Basics, again!

A red ribbon is tied around a finger to remind of something important.

I participated in a La Maestra Loca (Annabelle Williamson) webinar a few weeks ago. Whether I attend a class, teach a group, or present to a group, I always learn something new. This time I learned that I also need reminders about the basics! The theme of the webinar was “Slow.” Ironically, I showed the members how important it is to go slowly by not going slowly enough, and I committed two other errors that I will be working to evict from my practice.

My first error was to call on the class as a group for answers without allowing time to let students think. If there isn’t enough think time, the faster processors will answer quickly, making slower processors feel frustrated or even tune out. Annabelle does a countdown in her classes after asking a question. In my Pre-K through third-grade classes, I have been occasionally raising my hand to encourage students to raise theirs, calling on them only after several have raised their hands. I have not been able to make that gesture a consistent part of my toolkit. I am going to return to a countdown. I’ve experienced a countdown variation in a class with Diane Neubauer. Diane asks students to wait to send their answers (in chat, on Zoom) until her hand moves from the top of the screen to the bottom.

The other improvement I will make during presentations is to be more mindful of giving brain breaks. Adults and children alike need brain breaks from input in language classes. Because I am on triple engagement mode when I’m teaching or presenting, it’s easy to forget that others aren’t at the same level of engagement or that they may be experiencing overload. Simply pausing to ask whether someone has a question or comment can help slow things down.

The new idea I plan to try is “turn and talk,” a technique La Maestra Loca recently shared in her podcast. She said that having children turn and talk when she asks a question increases engagement beyond the typical students who answer every time, even though it increased the amount of brief first language that students use in the classroom. I will try it in break rooms on Zoom for now (until I recover from a COVID attack) and then we’ll see whether I can use it in my lower school language classes.

Reminder image: by geralt


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