Open Coaching Feedback

The Open Coaching session I attended at iFLT 2019 led by Michelle Kindt was among my top experiences. If you’ve never participated…

…imagine someone teaching for 3-4 minutes to a small group of other teachers playing roles of either a) students, or b) observers, with a feedback session afterwards. There’s a process a coach follows to keep all comments constructive and positive, which includes questions like “what did the teacher do to make the target language comprehensible?” and “what did the teacher do to connect with you?” (and I’ve also heard “what did the teacher do to make you feel safe?” etc.). There’s also someone who writes down comments to give to the person in the teaching role.

A lot of people avoid Open Coaching due to perceived vulnerability. However, if you manage to realize that the teachers playing students and observers are really just big kids, the payoff is worth a minute or two—you can teach for literally just 1 minute!

Of course, this is a great time to work on one’s own strategies—briefly—but the role that most benefits is actually observers. So, here are the comments that were made by those in the student and observer role when I was in a teacher role for 3 minutes (see the full context after comments):

  • “puppet was genius”
    • “love everything about it; you can control him”
      Yeah, I had this idea to speak to my hand and have it ignore me. That was the phrase I decided to park on for a few minutes, mē ignōrat.
  • “gestures”
  • “theatrical”
    • “facial expressions”
    • “body movements”
      I should point out that this wasn’t over the top; it was low key, just intentional.
  • “took what student did & went with it”
    A student said “hello” to my puppet hand, Fred, and not me. Now that student became the focus, not Fred.
  • ignore is high frequency context for students’ lives.”
    Yup! I also use the word to diffuse MGMT (management) problems. Just narrate what’s happening (e.g. “O class, Sarah is ignoring me. Woe to me!”), making it part of class and lighten the mood.
  • “energy—you had fun”
  • “brought everyone in by introductions”
    I just pointed and said names. 3 minutes isn’t enough time for “my name is,” which is also boring. We have name tags, too—that’d be zero communicative purpose for the context!
  • “4 words/phrases only”
    Again, for these coaching sessions with just a few minutes, the scope has to be pretty small. I like to focus on one thing to offer more exposure in such a brief time. Applying that idea to a longer class, it’s easy to see how successful students are when vocabulary is sheltered, especially in the beginning days, weeks, and months. Also, the “less is more” mentality really shines through during Open Coaching.
  • “didn’t require full sentence response, but accepted full response”
    The last student who saw me pointing as everyone said their names responded with “Sarah sum.” I didn’t overly celebrate the unsolicited and spontaneous production. All I did was make eye contact, raising brows in approval, then moved on. During the feedback session, Michelle said that she immediately thought “how come I didn’t say that?!” after hearing Sarah next to her say the full “Sarah sum,” but because I didn’t celebrate the one student for doing so, Michelle realized that at the time. she felt just as valid with her single-word response.

Here are detailed steps of my 3 minutes so you get a sense of the coaching session:

  1. On the blank chart paper, I started by writing just sum in black marker, and I am underneath in blue.
  2. The timer began, said “salvē!” to the students, and waved.
  3. The students repeated “salvē!” and waved.
  4. While writing salvē! in black marker, I asked “what do you think this means?” in English, and all responded with “hello.” I said “yes, but to the Romans, it was literally expressed like this,” and then wrote Be well! underneath in blue. Students oohed and ahhed.
  5. I said “now think for a minute about any English words you see or hear in this Latin word. Do you have any?” then heard from volunteers saying “salutation” and “salve, like balm.” I said “yes, and like salvation, wellness, etc.” Students oohed and ahhed.
  6. I looked every student in the eye, said “salvē!” while pointing to the word on the chart paper, and waved again. Students repeated and waved again.
  7. I said “sum Lance” and pointed to the word on the chart paper, then at myself. I repeated “Lance sum” and “salvē!” Students responded with “salvē, Lance!
  8. I pointed at myself and said “Lance,” then a student, who said their name, “Annemarie.” I repeated this for the next student, Michelle. The last student responded with “Sarah sum.
  9. I made a puppet hand, pointed, and said “Fred.” The students said “salvē Fred!”
  10. I turned to my hand, said “salvē Fred!” then quickly turned Fred away. I looked at the students in astonishment, then went to the chart paper.
  11. I wrote mē ignōrat in black, as some, but not all students and observers began to laugh (i.e. recognizing the cognate). I wrote ignores me underneath in blue, turned to the students while pointing to the word on the chart paper, and said “Fred mē ignōrat!” Students made sad sounds (I did not have rejoinders ready, but this would’ve been the time to give a student “miserum!”).
  12. I pointed to the question word Who? (already on the wall for everyone to point to during coaching, just supplying their target language while pointing to the English), and asked “Quis mē ignōrat—Fred an Annemarie?” The students responded with “Fred.”
  13. I confirmed, saying “Fred mē ignōrat,” and added “Michelle nōn mē ignōrat. Fred mē ignōrat.”
  14. I asked “ignōratne mē Annemarie?” pointing to yes and no posters, and asking “certē an minimē?” The students responded “minimē!” I confirmed, saying “minimē! Annemarie nōn mē ignōrat. Fred mē ignōrat.
  15. I pointed to each student, saying “salvē!” as Annemarie and Michelle repeated back. Sarah, however, responded with “salvē Fred!” I looked at the other students in astonishment, and said “Sarah mē ignōrat!”
  16. I looked at Sarah, smirked, said “valē Sarah!” and waved to the students.
  17. I wrote valē! in black marker, asked “what do you think this means?” in English, and all responded with “bye.” I said “yes, but to the Romans, it was literally expressed like this” and then wrote Be strong! underneath in blue. Students oohed and ahhed.
  18. I said “now think for a minute about any English words you see or hear in this Latin word. Do you have any?” then heard from volunteers saying “valor” and “value” and I said “yes.” Students oohed and ahhed, and my 3 minutes were done.

My other posts from iFLT 2019:

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6 thoughts on “Open Coaching Feedback

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