Rubles and decluttering

When Scott Benedict was in Anchorage recently for our AFLA 2015 Conference, he talked about his system of participation points. I don’t remember what he called them.

I went home and created a copy of a one-ruble note. I copied many rubles, and use them to honor kids who do something right or creative, or impress me in some way. Sometimes that means that if I have a five-minute output exercise, I’m running around the classroom giving a ruble to every kid who is speaking. Sometimes it means I give a ruble to a student who asked for clarification. Or someone who uses a high-level grammar structure. Or who starts to babble in Russian, or has a conversation with me in the hall. I love giving out rubles, and I’m pretty free with them.

Scott gives various prizes for his points. Kids can buy back tardies, the chance to eat in the room, or they can “buy” a good phone call home, one that they time and script for best effect – for example, if they want a longer weekend night, they might time that good call.

I’ve been using rubles for some of those reasons, as well as for an additional purpose. Over the years, I’ve acquired many little Russian souvenirs. If I am to “graduate” one of these days, I don’t want to bring them all home. But on the other hand, I collected items because I loved them. I want to hand them over to someone who will appreciate them. So now, every so often, I’m “auctioning” off a piece of my Russian collection. So far, a running cap, a Soviet poster, some Soviet coins, and a couple of flags have gone to kids who wanted them. I also auction off Russian food left over from a club meeting and simply “sell” the exploding Russian шипучки candies.

Giving out rubles makes me happy, because I can award kids for many things they’re doing right. I tell them that it’s just one more way of showing my love for them, because otherwise they might not always believe that they’re so wonderful. Susie used to put stars on students’ foreheads, partly to award them for great answers, and partly to show her who had already had a chance to participate. I could never make that happen, but rubles seem to work for me this year. And my collection is going down, piece by piece.

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