Get Bryce’s new book on classroom passwords here.

This project grew out of a short blog post. I was enthusiastic about the results I was getting with passwords with my students and wanted to share what was working with my colleagues. Originally it was just a few examples of passwords that had worked for me and an invitation to share ideas. It could have been written as a blog series, but I just kept adding to the original post. This is the result.

As ideas from the original short blog post began to flow comments, questions and suggestions from colleagues across the country and around the world came in.  I was encouraged to experiment with passwords even more. I experimented with different types of passwords for different levels and shared those results too.

I also began to study how social, psychological and educational research applied to this fascinating classroom greeting ritual.

The result of this experimentation, collaboration, reflection and investigation is that here are now expanded explanations of WHY passwords work and HOW to implement the process, as well as an enlarged vision of WHAT a password is and specific techniques that will make it work for you.

There are also translations into English of each password with frequent linguistic, cultural, psychological and historical explanations so that non-Spanish readers and new Spanish teachers can benefit and adapt them for their classrooms. Suggestions have come in from teachers all over the country to make the original password idea even better. ¡Mil gracias! A new book with year long lists of of student-tested passwords for beginners and advanced students along with extensive commentary as to why they work, and how to succeed with passwords is found here.


• Introduction

• What is a Password?

• How Does It Work?

• How to Tell Students a Password

• How to Change the Password

• How to Help Students that Cannot Remember the Password

• How to Handle Passwords When You Are Pressed for Time

• Why Do Passwords Work?

• Why Use Classroom Passwords?

• Advantages for Students

• Advantages for Teachers

• Reading Students’ Body Language

• Why Passwords Work with Students

• More Reasons Using Passwords Helps

• The Feeling of a Password

• Password Problems

• Password Guidelines

• Password Tips

• Level 1-2 Password Examples

• Level 2-AP Password Examples

Here are a few PASSWORDS that have worked with my students:

Many thanks to all of the teachers who have added password ideas and suggestions to make this activity better, particularly Alina Filipescu (California) and Nina Barber (Colorado).

There are English translations of each password idea and occasional commentary where explanations may be needed. Students are required to say only the Spanish phrase (not the English) to enter the classroom. Here are two overlapping  levels of passwords: for levels 1-2 and for levels 2-AP.


These first three passwords for lower level classes help to set the friendly and courteous tone we want students to display in our classrooms.

Muy amable / (That is) Very kind, nice, friendly (of you).    Alina Filipescu was using this gracious expression as her “palabra secreta” (secret word) the day I observed her and I love the feel of it. Scores of students with this phrase on their lips as they enter class sets a positive tone! This first password, with the emphasis on how common courtesy is expressed in Spanish-speaking countries, is the beginning of infusing elements of Hispanic culture into the curriculum and into the hearts and minds of our students. It also meshes nicely with the culture we are trying to develop in the class and with the class motto:

Work hard • Be polite • Play the game

Con permiso / With permission; Excuse me.   This is another classy expression of courtesy that works perfectly when the teacher is “absentmindedly”  blocking the doorway. Learning to use courtesies fluently is an important part of learning how to navigate in the culture. I ask students to say it authentically, as if they were really trying to get past me. To practice this I have them get up and mill around the classroom, asking “con permiso” to get past one another and saying “lo siento” (I’m sorry) when they bump into someone.

I respond with a natural, “Pase” (Come on in.) or “Si, por supuesto.” (Yes, of course)

Like the previous expression this one also supports the class motto

Work hard • Be polite • Play the game.

¡A, E, I, O, U! El burro sabe más que tú. / A, E, I, O, U! The donkey knows moBurro Sabe Mas Que tu--Colorizedre than you.  This rude little ditty is used (good-naturedly, I’m sure) in Mexico to teach school children the vowel sounds of the Spanish alphabet. It can help second language learners too. Students enjoy it because it rhymes, it is an authentic school saying and because it is a bit ornery to say. It also helps to prepare them to hear words spelled out by the teacher in class. Even though this is a longer password, many students will be able to say it right off because of the rhyme and they like the mild insult.

¡Claro que sí! / Of course!   This is a handy rejoinder.  I prompt it by asking each student ¿Listo/a? (Ready?) as they enter.  Students can respond with ¡Claro que sí! (Of course!) or with ¡Claro que no! (Of course not!).  This password is also a line that is repeated 10 times in a big book that I read to students early in the year to level 1 students for Kindergarten reading time called De la cabeza a los pies by Eric Carle (ISBN 0-15-315159-5). The book has interesting illustrations and contains much vocabulary that level 1 students can get early on. another I like reading to students early in the year also has this line: ¿Quieres jugar? by Marilee Robin Burton (ISBN 0-7578-1672-X).

Mil gracias. / A thousand thanks.   This is classy way of saying “Thank you very much”; much more so than a mere muchas gracias. The Moors, Arabic-speaking people from what today is Morocco, invaded Spain in the year 711. They ruled much of Spain for over 700 years and were not removed from power completely until 1492. This expression reflects the influence of Moorish/Arabic culture that still remains in the Spanish language and culture 500 years after the Reconquista (Reconquest) of Spain. The Moors lost the last vestige of control in Spain then, but many cultural remnants can still be seen and heard in Spanish culture. This over-the-top expression of thanks is one of them.

“Alf sukr” or “Alf shukr”  ألف شكر  (a thousand thanks) is still used as a polite expression in modern Arabic.

This is another politeness reminder. The guidelines on all classroom participation materials are:

Work hard • Be polite • Play the game.

