This article was in the queue to be published in 2016. Why? Who knows? The queue is crowded, for sure. Anyway, here it is. I think I didn’t want to publish it bc I was unsure about the content, but in the light of the recent discussion generated by James, I’ll just publish it here now:
The Clapper Kid is the most important of 53 possible student jobs in the classroom.
Most of us have simply been incapable of making their CI classes work to full potential because we haven’t had the weapons. We haven’t been able to master SLOW, we go out of bounds, we allow blurting, we all know the drill.
But now I have created a tool to make SLOW, in-bounds, staying in the TL, circling, etc. actually work. It’s another job. The job is called the Clapper Kid and for me the idea is a breakthrough, if only in my opinion and in my classroom. The Clapper Kid is a weapon. The Clapper Kid is a bad boy.
The Clapper Kid is a weapon for classroom management that you pull down off the shelf in the discipline aisle along with various cans of Whoop Ass. The Clapper kid is students policing students. The Clapper Kid has an alias – Shut the Fuck Up in My Classroom.
The job description of the Clapper Kid falls short of being able to walk around the room and clap the plastic hand into the face of a person with their head down or who is otherwise not listening or showing up fully as a human being in class.
I’d love to allow the Clapper kids to do this, because some kids are such assholes, but it’s just too rude (I tried it with a class once and it just had too much of a bitchy edge to it).
Short of that rather extreme move, the Clapper Kid does in fact have the authority to clap loudly whenever there is a fail by the class BUT NOT AN INDIVIDUAL l to show up strongly in response to my questions.
I must learn to absolutely insist on a strong class one word response whenever I ask any question and stop the class if I am not getting the kind of reciprocal and participatory behavior I want. I’ll say that again. If the response is weak, I stop class.
But since I suck at that and keep on rambling like Old Man River, I have to employ this unique kid who is there to help me. A sidekick sitting off to the side of the class who can then see me and pay attention to the lesson but also see the class and enforce so many things that I forget about because so much is going on.
(When I say fail I mean in the sense of Blaine always cautioning us to be careful and look out for weak responses.)
What is a weak response? It’s a shitty response from the class. A non-enthusiastic response. A sucky response. A surly response. A pain in the ass response. A response that makes me want to put on my I Hate This Job tshirt. A weak response.
Because we have all, with very few exceptions if any, allowed to creep into our CI practices an acceptance of kids not responding, dumb asses that we are. We have talked about it here for years. The challenge of getting all the kids in the class to participate fully has been, perhaps, THE one big thread dominating the history of this blog, a thread connected in some way to every discussion we’ve had now for six or seven years.
Weak responses have spurred us to create jGR. Weak responses are why we have the Classroom Rules. Weak responses are why we go SLOW and try so hard to stay in bounds and get reps through proper Circling.
But we still get weak responses. So I don’t think that assessing a kid on their ability to “contain the urge to speak English” is going to work. Blurters are just rude and how many of us have stopped our habitual blurters so far this year? I would bet few if any. They aren’t going to contain their urge to speak English if we politely ask them. We need more.
I can only say that the Clapper Kid has brought me much much better responses, not weak ones. It is amazing. So who is the Clapper Kid and what does she do?
Job Requirements for the Clapper Kid
• is our most important hire of the 53 jobs in our jobs category. • must be a superstar who can focus on us and our lesson and on the class at the same time. • must be able to clap – on the class but not individuals – in a lighthearted way, bringing good will, but at the same time bring the authority. • reminds teacher about the Jump into the Space option, which should occur a lot in class.
Here is a template:
1. Teacher goes to Party City and buys one of those big hand clappers made of plastic that make a loud clapping noise when shaken. 2. Teacher hires a truly sharp student as per the above required job qualifications. 3. Clapper sits at the side of the room, looking at both the class and the instructor, fully aware of both. 4. When the teacher is delivering the CI, the Clapper looks at the kids and claps if even one kid is breaking any of the rules below*. (This clap is not directed at any one person – it is a generic clap.) 5. The teacher stops teaching, trying to determine who the offender is. 6. The teacher doesn’t call out the kid in front of the class, but instead just waits for compliance. 7. If the clapper calls out the teacher, the teacher must comply**.
*Rules on clapping at the class. The Clapper claps at the class if:
1. a student is not involved 2. a student gives a weak response 3. a student blurts 4. a student speaks English 5. a student is looking down at desk of if head is down 6. do all this while never singling out a student
**Rules on clapping at the teacher. The Clapper claps at the teacher if:
1. the teacher goes into extended English (sometimes you gotta – like in mentioning some outrageously cool historical fact connected to the lesson) without first asking for a time out from the Clapper. 2. the teacher uses more than the three full time outs allowed per class (as in a basketball game.) 3. the teacher goes over four seconds on a pop up grammar point. (i.e. the Clapper is not allowed to clap at the teacher for use of English unless four seconds have gone by.)
So the Clapper, not the teacher, is the one who watches out for weak responses. That is her job. The teacher just can’t remember to do that – there is too much going on.
So the Clapper is a kind of referee. A really great Clapper would also remind the teacher to use the Jump Into the Space option*** as well.
When the Clapper is doing their job properly, there is much less confusion and much stronger responses. It truly is a game changer.