19 March 2013

Palabra del día: Establishing boundaries

"The lizard's about to change colors" is all Walter Powell had to say to let his class know he was done playing around. Everyone loved Mr. Powell, but no one wanted to see what would happen if they crossed him. Me, I have never really had that intimidation factor, or a line that students could even see. Sure, I yelled a lot, broke out my Actor Voice and the Teacher Look, but student blood still failed to freeze. I had no cool catchphrase or strategy that I could keep up consistently as a signal that I was about to change colors.

Until now.

Not only is my signal an organizing strategy for me and my students, it reinforces high-frequency Spanish words (especially juego). Now, it's nothing revolutionary, but it allows me to stay in the target language, even when I'm about to change colors

Step 1: Choose a word of the day, preferably about 5-letters long. The word should reflect something that the students want and have a chance to earn/keep by the end of class, like playing a game, time to work on a homework assignment, choosing their own partners, re-taking an atrocious quiz, computer privileges, or I don't know, candy. Words I've used include juego, tarea, tiempo, socios, prueba, and compus. Hint: though using any word with "pus" in it may not work well with high school boys. (Irregular preterite, amirite?)

Step 2: Write the word on the board in a reserved location with easy visibility and accessibility. I find just walking over to that side of the room serves as a visual reminder now, too!

Step 3: Introduce today's word and what it has to do with what they can expect: "¿Les gustan juegos? Tengo un juego muy divertido para el fin de clase, pero hay que poner atención." This usually happens right after the warm-up for me, or sooner, if we're having trouble getting settled.

Step 4: Introduce the steps to losing letters, then privileges:
  1. "Atención, por favor"
  2. "Silencio, por favor"
  3. Borrar una letra. No letras, no privilegio.

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