✔ Rules (DEA & CWB)
✔ Routines (Routines, Student Jobs, Interjections & Rejoinders)
✔ Brain Breaks
The best part of a CI classroom is that every student can learn. I don’t mean that in the current educational model sense of “differentiating to meet the needs of all learners,” which doesn’t really happen in most traditional language classrooms anyway, but in a very real human sense of acquiring language. If you’ve acquired one, you can acquire another. One of my goals is to make language accessible to every person who enters the classroom, including guest adults. Here’s how I do that:
It’s pretty bad to feel like everyone is watching you in a language class. Just ask any Latin student who was ever put on the spot in a round-robin style reading (= translation) course. Now, amplify that by about 10 and you’ll experience what most kids do when asked a question in the target language. Krashen calls this raising the Affective Filter.
Safety Nets are stop-phrases students use the moment they feel uncomfortable about not understanding the target language. The goal is actually to never feel that way in a CI classroom, but these are our backups. I’ve reduced mine down to just 2. Why? Sometimes I don’t even need a student to say a word in order to know I need to clarify meaning for them. Most of the time I just need to repeat myself slowly until I see in their eyes what doesn’t make sense. The two phrases are “what does ___ mean?” and “it’s not clear.” I’ve built these phrases into the Routines presentation because I’ve found that students are even hesitant to say just those two phrases without practicing as a whole class. Make sure everyone is comfortable saying them.
The jury is out on exactly how effective these are, but I use them mostly to show observers that students are, in fact, DOING something in class (they love the additional “kinesthetic modality”), as well as to slow myself down. The latter is important. Until you begin learning a new language, it’s very easy to forget how quickly you speak the one you’re teaching, and gestures really slow down the pace. I only require that students gesture the first day we use a new word, but I continue to use them for as long as I can remember. Some students will respond with a target language word if I just do the gesture, so there’s also that benefit. Almost all my gestures are for verbs, but I often use them for frequent prepositions.
I see no reason to reinvent the wheel, so almost all of my gestures are ASL signs. On the second slide of all my PowerPoint presentations, you’ll find links to signsavvy.com for an ASL equivalent on vocab contained in the presentation. Some teachers have found it to be an effective “team building” activity to create their own class gestures for words. I avoid this because A) the process takes too much time out of the target language, and B) I can’t keep straight different gestures for different classes.
I find question posters indispensable. If I ever had to travel room to room, I would still have these printed out and make sure students help me set them up before each class. Question posters are just one more way to include all students by giving them time to process our question when we pause and point. Here are some very simple posters: