Teaching short expressions in the target language has always been a thing, right? I remember being a student in my own mother’s Spanish class as a freshman in high school. She taught us how to say “bless you”, “I don’t understand”, “That’s cool”, etc.
But when I dug in to using rejoinders, I discovered there is more, much more to it than just that. Rejoinders are memorized chunks of social language that help students maintain the flow of the target language and express their comprehension (or lack thereof) in situationally and emotionally appropriate ways – in other words, rejoinders help students learn how to carry on a conversation with another human.
I found that when teaching with stories, students could contribute spontaneously with your typical TPRS exclamations – “Obviously!” “Strange!” “Gross!” “Interesting!”, etc. As I began to branch out into less predictable ways of delivering comprehensible input, such as personal interviews, I began to realize that rejoinders are what grease the wheels of communication, allowing us to have complex discussions spontaneously as students interpret messages and respond with appropriate expressions. The sense of ownership increased. Students began to feel like real speakers of the language before they could really talk. It completely altered the fabric of my classes!
I want to share with you some of the ways I introduce rejoinders. In my room I have ample wall space. I keep a bunch of rejoinders up on the back wall. I don’t tell anyone they’re there or what they mean, it’s just a reservoir of words. Each week, I choose 3-5 rejoinders to introduce. These go on the main whiteboard. They are the ones we are actively learning. After we know them, they go to a third place on the wall, the mastered section. The mastered word wall grows over the course of the year and they remain visible for students to see.
There are many ways to present rejoinders for the first time. Here is a video that demonstrates one way I get the ball rolling. If you want to know more, I’ll be publishing more in the near future. Subscribe to get notified of new posts. Happy teaching!