Feelin’ Good by Brett

The last couple days in class have gone pretty great! Here’s why:

1. The power of the Interpersonal Communication Rubric: For the first time, I’ve committed to taking up the rubric on a regular basis. In the past, I always rolled it out, took it up once or twice, and then just referenced it because I was either too overworked, lazy, or undisciplined about leaving time at the end of class to have them fill it out. But using it on the regular has worked wonders for behavior management, attention, and participation. It’s wonderful! I have so much more peace of mind in class now.

Really what it has done is shift the onus for moving class forward from me to the students. I usually have put a lot of pressure on myself to generate conversation, but with the ICR, I find now that I can just clear out some space for students to step into. And it works. I just introduce a subject, either for creative work or review, and ask students to get their participation points for today. Usually about 40% or so of the class puts their hand up consistently. The others are satisfied with a B for just listening with the intent to understand and just go along for the ride. If you want the rubric, you can check my blog post here. Better yet, search out Grant Boulanger’s and Tina Hargaden’s. I now think those are the two best ones.

2. Output: The other thing the ICR has done is filled my room with L2 output. Now I know that’s not emphasized in CI, but it’s still the end goal. It is still the demonstration of what’s learned through input. It’s been really gratifying that the first two months’ investment in input is starting to manifest itself in spoken proficiency. In sp. 1, it’s still mainly words and phrases, but every once in awhile a full sentence or question. In sp. 2, more long phrases and sentences. In sp. 3, we can go the whole 85 minutes with the students talking and my asking questions to push the conversation. More and more, they are asking the questions as well. For example, we spent the whole period after 15 minutes of ssr on Tuesday after Thanksgiving Break talking about our vacations and writing them up. We spent the whole class after ssr on Thursday interviewing a student about his new puppy.

3. Special Person Interviews: I’ve also found a version of Bryce Hedstrom’s “special person interviews” that really works for me. I now ask a few standard personal questions like age, school year, and origin. Then the students provide me with the topic they feel most embodies their interests and personality. Everyone has predetermined their topic. So far, we’ve had basketball, dancing, listening to music, the future, and a puppy a student got over Thanksgiving break. Then, I have the special students email me a photo after the interview demonstrating that activity. Next, I embed the photo in “write and discuss” text of the interview to create a class autobiography compilation that is now part of my free choice reading library! Yay!

4. My Invisibles stories have taken off!!! For the Invisibles, I have found a happy medium between class-created characters and individually-created characters. Class-created characters can be really exciting, but the downside in my experience is that character creation from scratch can at times be challenging to manage, because the most basic information like color and size and such is just random. So, there’s no plot support to unite all the imaginations in the room. Individually-created characters solve the management challenges because all the basic info is provided, but you can lose some class enthusiasm because it hasn’t been a collaborative environment.

So, I struck a middle ground. Students provide the name, the object, the appearance, and one personality descriptor (like lazy, or hungry, or stinky, etc.). With that structure to build upon, the character is turned over to the class to fill out the rest of the personality.

It’s a small change, but it’s made a significant improvement in my personal practice.

5. Write and Discuss: I cannot overstate the importance of “write and discuss” as well. Committing to reserving 20 minutes or so at the end of class for the “write and discuss” and reading activities has been a huge improvement for my practice, as seeing the text is the real catalyst to future writing improvement. I now routinely plan this time for soliciting volunteers to give me the details of our conversation (either about the class or characters) and I put language to it. It has been so rewarding seeing their English details turn to one-word-Spanish details, to phrases, and now to whole sentences from time to time in Sp. 1 and 2!

Then we fill the rest of the time with a variety of reading activities. It is really wonderful. Being disciplined about writing up text every day has helped me provide way more text for my classes than last year. In my class document where my class secretary types verbatim what I write on the board during “write and discuss” my 5 classes have an average of about 1000 words to date. But I think that can be improved, since I’ve only really been disciplined about finishing every class with a “write and discuss” for the last couple of weeks. Before that, it was perhaps every other class, or maybe even 1 in 3 classes. So, I’m looking forward to seeing some improvement in that regard.

6. Another thing I feel really great about is that I finally placed my book order using the $1100 of donations. I was able to purchase 60 new titles to add to my library, which nearly doubles what I had. Taking into account the multiple copies I was able to buy, the order included 131 new books! I’m going to have to install more shelves, LOTS!!! Please see this post if you’re interested in a comprehensive catalog of CI friendly books in Spanish.

7. Finally, I also feel great about getting a gallery of Invisibles artwork up in the hallway outside my room. Check out the pictures below. A curator or two from each class was hired to design their section and tape up the corresponding text for each character. After they were all done, I took each section outside to stoke the competitive flames. They are really biting at the bit to make some sweet stories up!

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For those out there who might be interested in seeing my lesson plans, here they are for 2 of my classes over the last two weeks. This is my entire less on plan. Nonetheless, my classes have been great:

1st block sp.1 (unfortunately haven’t launched ssr yet)

11/20: special person interview, write and discuss (w+d), read

11/21: writing sample brainstorm and then write

11/27: calendar talk to a w+d, read, draw individually created characters for the first time

11/28: choose character, fill out character description (OWI), w+d, read

11/29: reveal artwork of character, Invisible story, w+d, read (didn’t actually get to w+d that day)

11/30: act out story to review and lead to w+d, read

12/1: talk about upcoming exam, video retell

2nd block Sp2 (unfortunately I haven’t launched ssr yet)

11/20: bellringer, writing sample, special person interview, write and discuss (w+d), read

11/27: bellringer, calendar talk to a w+d, read, draw individually created characters for the first time

11/29: bellringer, special person interview, w+d, read, choose character from individual submissions

12/1: bellringer, talk about upcoming exam, fill out character description (OWI), w+d, read (didn’t have time to read)

12/5: will be–bellringer, reveal artwork, read and review character creation, Invisibles story, w+d, read (probably won’t finish all of that)

Happy CI’ing!!!
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