On Mondays I have to consciously slow myself down and get back into the groove of SLOW. I tend to feel frazzled on Mondays and also the kids need to ease back into the language after most likely not hearing it for two days.
Slow is the most important skill in CI, I think. Here are eight pieces of advice I am giving myself this morning.
1. Connect with the kids in English before starting the input phase of the lesson. Remind them of the expectations. I will speak so you can understand the messages in class. Your job is to listen with the intent to understand and help maintain the flow of language. There will be times to turn and talk when English is ok and times to listen and keep to Spanish or French. Also remind them that they are being assessed constantly in this class on their communication. (I sent home parent communication last week to reinforce this.)
2. Write on the board to support their comprehension. Walk calmly to the word, touch it, say it, and let it sink in before saying something else. Count the seconds of silence. One, two, three. Then move on. Even if I’m saying a kid’s name I pause and point to the kid. Better still is to walk over to the kid. The more steps I can put between me and the next word, the slower I end up going.
3. Between words, in that silence, scan the room for people getting lost or looking like they’re about to get off-task. Make as much eye contact as possible in those few seconds. This lets them know I’m looking out for them. That I care about their understanding.
4. Take gesture breaks to cycle back through previously-used gestures. This slows me down, gives us all a mental break, and builds confidence. We’re learning so much!
5. Breathe. Breathe between every word. Breathe like it’s a yoga practice. Calms my nerves and slows me down. Anna Gilcher does a breathing break where she has the whole class breathe deeply a couple times. I would like to try that if I can remember. But at the least, I can breathe. It helps me maintain a calm presence that influences the emotional tone of the entire group.
6. React to what they say as if they’re the most fascinating kids in the world. Take a moment to be genuinely astonished or amused or interested by their responses. Make the reaction physical and visible. This slows me down too.
7. With good humor and calm and a smile, walk to the rules each and every time a student breaks a rule. Take a deep calming breath over there. There is nothing more important than teaching the rules and that I am unshakable in my application of them.
8. Pause and let the Who and Where and Today etc kids say their thing and then smile and acknowledge them with a thumbs up. This builds in more silence.
Above all I must remember that my goal is for the classroom to have a calm, slow, quiet, focused, workmanlike feeling. This feeling is CI gold. It’s the only way we can create the optimum conditions for slow, focused, deliberate speech. If the kids don’t expect this slow flow, they amp up the energy. They start amping it up and in turn I get frazzled. It’s my primary concern to lay the groundwork for a calm, slow, steady year.