Adventures in using Classroom Passwords

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The entrance is what grabs our attention. It’s why for decades teachers have been told they need to “greet students at the door” and “have a warm up” for students to immediately begin work. We know if we don’t get the opening act right, we lose attention and interest before we even begin. Passwords are another example of a great attention getting activity – in the target language – that will get your students started on the right foot!

What is a password? Essentially a classroom password is a word, phrase, or response your students have to provide to enter the classroom for that day. Now, obviously, they get to enter the room even if they don’t provide the password… we can’t just leave them in the hallway. BUT hopefully the password is an engagement opportunity that all students will want to be involved in each day. I have loved using them because they gives students an opportunity to speak Spanish every class. And (with question / answer passwords) students get to practice 1st / 2nd person conversation daily about things that actually matter!

What do you choose for your password? This questions has a lot of answers and I’m going to try and give you a lot of options – but PLEASE make this your own! Passwords are not my invention… and I don’t know who invented them… but I have seen them used in several classrooms I have observed and in a few district PDs and every teacher has had a different twist on them. Your password needs to be a word, or phrase, or response to a questions. You might choose a vocabulary word your students will need that week, or a verb you’ve been focusing on. You might choose a popular phrase or culturally specific phrase that just neat – like “pura vida”. You might also choose a response to a question. I’ll explain more about this below.

When do you implement the password and how? I began using passwords during second semester – same students. I told them we were trying something new, and we jumped straight in! You don’t have to start in August. You don’t have to wait. You can jump in tomorrow! I implement my password at the beginning of class (some people do it at the end to leave!). My students line up outside of my door and wait for me to receive them. We only have 3 minute passing periods, so I try to start as soon as student 1 shows up. My larger classes (35) go 1 or 2 minutes into class for longer passwords.

How do you do the password? For passwords that are repeated back (Teacher says “corre” and students respond with “corre”) I say the word or phrase and the students say it back while doing the predetermined gesture / movement. For the first two days of the week, they have my support in saying the word / phrase and doing the movement. By day 3, they get help if needed. By day 4 / 5 they have to do it solo. I use the same password for one week of class. For passwords that are the teacher asking a question and the student providing an answer I provide a visual with the question / answer stem written out in Spanish and English and some answer options for the first 3 days. I ask the question while doing the motions / gestures and students respond with the answer and gestures.

What does it all look like? 10:18am student is in line. I walk out with my mini-whiteboard with our question “¿quién te cuida?” (who takes care of you?) “____ me cuida” (____ takes care of me) written on it. I say “Hola (name), ¿quién te cuida?” while circling my face for “quién”, pointing at the student for “te” / “you” and putting my hands over my heart for “cuida”. The student looks at the whiteboard with the sentence stem and responds “mi mamá me cuida” while pointing to themselves for “me” and putting their hands over their heart for “cuida”. Sometimes I’ll ask a follow up question for more advanced students that like to give crazy answers. For this question someone said “mi gallina me cuida” and I was like “¿tu gallina te cuida? o ¿cuidas a tu gallina?” and the student respond – “mi gallina da huevos a mi – me cuida” BAM. beautiful. Sometimes I like to make sure they aren’t just making up random things.

Putting it all together:
1 – Choose the word / phrase you want to start with (I would wait for question / answer until they have tried it for a few weeks)
2 – Decide WHEN you want to do your password (before entering class or as they leave class)
3 – Decide if you want to do motions / gestures with your word / phrase and what they will be
4 – Set up your students for success with the word / phrase written or printed where they can see it
5 – Walk your students through how it will all work
6 – Give it a go & give yourself grace.

Now what? On the first day of a new password I like to go over the password and answer options as a class. This takes 2 minutes – but it’s an easy way to review motions, give students the opportunity to hear the password without hallway noise, and allow students to give some fun answers. Since I usually tie our password into something one class is learning, it also doubles as an easy PQA entrance for that class. I’m linking my Google Slides where I keep our “password” slides that we review in class for you all. Make a copy and edit away. I’ll add new slides as I use them in class, so check back to copy new slides.

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  1. Hola Profe Zulita,
    Me gusta mucho la información de esta publicación, pero no puedo encontrar el link para las google slides. Me podrias ayudar con eso? Muchas Gracias!

  2. I used passwords last school year with middle and high school students and it went so well! It is a great way to greet my students as they entered the classroom and it worked! They remembered the words and phrases. I even has students tell me the passwords from weeks ago. Highly recommend!

  3. Thanks so much for the Password slides. I already do a lot of favorites, but I will try to begin un=sing passwords this coming year.