Rejoinders: Teacher vs. Students

This year, I’ve begun each quarter by sharing new (or “new”) expectations. These are simple reminders of rules and routines expressed in a slightly different way to keep management tight. For example, Q2 featured “less English, more Latin” to address increased chatter from students becoming more comfortable. This week, I introduced Q3 with “mostly Latin, almost no English.” However, I still don’t require or expect students to speak Latin (i.e. forced output). Here’s how that works…

At iFLT 2019, I observed Grant Boulanger teaching students Spanish in his language lab. He posted rejoinders, which I’ve had great success with, but used them differently. Grant used a handheld counter to tally each time he used a rejoinder during class. A student also kept track of when the class used rejoinders as well. Grant checked in with students during class about the tallies, and recorded a total at the end, creating a teacher vs. student rejoinder competition. Brilliant.

To be clear, I’m not a fan of participation points, party points, or any daily points used to give a score/grade in the gradebook (re: interpersonal rubric, etc.). A rejoinder competition, on the other hand, feels a lot different. Of course, we’ve had to lay down some ground rules, like only yelling out phrases on the wall when a response makes sense (i.e. NOT during independent reading), and if multiple students respond all at once, that’s only one point (i.e. because I can only use one at a time, myself). Otherwise, my process is simple. I start class by using a rejoinder, and giving myself a tally. Then students nearly fight for their counter, when they realize the game has begun. That is, there are early signs of success.

Oh, and so far, the students are destroying me:

And that’s fine. You’ll noticed that those numbers, from all classes each day, are super high. That’s because I began with no restrictions on which rejoinders could be used, or when. Grant suggests that you could limit the points by selecting a set of rejoinders ahead of time—the points being awarded when students use them exactly when appropriate—which I plan to introduce this next week to increase competition. Other variations include more points for particular rejoinders, or points *only* the first time a rejoinder is used (either by teacher or students).

Aside from evidence of engagement, which admin love, the competition has really breathed new life into the Talk part of Talk & Read daily lesson plan, which has been getting shorter and shorter as we’ve begun reading more and more. I’ve noticed how not all students use rejoinders, but many are having a blast just watching the events of class unfold. Oh, and there is no reward for winning. Winning itself is enough. Some students have already caught onto my trick of setting up a point for myself, such as asking where they are in the reading just so I can sneak in a “perge! (=continue).” This rejoinder competition has also got me searching for different rejoinders to add to the mix of what we’ve been using.

Whereas many would agree this is a way to “get students speaking the target language,” I prefer to see it as another management strategy. This strategy keeps students focused more on the content of what’s being said or read, using interjections and rejoinders at appropriate times, and less about wondering when the bell is going to ring. Classes have been flying by this week. Give it a try!

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