Season 5, Episode 1: Be the Calm Classroom with Julie Speno

Play Inspired Trivia with Wayside at and be entered to win a prize! Thanks to our presenting sponsor Wayside Publishing! 

Welcome to Inspired Proficiency and thank you for joining us for our first episode of season 5. As always, please tweet any takeaways and inspirations to #inspiredproficiency. Don’t forget that Ashley and her podcasts are also on Facebook in the group “Inspired Proficiency Teacher Collaboration” with lots of great ideas for the classroom.

Download the episode here or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts here or find it wherever you listen to podcasts! 

Today’s episode:Julie

Ashley would like to thank her season sponsor, Wayside Publishing, for supporting the podcast for another season. New this season they will be hosting an Inspired Trivia game at the end of every episode. You can win goodies by participating so be sure to follow @profeashley and @waysidepublish on Twitter to hear the winners!

Ashley LOVED meeting you at all the conferences she has recently been to like MAFLA, ACTFL, NECTFL, and FLAME. She loved hearing about how you listen to the podcast in your daily lives! Please stay in touch!

Updates for season 5!

  • Sarah is back with 10 more games! YAY!
  • Julie Speno from Mundo de Pepita will talk to us every episode about being calm in the classroom.
  • Thank you to Joshua Cabral and World Language Classroom for your continued support of the podcast. He’ll be the guest on episode 2 of season 5!

Today’s Interview:

Julie Speno talks to us today about her why and and other information for a calm classroom. You might know Julie from the first EVER episode of Inspired Proficiency where she spoke about target language use in the classroom. Julie has been teaching for 26 years. She currently teaches Spanish in kindergarten through fourth grade in Maine. She also has experience teaching English as a Second Language. She also majored in Russian and has experience teaching that and sometimes still teaches to adults. She also runs the blog Mundo de Pepita and gets to use her passion of drawing and illustrating for young learners. She also leads the Facebook group “Teaching Spanish to Children.” Julie also designed the Inspired Proficiency logo that we all know and love!

Ashley was able to reconnect with Julie at her session at NECTFL and when Ashley started practicing the tips about being mindful and calm, Ashley could feel the calmness in her whole body and knew that she needed to be a part of the podcast to share her tips for many more teachers to benefit from.

Being the calm in the classroom:

  • WHY?
    • 1 in every 7 incoming kindergarteners has significant anxiety
      • They’re not shy or stressed, they’re REALLY stressed.
      • It negatively impacts EVERYONE in the room and their ability to learn.
      • Students will demonstrate:
        • Rigidity
        • Anger
        • Outbursts
        • Body outbursts/ body movement
    • Nearly 1 in 4 incoming kindergarteners has experience some type of childhood trauma
      • Becomes 1 in 3 kids by the age 14
    • Imagine you have these kids experiences these traumas and anxieties
      • Instead of 1 or 2 kids, it could be 7 or more with these challenges
      • Trending nationwide this way
        • These kids have less:
          • Impulse control skills
          • Social skills
          • Gross motor control/ body control
    • Kids might be amped up and physically NOT be able to bring back down so THIS is WHY calm is so important
    • The better we know our kids, the better wan intentionally plan for these behaviors and needs
    • Kids need to feel safe to take risks AND safe in their space from their classmates, their teacher, and their classroom
  • What can we do as teachers to support these kids?
    • Lights off or lights on low upon entering the room
      • Some parts of the school day are high energy and over stimulating
    • Lamps in their classroom with soft lighting, string lighting, not as harsh as the industrial fluorescent lighting
    • Quiet voices, soft voices, whispering, silent communication
      • They can still communicate without speaking in the target language and technically STAYING in the target language because they’re not using their first language
      • Silent communication is still communication, especially for novices
        • Pointing
        • Drawing
        • Gesturing 


Game Segment with Sarah Breckley:

Twisted Symbols

Inspiration from this website

  1. Distribute blank index cards or papers
  2. Write their first name on the top if they don’t know each other
  3. Draw 3 or 4 images on the bottom
  4. Types of play
    1. If you’re playing just once then the symbols can represent the students and who they are
    2. If you’re playing more than once you can keep changing what the symbols represent for example:
      1. Vacation plans
      2. Weekend plans
      3. This week at school
      4. You name it!
  5. Greet and chat with as many people as they can in the classroom for 5 minutes
    1. Novices can say simple phrases like My name is and look at their cards
    2. Upper levels can talk about what’s on their cards
    3. You can provide prompts and sentence starters, you know your kids
  6. Collect the cards and kids sit down
  7. Teacher tells, draws, or acts out a card from a student
    1. Make up a crazy story (that doesn’t have to be true) using the symbols the students provided on their card
    2. Dog, cross, music note, Colorado state on a card
      1. Teacher changed it to a dog named Colorado who was afraid to sing at church
  8. Students have to guess who’s card it is based on the symbols they heard from someone else in reality
    1. All students can all write it down on a whiteboard
    2. All students can point
    3. All students can shout out who they think


  • Students have to REALLY pay attention when talking to their classmates
  • Super simple for beginners but go crazy with more advanced learners
  • Beginners- lots of acting and drawing
  • More advanced- less acting and drawing so they are more focused on listening


If you try this TWEET ABOUT IT with #inspiredproficiency on Twitter. We want to know how it went!


Calm Segment with Julie Speno:



Inspired Trivia:

Visit Wayside Publishing to answer the trivia questions and enter the prize drawing! Winners announced on Twitter.


Resources and links mentioned on the show:

  • MAFLA Massachusetts Foreign Language Association
  • ACTFL American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • FLAME Foreign Language Association of Maine
  • NECTFL Northeast Conference on the Teacher of Foreign Languages 
  • World Language Classroom by Josh Cabral
  • Julie’s first interview on the first episode
  • Julie’s Teachers Pay Teachers shop
  • NNELL National Network for Early Language Learning
  • Wayside Publishing Trivia


  • Sarah Breckley on Twitter @SarahBreckley and her blog
  • Julie Speno on Twitter @MundoDePepita and her blog

Season sponsorship brought to you by:

Episode sponsors:

  • World Language Classroom by Josh Cabral
  • El Mundo de Pepita resources in Spanish, French, Russian, German and ESL
  • A.C. Quintero and Jennifer Degenhardt and their classroom readers


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