Jessie visited my classroom last week from Janesville, MN. She’s an experienced educator but is pretty new to TCI. I asked if she would share some of her thoughts and observations so that her experience could help other folks at similar points on the journey. She followed up with an excellent reflection I wanted to share with you all:

First, I want to say THANK YOU for opening up your classrooms for us to observe last week. The experience was amazing! As I mentioned, I am reading and learning like crazy about CI and TPRS, but to see it in action really made a lot of the pieces fall into place. I apologize for not responding sooner, but I was processing a lot of information and needed to clarify it in my own mind.

The obvious first impression in your classroom in the lack of traditional elements – desks. I had read your blog and others about this strategy, but didn’t really understand how it functioned. After watching how the lack of desks was handled, I am a true believer in the system. Because there were no desks, students had no distractions (pencil, phone) sitting right in front of them to draw their attention away from where it should be – the teacher. Furthermore, I like the idea that students are responsible for getting their own chair at the beginning of class and putting it away at the end. This creates a clear expectation of respect for the environment.

The class jobs is also such a great idea to foster classroom community. I truly enjoyed being greeted and introduced to the class by the class host/hostess. I also loved the idea of the class owl that would respond “whoo, whoo” everytime the word “quien” was said. This helped me see that class jobs are not only functional, but fun as well.

I was also so impressed with your classroom management. What looked like uncontrollable chaos to me at the beginning of the hour, with students getting chairs, whiteboards, etc. was taken care of in mere seconds. You sang a traditional children’s song to get their attention and by the end, they were all singing along with you. Wow. So simple, and so effective.

There were clear procedures in place for “Tengo un secreto,” when you had something to tell them that was secretive. Procedures were also in place for “beisbol,” a way to get students to hear cognates. Again, expecting and receiving all attention focused on the teacher.

Then there are the moments teachers dread: what to do when the energy level plummets. Your simple solution, have the students change seats. As there are not books, binders, etc. on their desks (which are chairs), the switch was made quickly. Because the students are now engaged physically, it is easier to (re)engage them mentally.

As you mentioned, these procedures did not just happen overnight, they took a while to establish at the beginning of the school year. I would say that the amount of time it took at the beginning (maybe just an entire class period to get the student switch done correctly) has paid off with great dividends.

However, what I enjoyed the most was how students responded. The vast majority were on task and looked like they were enjoying themselves, all while learning. I believe this is (or should be) the goal of every teacher, not just those of World Languages, and you have much to share.

Thank you again for allowing me to visit your classroom.

And the salad bar at your school does truly rock.

Jessie’s Visit

8 thoughts on “Jessie’s Visit

  • November 23, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Could you explain the student switch? That sounds like it could be a most useful trick!

  • November 23, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Hi Grant! Thanks so much for sharing a newbie teacher’s perspective to CI! Can you tell me what the song is that you sing to bring the students together? I clap a rythmic clap which works, but it would be great to have them singing, too!
    Thanks so much for sharing!! It’s a big help to me, a newbie. 🙂

  • November 23, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I love this! and I want to visit too! (SERIOUSLY!)
    So, each class removes the chairs, and the next class takes them?? BRILLIANT! then you have only the needed chairs for that specific class… and a clear room for janitors at the end of the day! Did I understand correctly?
    Also, when they switch seats for re-energizing the class, how does it work? sideways? So… no seating chart? I don’t have one except for one class that gives me more challenges to manage.

    • November 24, 2015 at 6:03 am

      Yes, you understood correctly, Marta! I am the custodian’s favorite teacher right now! I do have seating charts. They’re very important to me, actually. I have six pods of up to six chairs to accommodate 36 kids when necessary (often!). Currently they are laid out symmetrically and the “cambio” happens by standing and going to your mirror image chair – the chair directly opposite yours. I also do a “cambio diagonal” where the kids move diagonally to the next pod. I define it and we practice it many times. they maintain their seating arrangement in their pod of 6. Then there’s “cambio total” which is an opportunity for them to sit whereever they like. I do this once in a while and only give them 10 min max at that station before moving them again. Come visit!

      • November 24, 2015 at 10:13 am

        I DID IT TODAY! I absolutely love it, Grant! I was a bit concerned with the amount of time that it would take, so we timed it and it takes under 40 seconds to get chairs and put them back in place. I told them (and we practiced many times!) that I didn’t want anybody running or grabbing more than their own chair. It was hard keeping them from running but it worked. They complained first, but then everybody agreed it was better because we have much more room as we use only the chairs we need. The CAMBIO! works great as well! I have semi-circles, so it is difficult to do more than just cambio total, but I may tweak it as we go. Thanks again for all you do, and yes, we will be talking to our principal, (who luckily knows you, right!?) so we can travel soon to see you in action. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving break, as I am very thankful for people like you! 🙂

        • November 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm

          Wow! This is absolutely amazing! You, are like me in that when I find something that might work better than what I’m doing now I try it immediately! Why wait? The only people who lose out when we wait are the students. I really respect the courage and intentionality it takes to take such risks. For the switching activity, you might try requiring that they not sit next to the same people. Have them look left and right before switching and make them sit next to somebody different. This could help avoid the situation of friends following friends. Yes, I know your principal although not very well. I think I told you that he and I both served as pallbearers for my father-in-law’s funeral recently. I know he’s very dedicated to his community and he seemed like a great principle. Clearly, he allows you to teach in the way that you need to teach which is a big pro in his favor!

Leave a Reply