What’s the Password? Engaging World Language Students Before They Enter the Door

¡Buenas tardes todos!

I am very excited to blog about something new I have been doing with my students… Passwords. This is something a lot of people in the CI world seem to be doing, and I am very pleased I decided to experiment with them this year.


A password can virtually be anything in the target language. It can be a word, a phrase, a question, or anything you see fit in your classroom. In my classroom, I am using basic phrases with my 7th graders, and more colloquial phrases with my 8th graders.


A couple 7th grade passwords so far this year:

  • Hola me llamo….
  • Soy de (place) ¿y tú? …
  • Estoy (insert emotion)
  • Yo también
  • Yo tengo …. años.

A couple 8th grade passwords so far this year:

  • Hace Calor
  • ¡Qué padre!
  • AEIOU el burro sabe más que tú
  • Con permiso.
  • ¡Claro que sí!

I have not done them with older students, but a couple of my dear colleagues Melanie Thomas & Andrea Bush have been doing them with upper levels.

How does this look in the class? 

Monday – I have students write down the password in a packet that looks like this.

We talk about the password, what it means, and then practice pronunciation. Then, everyday throughout the week, the students need to tell me the password to enter the classroom. Usually, the password is a bonus question on a quiz at the end of the week. I also have the passwords posted in my classroom throughout the week.


What if a student doesn’t know the password? 

Luckily, my students are pretty enthusiastic to get learning and come in my door. If they do not know the password, I may help students, depending on their language ability. However, it is awesome that they use each other outside my classroom to work together and figure it out. My favorite is when one student comes over, shouts the password, and you have 10 kids yelling CON PERMISO to get through the door.

What are the benefits of having a password? 

  1. Practices Pronunciation – You would be surprised how many students struggle with words like “Bienvenidos”. This is an awesome way to give direct & verbal feedback to individual students.
  2. Gives students a moment to be SUCCESSFUL – Make sure all students have their moment to be successful in class. Passwords allow students to get at least one thing correct in class, which helps them feel confidence and less anxiety!
  3. Teaches colloquial, common, or fun phrases I have been doing pretty basic phrases with my students, but I cannot wait to do more idiomatic expressions like “estar entre la espada y la pared” or “metí la pata” or “Es pan comido”. Repetition helps them remember the phrases. I also award students with chile peppers (based on Martina Bex’s system) when they use passwords in a unique way in class!
  4. Forces you to get to the DOOR! Studies show the benefits of being at the door as students enter your room. Here’s an article from Edutopia if you are interested in learning more. By having passwords, it forces me to realize that whatever I am doing is not as important as being there for my kids. Being at the door says to my students – Welcome to class. I am glad you are here. You are important. Get ready to  learn. 

Awesome. How do I get started or learn more? 

The coolest thing about passwords is you can start them WHENEVER you want! It is not too late! If you are interested in learning more, feel free to comment on this post!

Here are some other people who love passwords!

Bryce Hedstrom – https://www.brycehedstrom.com/2017/whats-the-password-2 

Alina Filipescu – http://tprsforchinese.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-secret-password.html 


Michelle 🙂


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¡Hola! My name is Michelle and I teach 7th, 8th, and 11th grade Spanish in a small rural town called Naples in upstate NY!

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