Small Talk as Curriculum
Today in class I was able to take a YouTube video of sixth period. This is a class of 35 kids, seventh graders, at a public middle school, on day two of instruction. We are still working a lot on getting to know each other and establishing the expectations for behavior. I am still on the absolute lookout for kids not doing their job. It is a gift, as I have an opportunity to exert leadership each time a kid is whispering or slouching in their seat. Calmly, and smiling (thinking to myself, “This is a gift, this is a gift, this is a gift.”) I try to walk to the rules each and every time and point, smile, and put some tiny little teeth into the smile, to show that I am not ALL peppermints and unicorns inside, then resume instruction.
At the beginning of class, we spent eight and a half minutes in L1, which is, admittedly, a large percentage of the class period of 54 minutes. Over the years I have actually incorporated MORE L1 into the classroom. I started my CI journey committed to using L2 as much as possible. I have come to see that a little L1 use is time well spent, though. I feel it is important at the beginning of the year to establish a solid foundation of community and connection, with the kids feeling like I am on their side and an approachable, real human being. So we talked a bit about the grading this year (I am using 100% Interpersonal Skills Rubric and this was the first time I had broached that topic with this class – that their actual minute-by-minute behavior in class was the basis of their grade), and we talked about getting back into the routine on this, the second week of school. Then at minute 8:30, we start the input in Spanish. As the year progresses, we will do a quick check-in and then jump into L2. But here on day two I am investing in them in L1.
We are working on assigning student jobs and so we started the L2 discussing the people who have jobs already. I do not have a big Day of Assigning Jobs, I just distribute them as the need arises. It is easier on me and, maybe most importantly, it allows kids to feel truly needed, because the job was needed in the moment that they emerged as the “Hoy Kid” or whatever.
The “Hoy Kid” was getting a workout today, because we spent the rest of the period on the calendar. You will notice on the board there is a schedule with nothing on it, because I do not know day to day what activities will be used in class. Today, we were still talking about the sixth of August by the end of the period. It is all good to me. The kids’ energy was there, we were communicating in L2 for extended pieces of time, and we are building their word bank.
You can see the emergent word wall below me. It will continue to grow as we add more words daily, based on the actual communication needs of the kids in class. This is entirely new to me, as this idea popped up in a workshop this summer – I think in Portland – and seemed to fit in well with the practice of basing instruction on emergent language needed at the moment in class. Because this is so new, I will be interested to see how this plays out this year.
Tomorrow in class, we will be creating a class text based on the discussion from today. Then we will do some reading work with it. A job that is likely to be needed is the Reader Leader. This important job helps save my voice, but most importantly, it helps – like all the jobs – distribute power in the classroom.
In comprehension-based teaching, the teacher is often the center of attention. This is normal, as the teacher is the one providing the input. Taking the teacher away and using another means (internet, film, song) is an option, but it reduces personalization and human communication. So in my opinion we should sparingly do this, and still guide the class’ interaction with these resources. So, most every day we are there providing input for extended periods of time. Therefore, for me, it is of the utmost importance that we share power with the kids. Ben Slavic’s student jobs are so key for me in this. I cannot imagine teaching without my student jobs.