08 February 2014

Interpersonal Playbook

International Skypes go smoother with a plan. They go even smoother with a plan plus a few days of targeted preparation. I've put a lot of thought into my interpersonal playbook, a sort of semi-scripted routine I'm working to establish for my Spanish classes so they can feel at ease whenever they get the chance to use a conversation to find out something they need to know for a project (or just satisfy their curiosity). Also, they'll sound smarter, if all goes according to plan.

I'm pretty happy with the structure the playbook establishes:


Presentar
Preguntar
Clarificar
Contestar

I'm finding, however, that I need to continually adapt it according to the level using it. For example, Spanish I may use only steps 1 and 2 on the Presentar page, the whole Preguntar page, and just the top of the Clarificar and Contestar pages. Spanish II and III are much the same, but I encourage them also to repeat what they heard using the middle of the Clarificar page. I anticipate Spanish I will eventually work up to also introducing their purpose and the casual exchange of emotional state at the bottom of the Presentar page and work up to repeating what they heard. Spanish II may work up to giving their two cents as indicated on the Contestar page. Spanish III should definitely work up to seeking explanations and giving their opinions by the end of the course too.

Also, setting up the playbook is not a simple fill-it-out-then-skype activity. I cannot tell you how relieved Spanish I was when technical difficulties prevented us from skyping the day after they started the playbook. We went around the room practicing piece by piece: giving names one round; giving names and purpose next round; giving names, purpose, and a little "como esta" action. Since we had an extra day, I took up their playbooks and gave them feedback on their question rephrasing and suggestions for possible responses they could anticipate. We practiced those the next day.

In Spanish II/III we took the practice a step further. We went around the room with page one again, but partners practiced the Preguntar page--multiple times, multiple ways. We even used practice questions about their college research before officially adding the questions for the impending college skypes to warm up (so they could actually have answers in the role play and reinforce their interpreted research).

Here are some of the ways we practiced:

  1. Practice with table partners taking turns being the interviewer.
  2. Record conversations with table partners.
  3. Switch partners and take turns being the interviewer.
  4. Volunteers act out interview situations with different characterizations (e.g. just drank 5 Red Bulls, dog died, stressed out from finals, big-time flirt, super snob, paranoid conspiracy theorist, about to fall asleep, adrenaline junky)
  5. Model conversations in front of class while class jots down key words, summarizes information.

And we'll probably do another round or two before the actual conversations (hopefully this week!)

Having a playbook does seem to build confidence that they'll be able to get the answers they want and avoid some of the awkwardness novices feel when trying to converse with native speakers. Plus it gives a pattern for them to fall back on to make sure that they've covered their bases.

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