I just noticed that a girl with a scowl on her face when school started last August is now happy and fully a part of the class. I even noticed that she has become friends with a superstar class leader. How did that happen? I know it wasn’t the grammar sheets we didn’t do.



5 thoughts on “Friends”

  1. Yes! That is the whole point, right?

    I finished semester one yesterday. Whew! I made it! Even though a lot of my alleged CI was totally sketchy, something filtered through. Even in “that class” I had lots of kids shine. I saw many kids light up. Whether in a “star of the day” interview, a daily check in, reading about Brandon Brown, etc. Something got in and I am not talking about “language” per se but about confidence and sparks of joy and a willingness to try something new.

    I also had a scowly girl in Sept who seemed to transform right before my eyes. A self-proclaimed “socially awkward” and “don’t like to be in the spotlight” girl. And another girl with an IEP and some sort of PTSD who has probably the biggest heart on earth, who according to the paperwork needed to be in the back, not called on, etc. Guess who asked me if they could bring in guitar and bass (with amp!) to play “Vivir mi vida” while the class sang along! Yep. Magic.

    ***digression / tangent ***

    The wild kids came around in the last month. Not a 180, but soooooo much more pleasant. I attribute this to 1) them suddenly realizing that they were about to fail…for real and 2) a multi-pronged pinning the kids down by advisors and me and guidance. 3) me accepting the current reality and finding humor and play again, which helped to connect…finally! 4) …and this one was HUGE…using Grant’s interpersonal rubric right after Christmas, which I almost did not do bc of the “too little too late” song that was playing in my head.

    I had them self evaluate right after Christmas break, saying ” I want to test drive this new rubric.” Good thing I did this because a bunch of kids in each class wrote something like “I answer when I am called on.” OH! Somehow I did not make it clear that everyone is supposed to answer. Even though it is on my poster, and even though I thought I had been modeling that all along. They did not get it. So I started again the next day thanking them for the feedback. Then I said “it’s a conversation where I am person 1 and the whole group is person 2.” I drew a texting conversation in different colors on the board…the little speech bubbles back and forth. I pointed to myself and then to them. Back and forth. And then we practiced over and over a few times with yes/no questions. Then I said “Hey! Let’s do a speaking and listening summative right now!” I have to say “summative” in order for them to be motivated to pay attention. I fired off 10 either /or questions. Super slowly. EVERYONE responded. I posted 20 points in the online grade book. That seemed to do the trick. Then I did this every day for the next 2 weeks. I was able to get them to ask for clarification as well, reminding them for each question “If you don’t know what I am asking, it is an opportunity to get extra points for asking “Que quiere decir…?” Lots of questions! Lots of extra points! No I am not tallying them. I use Ben’s point system. The real “points” are the energy and fun in the class!

    In the semester reflection, I asked “What advice do you have for future Spanish students?” Nearly 100% of them wrote some variation of “Listen” “Pay attention” A few that stand out are: “Pay attention. It isn’t that difficult!” “Have fun with it. You learn more when having fun.” “Ask questions! Nine times out of ten like ten people are thinking the same thing.” “If you don’t have interest in learning the language yet, then wait to take it until you do!!!”

    Setting up for semester 2 now. I am physically cutting the papers with the above comments and posting them on the bulletin board for day one with the new students. “Advice from your peers” I’m preparing to spend most of my time and energy in the beginning literally walking everyone through “routines and procedures.” 🙂 Inspired by Lance, I hope to post some videos in the coming weeks.

    1. Hi Jen,
      You did it! Yup, you are an inspiration. Your students are so lucky to have you. It sounds like your classroom is full of real life. I too look forward to your videos.

      I really like your conversation drawing on the board, too.

  2. I have been wondering how you were doing and thinking about you a lot Jen. I emailed a few weeks ago…. So proud of you and happy for your students.

    Ben, I think it would be interesting and inspiring to hear stories about the transformative nature of the CI classroom.

    One very “scowly” student (who is causing considerable heartache for colleagues) presented me with a decorative plate (a bit random but I appreciated the gesture) and said “I got this for you.”

    Our school is in crisis mode currently with the number of mental health issues among our students and their families. I am so grateful to this method and what it helps to heal and create relationships.

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