Relationships are the Key to CI Success

Happy 2019!  As a new semester is upon me, I’m thinking of all the things I need to do next week.  The biggest one for me is continuing to build relationships with students since I have year-long classes and already know my kids!  Relationships with students are the key to teaching success especially when teaching with CI.  Active listening is vital for language acquisition.  Students will listen to teachers that they care about, and students care about teachers who care about them. Thus, relationships.


How will you get to know your new students or continue building relationships with current students? Here are a few of my favorite relationship building activities:

  1. Getting to know you survey (not your typical survey!): Last summer, I read the book Whistling Vivaldi, which offers amazing insights into stereotype threat and what to do about it.  One of the studies done showed that asking students about their background and validating their heritage helped to combat stereotype threat.  Thus, one of the questions I asked in this survey was “What is your background/where are your ancestors from?” I have many students with Hispanic heritage, so it was incredible to immediately validate them from day one.  I expressed how lucky students were to come from such incredible, diverse backgrounds.  Also, I validated students who have background knowledge because of Spanish-speaking family members.  Suddenly, students who might feel stereotype threat in other situations felt privilege instead.
  2. I had students write the survey mentioned above and turn it in. After reading all these surveys, I then used them to play the game “¿Quién es?”  For 5-10 minutes at the end of class, I randomly pulled a paper from the pile and read the items saying “This person likes… This person’s family is from…etc.” Then, I called on students to guess who it was.  It was really cool to see their reactions to their peers’ answers.  When there was a really obvious answer (a student with a unique hobby), I let the suspense build as I made the other statements, and paused dramatically before reading something like “This person rides horses.” since it often gave it away!  This was half the fun, because students were able to feel special when their friends knew facts about them.  I’m really excited now because I’m going to play Part 2 to this game starting next week! I’m going to survey students in Spanish and read their answers in comprehensible Spanish to the class.  It will be a great way to continue the game with simpler questions while staying in the TL!
  3. Password at the door: By requiring my students to give me a password in Spanish to enter the classroom (a few examples: Happy holidays. I don’t have it. It makes sense. Let me see.), it forces me to stand at the threshold as they enter class. It is so easy to want to just send a quick email, make an edit to plans, or do other tasks during passing period. But I have found that saying hi to them has a much greater impact than any quick to-do item.
  4. Gestures every day: I follow the same beginning of class routine nearly every single day. It is as follows: Lectura Libre (5 mins), Al Entrar/Do Now (2 minutes), How are you in TL (2-10 minutes depending on the day), Gestures (3-5 minutes).  I use American Sign Language for about 90% of my gestures.  When I teach a new verb, I show a video from and we practice the gesture.  Then, I show that gesture nearly every time I say the word.  Then, at the beginning of every class, students stand and show me gestures as I call out verbs in Spanish.  In addition to the benefits that come from TPR, using ASL signs allows my students to learn vocabulary words in a THRID language while learning their 2nd language!  No, I don’t teach nor speak ASL, but even knowing the few words that I do allows me to feel a connection to the language.  Additionally, by explaining how cool it is to learn ASL, it increases students cultural competency and empathy.  Finally, I regularly have students in class who are interested in ASL and have learned some vocabulary from books or videos.  Their buy-in goes a long way in class!
  5. Lastly, learn what works for you.  I love to go to my students’ basketball games, I coach volleyball, and I love to compliment kids on their shoes.  Anything that helps me connect with them goes a long way.

Happy New Year!!!!!



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