: What are some issues or roadblocks we might encounter when incorporating “magic” into our classes?

A topic which came up more than once was time restraints. Very often, districts have less than ideal schedules for language classes—short classes, classes that don’t meet daily, etc. Another issue mentioned was colleagues who don’t understand the nature of a language class and the need for talk or who believe that silliness equals lack of rigor. Finally, some students need more structure and can get too rowdy. Teachers have to find the correct balance and realize that magic doesn’t have to mean wild. To maintain both magic and structure, solid transitions are very important.

Q4: What are your favorite “white lies” you tell your students?

Two main “white lies” mentioned were “I don’t speak English” and “Practice makes perfect.” Several participants tell their students that they don’t speak English. If they see the student outside school, they keep up the pretense. Students have no choice but to use the TL for communication. Practice makes perfect, or progress as one participant suggested, motivates students and makes them believe they will be able to talk soon. Favorites or lack of favorites also came up. Some participants say they don’t have favorites, others tell the class that they are the favorite class. @nathanlutz mentioned telling an extended story about the ghost in his building. Each class has to retell the details from the previous day’s section of the story.

Q5: How does the “magic” change as children progress through their elementary years?

Humor tends to shift as students get older, they can relate more to pop culture references and bathroom humor is more popular. Older students also become a little more skeptical and sarcastic and tend toward eye rolls and teeth sucking. Despite the changes, many participants still use magic in class. For those kids who are too cool, it can help them to rediscover childhood wonder, others participate if they see that the teacher is sincere about believing in magic. As @SECottrell pointed out, language class is so different that teacher can get away with magic, even in high school classes, that would make them walk out of other subjects. Magic is alive and well in all language classrooms, and truly all classrooms where teachers and students engage in the act of learning.


One participant recommended getting to know the students. If they know the teacher cares, they will care about the teacher and the class. Another said that he plans to be more intentional with magical moments in the classroom. Finally, some things that teachers do naturally can help bring magic to the learning process, we simply have to recognize the magic.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Annabelle Allen (@lamaestraloca), for leading the chat and to our co-moderator, Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell), for helping guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat. The next chat is April 4, 2018 at 8 pm EST.  Hope to see you there.

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