We are still building a classroom culture of respect and courtesy. Students need training and reinforcement in these norms and occasional passwords like this one help to keep that behavior front and center.

This expression is also a boost for the teacher. Teaching can be a thankless job and most of us appreciate expressions of gratitude from our students. I feel like kids are personally thanking me in the most gracious way they can when they say this over and over all day, and it gives me a boost.

For more winner passwords, plus commentary on why they work and where they come from, see my book on passwords, available at Teacher’s Discovery: or click here.


¡No me digas! / You don’t say! or Don’t tell me that!  This is a handy expression and one that gives students a negative tú form command, which has the same sound as the subjunctive.

 “Poco a poco se va lejos.” ♦  / “Little by little one goes far.”  This is an authentic Spanish dicho (folk saying) that is similar in meaning to the English proverb: Slow and steady wins the race. This saying will help to prepare students to read stories like The Tortoise and The Hare, which has a crucial Mindset lesson for students: We need to persevere when we do not have instant success.

Our students need to know that you can get better with effort. Many do not believe this. They think that some people are just naturally talented or smart and that is the end of it. If they do not have instant success they give up. They think that they are victims of their genetics and upbringing. We can help students see that it is possible to change your life for the better; that you are not a prisoner to your environment, your parenting or your genes. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, after 30 years of psychological research, shows that it is possible and how to do it in the book Mindset.

♦ “No se ganó Zamora en una hora.” ♦  / Zamora was not won in an hour.  Similar in English: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  This authentic proverb expresses the idea that worthwhile things take time in a short, elegant, historical and rhyming ditty.

You can say something like this to students to explain the proverb:  

En el año mil setenta y dos (1072) el rey Sancho II de Castilla (Sancho el Bravo) trató de conquistar la ciudad de Zamora en el noroeste de España. Había muchas batallas enfrente de la ciudad durante siete meses. Sancho era el rey de Castilla. No era el rey de España porque el país de España ya no existía hasta el año 1492. Al final, el ejército de Sancho se ganó Zamora, pero trágicamente el rey se murió antes de la victoria final.

In the year 1072 king Sancho the second of Castile (Sancho the Brave) tried to conquer the city of Zamora in the northwest of Spain. There were many battles in front of the ciudad for seven months. Sancho was the king of Castile. He was not the king of Spain because the country of Spain did not exist until the year 1492. In the end, Sancho’s army won Zamora, but tragically the king died before the final victory.

Afterwards give a short oral comprehension check.

I ask these questions for the daily five question warm up (el repasito) the next day:

  1. ¿Qué es Zamora?
  2. ¿Dónde está?
  3. ¿Cuánto tiempo se necesitaba para ganarla?
  4. ¿Cómo se llamaba el rey?
  5. ¿Qué era el apodo/sobrenombre del rey?

These questions were asked for the warm up the next day:

  1. ¿En cuál año se ganó Zamora?
  2. ¿Era Sancho el rey de España?
  3. ¿Por qué era imposible que él fuera el rey de España después de ganar Zamora?
  4. ¿Por qué no fue una victoria completa cuando por fin se la ganó?
  5. ¿En cuál año se formó el país moderno de España?

Comments by teachers that have used passwords and the ideas in this blog:

“This is an awesome resource :) ” —I. Reyes

“Classroom passwords have totally changed my relationship with students. They feel like they belong to a ‘secret society’.”     —M. García

“How do we create opportunities to keep students compelled? Start with class passwords. Bryce Hedstrom has written about his program. It’s a fun and simple way to build camaraderie and use colloquial expressions used as “rejoinders” in CI classrooms. An evaluator of mine recently commented that requiring a class password seemed like one more tool to effectively use the target language. He was right.”  —Lance Piantaggini

“Thanks Bryce!! I’m going to trial it for sure as it fits beautifully with providing students with input ready for kursi luar biasa (special student interviews – oops, can’t remember the Spanish!!)”  —

“This is how to be a loving teacher. It makes my heart happy.”  —Lauren Tauchman

“This is powerful. Thank you for passing it on.” —Clarice Swaney

“The password has given me more satisfaction than any of the new practices I have adopted this year. I love the new moments of encounters at the door, the eye contact, hearing them checking the password with each other before I open the door, and above all, knowing that it’s part of the deep community, the secret club sensibility which I can sense here. I still struggle with basic storytelling, but I get a lot of mileage out of the sum of such small, powerful practices. I’m grateful to Bryce, and to Alina before him.”  Gerry Wass

I love this idea, and I LOVE that your list of passwords are expressions that are both super-common and fun for kids to learn! I imagine these “passwords” end up being woven right into class conversations and stories.”  —Emily Williams

“I used this today, worked like a charm! Thanks Bryce for generously sharing your trade secrets.” —Betsy Paskvan

“Thanks! I love the idea to get them even more excited as they come in.” —Jeremy Jordan

Great idea! Gracias por compartir.”  Beth Beery

My kids love it, too! Even kids who are not in my class want to know the password.” —Amy Madrid Velasquez

Awesome! 100% kid approved strategy!” —Cynthia Leathers

“I decided to try passwords last week, and the kids have really gotten into it. Even the ones I usually can get no participation from, smile as they say it coming in the door. Today, I got caught talking to a student in the classroom as one class was leaving, and I thought I would not get to the door before the next class started coming in. When I finally got to the door, to my surprise, the next class was waiting for me outside the OPEN door! They did not want to come in before they could tell me the password! Awesome!”  Maino Agersten Graham

For more winner passwords, plus commentary on why they work and where they come from, see my book on passwords, available at Teacher’s Discovery: or click here.