Cynthia Hitz from over there at PalmyraSpanish was at #iFLT15 here in MN this past summer. She took some video during my Learning Lab. At iFLT, adult language teacher participants observe master teachers using CI-based techniques and strategies teaching real kids. There are 4 days of classes, 12 hours total of instruction. This video is from the beginning of the third of 4 days, or, in other words, after 6 hours of instruction. It’s a “Spanish 2” class. It’s about 8 minutes long and it shows really interesting application of important ideas that I’d like to share with you.

We were just beginning the class. Some 30+ educators from around the country (globe really, since 6 countries were represented at #iFLT15) were crowded in the classroom getting ready to observe. Not all of my students were present, but it was time to begin.

Mere moments after getting started, an adult brought a student from another Learning Lab. I no longer recall the exact words used, but the adult who entered told me that the student had been misidentified. She was going to go home if I would not allow her into my class. Would I take her?

I was on the spot. A freight train of thoughts plowed through my head:

  • This isn’t fair!
  • Our routines and rituals are already established.
  • She’ll slow us down! We won’t be able to cover as much.
  • How could she be in the wrong class?
  • How can I possibly bring her up to speed after missing 6 hours of instruction?
  • Maybe I can sit her to the side and hope she stays quiet.

Those may have been some of my first thoughts, but I wouldn’t let them be my last thoughts.

My principles took over and I reminded myself:

  • This is real life. This happens to me every year. I can do this.
  • They’re just words. There’s no right order to learn them.
  • If everyone’s understanding, then everyone’s acquiring.
  • Nothing motivates like success (Susie Gross). She has to succeed from the first moment.
  • If I can show she belongs, the class will accept her.
  • If class accepts her, she’ll feel she belongs.
  • If she feels she belongs, she’ll be more likely to engage.
  • If she engages, I’ll praise her and she’ll feel success.
  • If she feels success, she’ll be motivated to continue.

So, I took a deep breath, smiled and said, “Come on in!” I consider that smile the first little ladle of love that gets poured on a new student.

I don’t know about your context, but in my school it’s not altogether uncommon to have new students joining at odd or unfortunate times. One never really knows who they are or what they know, yet there they are. How we respond in tough situations like this, in my opinion, speaks loudly to our beliefs and principles and who we are both as educators and humans.

My solution is to sit them up front and pay them lots and lots of positive attention. I try to find ways to make them shine and feel comfortable. They have to feel like they’re in the right place. And the rest of the class has to realize that we will welcome her or him as an equal member.

That’s how I begin to weave them into the fabric of our community.

So, this video shows, in all it’s realness, how I begin to build that type of relationship. There’s no story asking in this video, but you can see many of the decisions I make during the first two minutes that eventually lead to Megan being an equal member of our class. Here are just a few:

  • Put her front and center.
  • Introduce myself.
  • Introduce her to the class in a way that validates her and makes everyone smile.
  • Ask her the name of another student in a way that she can’t fail.
  • Begin to probe for her level.

You can see how I deal with students coming in late to the class, as well. Some teachers would prefer late kids to come quietly in and sit down. I make a big deal of it. I put my “lesson” on hold and welcome them. I ask how they are, maybe find out why they’re late. It’s real, authentic communication and that is a trump card in my class.

The video also shows several strategies for student engagement, eliciting and using personalized student information to increase interest and input, and delivering understandable messages 95%+.

There are a good number of comprehension checks in there also.

But the real nugget from this video, in my opinion, lies in the little ladles of love that get poured on the new student throughout the first several minutes of class.

So, without further ado, and with a hearty THANK YOU to Cynthia, here you go!



Weave New Students into the Fabric

4 thoughts on “Weave New Students into the Fabric

  • December 1, 2015 at 9:47 am

    This is really a great post. I love you honesty when talking about your first thoughts, and how you change them into positive ones. I will refer my (teacher) students to this blog so they can see a good example of building trust and a respectful and loving atmosphere.

    • December 1, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Thank you, Kristin! I’m honored that you feel this way! I hope my experiences, thoughts and mistakes can improve and impact someone else’s journey!

  • December 1, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for this window into your classroom. I love how personalized the instruction is, and how you create community by using interruptions as opportunities to increase language and relationships . ¡Gracias por compartir!

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