We as teachers act as anchors for trust in our schools. Administrators trust us to do our jobs, parents trust their children to us, and students come to us because they trust us. In the world language classroom, we need to work even harder to build that trust with our students if indeed we want them to be engaged where it matters most, orally.
But we cannot talk about trust without discussing risk-taking! I know I am a bit biased, but I can’t think of a class where there is more risk-taking involved than in languages. Students risk making mistakes each time they offer answers. Mistakes in grammar, choice of word, pronunciation, stress, or tone. No wonder students withdraw from participating. I’m always left thinking about those “passive” students. Are they bored? Tired? Confused? Unmotivated? Introverts? What if they are just afraid to take risks? To take risks you simply must trust.
Trust-building and creating activities for that purpose take time! The goal is to purposefully build trust that leads to engagement, equity, joy, and cultural and self-awareness in our world language classrooms.
These activities are meant to be done in person, especially those in the forming and adjourning stages, but I have now had to rethink how to convert some of them to an online platform. We are coming quickly into our adjourning phase this year under tough circumstances that we never envisioned. There is a sense of relief but also of sadness and loss. Hopefully, our groups have had time to develop in many positive ways throughout this unprecedented year, because these activities do require the trust that has been built through the previous stages.
Last year, I was inspired at my son's wedding as I noticed the popularity of the photobooth all night long. When we are with people we trust, we can be ourselves and relax. For our last day celebration, I surprised my students by bringing in funky dress up props. We did a silly photo session and quickly added the photos to a Google slide shared on Google classroom. Students then added captions to photos. We did individual slides and group slides when it came to writing captions. Afterwards, we viewed them together! Online this year, students came dressed up and with props to our Zoom meet. We took a few minutes doing the “photoshoot” with a variety of poses and props. I directed them to look up, down, and sideways, just for fun. Captions were completed and we had time to enjoy the slideshow and celebrate!
This game is very simple yet touching, no pun intended! When I lead this in the classroom, students put their heads down while three students circulate around tapping students' shoulders as I read comments such as “Touch someone who is a good friend." I read them in the target language so the phrases have to be at an understandable level. I took the idea from The Leadership Education and Development Office at George Mason University. I translated the complete set of rules and created prompts in Spanish and in French by level of proficiency.
As an online version, I added the prompts to a Google slide and I used the Pear Deck add-on to convert the slides into an interactive Pear Deck slide. Students add the names of students that fit the prompts as we move from slide to slide. Answers are displayed so students can see who was “touched”. Pear Deck is so easy and if you haven't used it yet, it’s my top recommended tool as it is very practical for both online and in classroom learning.
Toca Alguien Novice Level Pear Deck . Another variation of this that I am using with Pear Deck slides will be for a class superlatives activity, similar to the yearbook senior page of superlatives. Los superlativos del año 2019-20
This is definitely an adjourning activity where trust abounds. I was inspired by a past blog from The Cult of Pedagogy, The Compliments Project. The activity sets participants in a vulnerable position but the rewards are big. I also played to get a sense of how it feels. In the “real classroom” we used multiple whiteboards and had various groups going simultaneously, so as to save time. Basically, a student is placed in front of a board, with their back to the board while students on a timer, write a positive comment about that one student.
When the timer goes off, the student sitting turns around and reads what their classmates wrote about them. I suggest that prior to starting you review some vocabulary to help them be as expressive as possible. The neatest part was seeing students’ happy reaction when reading their comments. There are many variations to this activity.
Online, I created a google slide with individual names of students and also use the add on Pear Deck for students to add their individual comments on the highlighted student.
Students love having a secret friend “gift exchange," similar to Secret Santa. I adapted this end of year activity from a more multiple step and complex “All Class Birthday Party” activity I have done in the past. Using the tech-friendly app Drawnames.com, students get assigned a Secret Friend. The situation: You have been abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and you are bringing back a surprise gift from that country to your “friend." Students need to pick a country and do some research on possible and meaningful souvenirs. Bring three fun facts to share about “the gift” and your country. During class students will have a few tries to guess who is their secret friend, gifts will be “given”, fun facts shared, and gratitude expressed.
As always, listen to your students. They also have clever ideas! I have had requests for a dance party on Zoom for our farewell session! These are just a few activities from the workshop. We have group development activities for each of the five stages, regardless of the level of proficiency. I look forward to sharing more in the fall when we restart all over again, hopefully in our classrooms!