At the beginning of the school year I wrote about how I introduced my first rejoinders to the class.
By this time of the school year, my students have a variety of ways to respond to different situations, what I say or what we read. But I’m still training them. They’re not where I want them to be yet. Their engagement and motivation to use the language is still quite strong, so I still haven’t introduced any extrinsic motivator like you may have seen at #iFLT15. Even so, I still sometimes get the deer in the headlights look in response to statements and questions I make. Remember, my students are expected to respond in a way that I can observe to every statement I make or question I ask.
So, when I get the blank stare after I make a statement, I might quickly saying in English: “Class, appropriate emotional response here, please.” this trigger works well to spark some level of “oh!” But my students know at least 15 good rejoinders so when I get an “oh!”, it’s satisfactory, but not good. They’re choosing to not use language in a situation where they can. So I might say, “Class, thanks for showing me your comprehension but could you do it in a way that’s a little more unique or that shows me you are learning Spanish?” That reminds them to give me a rejoinder appropriate for the situation like. Then, usually, for the next while, students are understanding messages I deliver and replying with a rejoinder that:
- expresses real meaning
- allows them to express their own personality
- demonstrates their comprehension
- differentiates language use
- keeps Spanish flowing in the classroom
- often drives communication in new directions and,
- isn’t boring
I now have three areas in my classroom dedicated to rejoinder posters: The Bank, Active Learning, and Mastery. The Bank is the database of many of the rejoinders we will learn this year. The second is the Active Learning space for expressions we’re currently learning. The third is the wall of mastery. This is where the expressions go after I am convinced that 80% or more of my students know them and can use them in appropriate contexts.
I have many expressions posted on the cabinets on one side of the room that gets little use. They aren’t obvious because they are obscured by the white board on wheels that I use for extended or enrichment vocabulary. The students know they are there, but they’ve never been introduced to the class. They are present but unknown, waiting for their turn to move to the Active Learning spot.
There’s something really neat about having rejoinders we’re not currently learning already posted on the wall. I see students congregating around the list during passing time. I hear them sounding out the expressions and making guesses as to their meanings. Sometimes they shrug and walk away. Occasionally they ask me what one means and I tell them. And you know what that means.
Their own curiosity is driving their learning.
They then take these expressions and use them. First, they use them with friends in passing time, at the cafeteria and in the locker bay. But they also use them in class and show them off. They are the only ones who know what these new expressions mean. Most of the kids don’t know. When you are the only one who knows something and you share it, and it garners a positive response from the teacher, that validates your use of the expression. It makes you feel special. You are now the early adopter of that expression. You are the innovator. You own that expression. It’s yours. And when we teach it to the other students, you get the credit for having brought that into our common knowledge. Interestingly, this is not something that I plan for or train my students to do. It just happens. They are human and thus they are creators and innovators by nature. They do this on their own account.
I tend to have four or five expressions at a time posted vertically on the right edge of the whiteboard with their meaning in English written next to them in white board marker.
These are the ones on the board currently:
¡Lo que sea!
Right when class began, I walked over to the board, demanding the attention of the class with my presence. I slowly pointed at the English: imagine that. I then slowly underlined the Spanish expression while looking at it. I turned and I said, “Class, when I point to this word you need to be looking at it. Your job is to create a hypothesis in your mind’s ear about how this word will sound in Spanish. Look at it and think about how this word will sound using what you know about Spanish.”
I underline it again but this time in syllables: I MA GI NA TE. I underline it again but this time with rhythm. Finally, I turn to the class begin to snap at a slow rate, and begin to chant the word. When I do this, I am snapping with my right hand. I am pointing to my ear with my left.
I say the word pointing to my ear and then with my left hand I give them an open palm, indicating that it is their turn to return the chant. We do it two or three times. Then I increase the pace. A little bit faster. Then, with a funny voice. They mimic the tone. If they don’t, I stop and say, “Class, mimic my tone, please.” Next, I find a way to elicit that response in context. Class, I say, Tommy has 113 sisters! Open palm to the class and they say to my cadence with the snapping, “Imagine that!” All told this probably takes 3 to 4 minutes.
The second rejoinder I introduced was “¡Lo que sea!” (whatever!). I did the same thing as with the first. Pointing first to it’s English meaning on the whiteboard, then underlining the expression slowly. No sound yet.
I reminded students to make a hypothesis about it’s pronunciation. I returned to underlining it by syllable. When I got to the word sea, I paused and said to the class in English, “Class, remember in Spanish when you see a vowel, you say a vowel.” I underlined it one more time and then went back to the class, snapping with my right hand pointing to my ear with my left and said the expression with rhythm having them repeat it twice or three times.
They repeated it in a way that was emotionless and not matching the meaning of the expression. So I stopped and said, “Class, that’s great! You can say the sounds of the word! But we are not robots here. Now we need to make this expression real. We need to say it like humans would say it.” I raise my right hand informed and L. I channeled the stereotypical adolescent, saying Whatever! ¡Lo que sea! came out with attitude and a head jiggle. My students immediately responded by mimicking tone and head jiggle. But few showed the L with their hand. So I said with a smile, “Con la L, clase” and we did it a few more times until I was happy with how well they expressed themselves. Next, a couple context-rich examples written here in English, but said in the TL in class:
T: Class, Carly has 200 cats at home!
T: Class, Jeff likes to eat platypus!
T: Class, Zayn doesn’t sing with One Direction anymore!
To each of these, the students responded with either of the two expressions, whichever they felt was the appropriate for the context.
I presented ¡Qué interesante! and chanted it with the students the same way as I’ve described above. But for this expression I use a gesture to trigger it. I cock my head to the side, furrow my brows as if in deep contemplation and, with my thumb and index finger, I scratch my chin. We say it and do the gesture a few times with different voices and tones. That establishes the gesture as a trigger for the expression. From now on, whenever I think they should find something interesting, I just do the gesture and the class shouts out “¡Qué interesante!”
After I presented all three of these, I picked up a stuffed globe that I have for geography games. It’s about the size of a soccer ball, but it’s stuffed and soft. I introduced the expression, “¡Cuidado!” and quickly put it to use by shouting “¡Cuidado!” and tossing the ball at a student. They sit in their chairs with nothing in their laps or hands. So, responding to this soft ball coming at them was quite easy. After I threw it a few times and had kids pass it back to me, I then encouraged them to throw the ball at each other. But I said, in the TL, “Clase, ¡Cuidado! Primero se grita ¡Cuidado!. Segundo se lanza el balón.” And I modeled it once more, slowly. I always avoid modeling the wrong behavior. Just model what you want to see.
Once I’m convinced that my students know the 4 or 5 in the Active Learning space, I move them over to the Mastery wall. There is no English accompanying the expressions on the mastery wall. They’re there for reference and I occasionally will Point and Pause to one that’s appropriate in the moment that I didn’t hear any students use.
These will stay up all year and will grow as the year goes on, organically, according to the expressions needed to make communication happen.
I know a lot of people are working with rejoinders of all types. Some people categorize them. I haven’t found that to be exceedingly helpful for my students. But I did find it to be time consuming for me. So, I don’t do that anymore. I do try, however, to make sure I have expressions available for different personalities, different contexts, different emotions, etc. So, how are you using rejoinders in your class to help students communicate effectively, accurately and in their own unique way?