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.